Information Centre

What is independence?

Managing Independence

In 1929 the feminist writer Virginia Woolf wrote an essay called “A Room of One’s Own”. In it she talks about the importance of a woman having her own room and her own money if she is to be able to write.

Woolf’s words were aimed at women striving for equal rights with men.

But, they can also apply to young people, when they reach an age at which they start valuing their independence.

Independence can mean physical space: a room you can keep your own things in, hang your own posters on the wall and go to when you want some alone time. But, it can also apply to a mentality.

So, how do we achieve physical independence and independent thinking, while still being part of a family and social unit?

The concept of independence can be loosely divided into three different categories:

Mental independence

This involves being able to think for yourself, regardless of what others think and say. Weighing up all your facts and feelings about an issue, as honestly as possible, can help you form an independent opinion and forming an opinion based on this.

It’s always hard to trust yourself when forming opinions and making decisions.

We’re all guided by the opinions of people we trust and that’s healthy. Nobody expects you to suddenly turn 16-years-old and start forming all your opinions in a vacuum.

The trick is to take on board the opinions of the people you trust and respect. Listen to their views, consult your own judgement and then make a balanced decision.

Your own opinions

If anyone’s pressuring you into thinking a certain way, remember you have the right to think independently.

However, deliberately taking the opposite stance to someone isn’t the same as independent thinking, because their ideas are ultimately controlling yours.

Sometimes we do this to appear independent or controversial, but unless the opinion is truly ours, we haven’t been thinking independently.

Complete mental independence is pretty much impossible to ever achieve. There will always be times during our lives when we’re swayed by others, sometimes against our own better judgement.

It’s important to try to question why we think certain things and act certain ways.

Try as much as possible to make sure your opinions are based on your own logic and feelings and not based on pressure from others.

Behavioural independence

This is based on mental independence, because it’s only after you can think independently, that you can make independent choices in life.

These range from what movies you watch to what you choose to do for a living. In other words, mental independence enables you to act independently.

Behavioural independence also involves acting in way that’s not controlled or overly influenced by others.

Survival-based independence

The point of independence is gaining the knowledge and the tools to be able to survive successfully in the world. This means:

Financial independence – being able to earn money ourselves allows us to buy food and pay for shelter.

Safety-related independence – knowing how to stay safe and how to handle dangerous situations if they occur.

Self-care-related independence – knowing how to maintain good health and fitness, as well as taking care of yourself mentally and emotionally.


For young people living at home, it can be hard to feel independent. As people get older, they value their personal space and time more. Space can be hard to come by in a family home, especially if you have to share your bedroom with a sibling.

It’s easy to get irritated by your family members, so check out conflict with parents and conflicts with siblings for more on how to keep the peace.

When you get to a certain age, or start earning a steady income, you might be tempted to move away from home.

. For those who are happy to live at home for now, here are some tips on maintaining your independence:

Draw boundaries – if you’re sharing a room with a sibling, it’s very important you decide on some rules. If you’d rather not share your clothes, make-up or videos, make sure you’re both on the same page. Separate your space so you feel like you have somewhere that belongs to you.

Alone time – if your family is irritating you or encroaching on your space, don’t lose your cool. Simply retreat to your room or the garden and have some quiet time. Ask your family to respect your privacy and always knock before they enter your room.

Contribute – for young people in full-time education, living at home can be a great way of saving money. If you’re in full-time employment, but are perhaps not ready to live on your own, making a monthly contribution towards household expenses is something to consider. Running a home is expensive and your parents might appreciate your help.