The art of independence

Photo by Sai de Silva on Unsplash.

All my life, I’ve watched strong women thrive on their own. I saw my mum become a single mother and continue to give her kids everything. As an adult, this has influenced me to find strength within myself rather than relying on others. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, I’ve learnt that being strong, single and independent is a valuable experience that can allow us to grow. 

In my early teen years, my mum commuted for 2 hours to get to work everyday. Despite working in the city, she moved my brother and I to the country so we could be closer to school and because she felt like it was the best environment for us to grow up in. It was exhausting for her to leave home before the sun was up and get home long after dark, but I soon came to understand that she would do anything for us. 

“Whether you’re in a relationship or not, I’ve learnt that being strong, single and independent is a valuable experience that can allow us to grow.”

Mum studied hard to get her diploma in teaching. She had been cutting hair since she was thirteen, but she wanted a change. So after long days at work, she would come home and study at the computer for hours.

She sacrificed her time and energy to give us the best possible chance at a life she was never offered. Her never ending workload and responsibilities never deterred her from giving us everything she could. She is a hard-working woman who carved her own path to success, despite the challenges she had to endure.

My mum divorced my father when I was 6, and from what I remember it wasn’t pretty. But after she decided to leave, she blossomed. She was no longer weighed down by a man she didn’t love. She had the freedom to make her own choices and decide her own future. Even though this meant doing it all alone, she chose happiness over comfort. She sacrificed a lot when she first became a single mother, as she wanted to make a life for us that was different from what was initially planned. 

Beginning a career in teaching created more opportunities for Mum. She was free of the emotional abuse she had endured for so long. It wasn’t an easy journey, but we are all better off now.

Photo by The HK Photo Company on Unsplash.

I grew up around all sorts of different women who have influenced my views on relationships. I saw women who were unhappy in their marriages, like many of the women in our family. There were women who loved their partners, despite experiencing many hardships. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t cherish my uncle and aunty, who I would spend every summer in Sydney with, for showing me what a wholeheartedly healthy relationship looked like. I admired their marriage. 

But most importantly, I got to see women who thrived on their own—like my mum, other women in my family, and women in movies and books. This made me question what effect a relationship would have on my life. 

As a 20-year-old woman who has never been in a relationship, I used to think I was doing something wrong. 

When I was a teenager, I attached myself to any boy in the hope that they would eventually want me back. This was propelled by a desperate need for validation. I made these boys my whole world, crumbling when they didn’t reciprocate my desire for a relationship like I had secretly envisioned. There were three boys I really cared about in high school, but each attempt at a relationship played out the same way—I would attach all my worth to these boys liking me back and when they didn’t, it destroyed me.

My need for validation came from a place of intense loneliness. Most of my friends were in relationships or had at least been in ones. I wondered if I was the problem. I wasn’t content on my own and was looking for anyone to fill that void.  

Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash.

Eventually I decided to test out dating apps, as it felt like almost everyone but me was using them. All my single friends were either on Hinge, Bumble or Tinder, talking to and meeting new people. I realised I was constantly complaining about being single but wasn’t putting myself out there, so I decided to give it a shot. 

I tested the waters with Bumble, but ended up deleting the app a week later. It was nothing to do with the app itself—I simply couldn’t stomach the idea of finding my partner through a screen. I reconsidered my decision to delete the app numerous times as it’s how my brother met his current girlfriend, so I knew it could work. But I eventually decided that it’s not for me. 

Once I decided dating apps weren’t the right fit, I began to turn my focus away from dating in general and shift my attention inwards. At this point I had just turned 20 and was finding myself celebrating another birthday in lockdown. This was an incredibly difficult period—with the loss of my grandfather and the overwhelming social isolation, lockdown took a huge toll on my mental and physical health. I was forced to either fall deeper into depression or get my act together. After I was able to focus more on my physical health, my mental health immediately improved.

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash.

Spending so much time in isolation shifted my perspective. I realised why so many women thrive on their own, and why they were content with who they were outside of a relationship. They weren’t searching for any form of validation—they found it within themselves. 

I admired women like that. Like my mother, who focused solely on her kids and worked hard to build a life for us all.  She didn’t feel the need to force anything, as she knew what she wanted and worked hard to make it happen. Of course she opened her heart to people along the way, but finding someone wasn’t her goal. It was something to enhance her life, not give it purpose. 

“After I shifted my focus, everything changed. I no longer sought validation from others or tried to force what did not fit.”

Looking back on the woman I was a year ago and comparing her to the person I am now fills my heart with joy. I stopped focusing on what I didn’t have. I moved on from the idea that my life would be complete once I finally met a romantic partner, as it was preventing me from enjoying what I already had. After I shifted my focus, everything changed. I no longer sought validation from others or tried to force what did not fit. 

I have discovered that this is the art of being a strong and independent woman. You have to believe you’re worthy of the love you deserve, and then find it within.


Sarah Hadeed is an aspiring young journalist looking to make an impact. Sarah loves reading books, writing poetry and spending time with friends and family.

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