How To Be Less Clingy: Finding Your Personal Power

By Julia Thomas|Updated July 6, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Lauren Fawley , LPC

Do you often feel like others hold the key to your safety, satisfaction, or overall happiness? When you find yourself looking only to others, and not within, to meet your emotional needs, you may find that you’ve given away your personal power and sense of control over your own inner, and maybe outer, life.  

You may feel like you’ve become clingy or dependent, feeling panicked or upset when you’re away from the person you rely on. You might feel sad or conflicted more often because another person's mood, thoughts, behavior  affects you more than you’d like, maybe even making it challenging to consider your own feelings, independent of theirs. 

If you often feel like other people determine whether you feel content, happy and safe, , that does not have to be an inescapable fact of your life. It can be challenging, but prioritizing your opinion of yourself (more than their opinion of you) can bring you one step closer to feeling in control and independent. You can have your own emotional life, regardless of someone else’s or their thoughts on what yours should be.

Finding greater contentment within yourself can lead you to feeling less dependent on others for contentment. You will likely feel less at the whim of others, or so panicked when alone, and find your relationships actually improve because of it.

Remember That You Know Yourself Best

The truth is that no one else knows you the way you know yourself. No one else has the same time, understanding, and ability to give you what you need and want consistently. In fact, relying on just one person to fulfill your needs often leads to feelings of discontentment or disappointment, perhaps putting strain on that relationship.

If you feel that perhaps you don't know yourself as well as someone else does, today is always a good day to get to know yourself better. Afterall, you have to spend your entire life with yourself.

Getting to know yourself can look like spending some time alone with your thoughts and feelings. That can mean learning to trust that you have good information coming from within and that doubt isn’t always helpful. For some people, a counselor can also guide you to discover and recognize who you are with compassion and deeper understanding. Often, this leads to the next step of discovering what truly makes you feel fulfilled and safe in the long run.  

If you feel like you really don’t know who you are, it’s not a reason to panic. Who we are is changing constantly, whether or not we are aware of it. A therapist might be able to help explore the reasons you feel this way and provide tools to help you get better connected with yourself. A counselor can also help identify and challenge some beliefs you hold about yourself that might be limiting you. By heling you figure out what your values and goals are, you'll be better equipped to recognize and manage your own needs and desires.

Realize That Happiness Comes from Within

Your fulfillment and sense of peace is something you can claim for yourself, no matter how someone else treats you or how you feel about yourself. This doesn’t necessarily mean that someone else can’t be a source of your happiness. Knowing that your own sense of worth and purpose comes from within gives you  the power to feel full through your own thoughts and actions, even when something or someone else isn’t perfect at the moment. Your significant other, your friends, and your family can actually enrich your life even more when you become more self-reliant and independent. Sometimes this concept is referred to as self-care: when you take the time to learn how to be good to yourself. Self-care can teach you how you expect to be treated by others and can therefore improve your relationships too.  

Take Chances

If you feel or have been told you’re “clingy,”  it can often feel scary to take risks, big or small. You may feel unsure if they will be scary or harmful, or if the person you love and look toward will disapprove. You may find yourself sticking to routine out of fear or uncertainty around your ability to cope with new experiences.

As children, maybe you often hung onto your parent or were hesitant about new spaces or people. As an adult, you may still feel that impulse to run to the person who has been a comfort in the past. Perhaps, when you find yourself needing or wanting comfort or reassurance from someone else, think of what  you can do to get it for yourself. Can you give yourself the permission you’re waiting for?

Take the chance that maybe you could fulfill your own needs and desires. Relying on yourself by taking definite solo action to meet your own needs can be uncomfortable if you aren't used to it or don’t like doing things alone. By encouraging yourself in safe circumstances to explore and test your limits, you take responsibility for yourself. That sense of responsibility returns control to you and can bring great emotional and relationship rewards. You may  soon feel stronger and more capable in other areas of your life as well.

