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  • Sarah Rossmiller LPC

Reclaiming Autonomy, Competence, and Identity: 5 Empowering Steps for Adulthood

(Part 3 of a 6 part series on the 5 Core Emotional Needs)

Our core need for autonomy, competence, and a strong sense of identity is innate, but it can be challenging to fulfill when these essentials were neglected in childhood. However, it's never too late to take control of your life and work on meeting these needs in adulthood. Here are five empowering steps to help you do just that:


1. Self-Exploration and Reflection:

Start your journey by engaging in self-exploration and reflection. Take time to understand your past and how it has shaped your beliefs and self-perception. Journaling, therapy, or discussions with trusted friends can be invaluable tools for this process. Identify areas where you feel a lack of autonomy, competence, or a clear identity.

2. Set Clear Goals and Challenges:

Establish clear, achievable goals that align with your interests and passions. Start small and gradually work your way up. As you achieve these goals, your sense of competence will grow. This will also help you build a strong, positive self-identity based on your accomplishments.

3. Develop New Skills:

To enhance your sense of competence, seek opportunities to develop new skills. Whether it's learning to crochet, mastering the art of cooking, or acquiring a new hobby, the act of learning and improving can boost your self-esteem and sense of capability.

4. Create a Supportive Environment:

Surround yourself with a supportive environment that encourages your autonomy and individuality. Seek out friends and relationships that respect your choices and encourage your personal growth. This positive reinforcement can go a long way in building a stronger sense of identity.

5. Practice Assertiveness and Boundaries:

Learning to be assertive and set healthy boundaries is key to asserting your autonomy. Speak up for your needs, desires, and opinions in a respectful manner. By doing so, you establish your identity and create an environment where your autonomy is acknowledged and respected.


Remember that this journey toward fulfilling your need for autonomy, competence, and identity is unique to you. The tasks outlined here may be written in a straight-forward style, but accomplishing them can be complex. Reach out to a therapist for added support if you can. It may take time, effort, and patience, but the rewards are immeasurable.

By engaging in self-exploration, setting goals, developing new skills, nurturing a supportive environment, and practicing assertiveness and boundaries, you can work towards meeting these essential needs and crafting a more fulfilling and authentic life in adulthood, regardless of your childhood experiences. It's your journey, and it's never too late to take the reins of your life and steer it in the direction you desire.


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