Autonomy is defined as:
1: the quality or state of being self-governing; especially : the right of self-government
2: self-directing freedom and especially moral independence
So what does it mean to become an autonomous individual? Well, essentially this means that you are a self-governing, independent human being whom decides for themselves what is best for their lives, and one who takes responsibility for their own life and actions.
It is beautiful to develop relationships with other people in this world, and it is intrinsic to our very nature to be inclined to share our lives with others. Human relationships are a fundamental part of what makes the human experience rich and worth enduring many of the pains we all experience.
However, I have found that some people discover the joys and benefits of human relationships and stop there on their journey. They believe that human relationships are the most important aspect of our existence and that there is no joy greater than experiencing the love of another.
I tend to see things differently. I see human relationships as only one portion of what we require for our own human happiness. I feel that those who live by the assumption that human relationships are the end all, miss out on a great deal of joy that comes from attaining inner-autonomy.
When one thinks of autonomy, they may believe that becoming an autonomous person is becoming someone who is a “loner,” who is independent to the point that they hold no close human relationships and that may even be selfish because of their commitment to self-governance. This is not what I am referring to or suggesting. Autonomous people can still hold close relationships and they can (and should be) giving and selfless in their treatment toward others. However, these individuals have come to the realization that this is their life to live and no one else’s, and that the opinions of others are not what is most important in our decision making processes. This person understands that living this truth provides an incredible inner-freedom and peace that cannot be found within the dynamics of a human relationship; this freedom is found within ourselves.
I’m also not suggesting you become some crazy anarchist who walks around nude in public and thinks that hitting people on the head with a hammer whenever you feel like it is okay (that’s only okay to do on Sundays and Thursdays!). I am simply suggesting that you partake in the freedom and joy that comes with developing the most important relationship in your life: the one with yourself. Not listening to yourself, and neglecting what your heart tells you is right for yourself is one of the quickest ways to die while your still alive.
Yes, take responsibility for your relationships with others and be there for them when they need you. Most importantly though, realize that this is not what life is all about, and take responsibility for your own life and your own path.