Okay I'm Codependent, Now What?
Are you wondering if you are codependent or just good natured?
Codependency are rooted in a helpful nature. Figuring out if they are helpful or hurtful depends on their severity. When there is addiction, the alcoholic is addicted to the substance and the codependent is addicted to the alcoholic.
But you can struggle with codependency even if there is no addiction. If you are trying to help or fix others at your own expense, it's codependency.
What is codependency?
Codependency is a pattern of behavior that starts in childhood. There are several different symptoms and one size does not fit all. If you are wondering if this applies to you, read my blog Are you Codependent?
Some struggle with people pleasing while others are more focused on controlling things. This is done as an attempt to feel safe, not because you're a bad person.
Codependency common in alcoholic families and families with depression, mental illness, domestic violence, trauma, anxiety, poor parenting and abuse.
Melody Beattie, the author of Codependent No More defines codependency as
"Someone who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior."
- Getting into relationships with addicts or people with lots of problems
- Excessively helping others - at your own expense
- Difficulty identifying and asking for what you need
- A tendency to be overly responsible and not accept help
- Low self-esteem or feeling superior and judgmental
- A tendency to hide feelings of anger and disappointment to avoid rejection
- A pattern of trying to control people, places of things.
There are a lot of great books and articles on codependency, but where do you start? Here are some tips to get you on the right track.
1) Get your focus on what you want
When you focus too much on others you lose sight of yourself.
If the thought of putting yourself first makes you feel guilty or selfish, it's a major hurdle to get over.
Instead, redirect your "desire to help" towards yourself. Let yourself express what you need. By doing that you start to realize that you count and that's empowering!
As you begin to change this pattern, you'll focus less on pleasing others and more on yourself. You can still choose to give but it will no longer be your only option.
2) Express yourself honestly
Practice expressing your opinions with people you feel safe with. If someone asks you where to go for dinner speak up! Baby steps count as you gain confidence and learn that it's okay to express yourself.
That doesn't mean others will always agree. When people are used to people pleasing they need time to adjust. Give it time.
If they don't allow you room to express yourself or have needs, it may be time to adjust your expectations. Maybe they're great for hanging out but not much for emotional support.
3) Start to set boundaries
As people pleasers, saying yes and offering help happens without a second thought. This leads to feeling burnt out and resentful.
Next time someone asks you for a favor, try these out.
- Let me think about that.
- I'll get back to you tomorrow.
- I'm not able to do that - sorry!
- Oh I wish I could! Thanks so much for asking.
Saying no is often the biggest challenge for codependents because their self-worth is wrapped up in helping others and being the hero. Being the hero is addictive for the codependent because it makes you are contributing. Read my blog on 5 Guidelines You Need To Set Healthy Boundaries to learn more about boundaries.
What would it be like to put yourself first for a change? How would that change your relationships?
4) Act as if
Whenever you practice a new skill, it's uncomfortable. In 12 step programs "act as if" is a popular slogan. "Act as if" means that you are acting like everything's okay - even if you are scared to death.
This doesn't mean you deny your feelings. It just gets you through the moment. Your anxiety will subside as you experience the emotional relief (and decreased stress) taking care of yourself brings.
You might feel guilty, especially if helping others has fueled your self image.
In moderation, giving to others is a tremendous gift - however, when you realize that giving is a choice not an obligation it will be a gift to you and others.
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