Examine Past Relationships

 It is common to develop unhealthy interpersonal relationship patterns based on past relationships. Think back on those important connections of your life and the impact they had, positive and negative. Did someone give you the message that you weren't good enough or capable? Was there someone who always encouraged you to put their needs above your own? Are you used to people telling you what to do? Was there one person who always respected your needs? Was there a relationship that was steady and mutually beneficial?

It can be helpful sometimes to question your past’s effects on your present. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone, good or bad. Your own understanding about who you are and the choices you’ve made can serve to make you feel more in control and less surprised by your emotions and attachments.

Learn How to Enjoy Time Alone

It's a lovely thing to learn how to enjoy your own company.. If the thought of this makes you uncomfortable, consider that you don’t have to go out in public right away to spend time with yourself. You can read, journal, cook or exercise, for example. Consider making a date with yourself to go a movie, read in a park, go on a hike, shop, or do something else just for you. The more you tune into yourself, the more comfortable you will feel in your own company. You’ll be earning your own approval instead of someone else’s.

Speak Up

You don't have to be the one who goes along with every plan. Voicing your opinion should not upset your friends, family, or partner. If it does, that may be a deeper issue to discuss with them around mutual respect. It may feel like by going along with other people’s opinions all the time makes you likable , but it’s important to contribute your thoughts and interests. Hopefully your friends, family, or partner enjoy who you are and will welcome your voice.  

This can also look like suggesting an activity or plan with someone else instead of waiting for the other person to make a suggestion.

Affirm Yourself

You possess strengths, good qualities, and abilities. You don't have to wait for another person to tell you that. You can tell it to yourself regularly!

Recognize the things you genuinely like about yourself, no matter how simple, and genuinely appreciate them. You’ve worked hard to maintain that quality. Maybe you even have a talent or skill that you want to focus more on and grow. In practicing this kindness regularly, you will start to see that you don't feel as reliant on other’s assessment of your worth.  Other people’s opinions may negatively affect your emotions less and less.  

It can feel tricky when it comes to developing a true sense of self. The age of social media can make it challenging to do things just because you like them, instead of what will earn other’s likes.  However,  you might find that by being more and more yourself, you will draw people to you that you really relate to because they connect to the real you.

Help With Learning How To Be Less “Clingy”

If you feel your sense of reliance on someone else is new, it can be helpful to find out what caused this change.  It could be that you have been in a relationship with someone who has affected your behavior, or you could have been through something else that has made it more comfortable to take your cues off others.

You may have a tough time coming to terms with what has happened and making your way back to your independent self. Long-term or lifetime overreliance on others is not impossible to overcome. There are professional therapists in your local area or online at BetterHelp.com to assist you in this journey back to your full, independent self. They can help you discover the strong person you are and move more quickly towards that goal.

If you find yourself wanting to make a change in your life, online therapy can be a great way to do that. Online therapy is an effective tool that you can begin using today. Studies have shown that online therapy is just as helpful for users as in-person therapy. One study looking at almost 10,000 people found that online therapy had virtually the same effect as in-person treatment.

Online therapy is an easy-to-use option that is available when you need it. You won’t have to wait months for your local therapist’s office to be taking new patients. Plus, many users find it easier to talk to someone over the internet, phone, or video, especially about their vulnerable feelings.

You can hear from some BetterHelp users below.

“I’ve only been working with Dr. Clarke a few weeks but I’ve really been enjoying the process. She is very encouraging during each section and I know she’s actually listening to what I’m saying. I would very much recommend Dr. Clarke especially if you’re dealing with anxiety, self-esteem/-confidence issues and/or depression.”

“Dr. Parker has made counseling a painless experience. I was very nervous starting this process and very much felt like a failure for turning to counseling. Dr. Parker has helped me overcome that silly hang up and has really provided me the tools I need to deal with the issues I'm experiencing in my life. She provides a variety of options and talks me through them. She tries to really dig deep into the root of my issue to fully understand me. I feel like I've been heard and that she genuinely wants to help me and cares about the outcome. She's given me a level of confidence that I didn't think was possible. I'm forever grateful for being matched with her.”

Begin your journey today.

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