Okay I'm Codependent, Now What?
Are you wondering if you are codependent or just good natured?
Codependency is rooted in a helpful nature. Figuring out if your behavior is helpful or hurtful depends on the severity. If you are trying to help or fix others at your own expense, it's codependency.
An easy way to understand this is that the alcoholic gets addicted to the substance and the codependent gets addicted to the alcoholic. But you can struggle with codependency even when is no addiction.
What is Codependency?
Codependency is a pattern of behavior that starts in childhood. It consists of several different symptoms and one size does not fit all. These traits impact relationships, boundaries, self-care and especially how you feel about yourself. If you’re wondering if this applies to you, read my blog Are you Codependent?
Some codepemdents struggle with people pleasing while others are more focused on exerting control. This is done as an attempt to feel safe, not because you're a bad person.
Codependency shows up in families with addiction, 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."
Common Characteristics of Codependency:
- 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) Redirect Your Focus
When you focus too much on others you lose sight of yourself. This creates a destructive cycle of self-neglect that is the hallmark of codependency.
Focusing on helping others is a lovely trait - at first. Eventually, it becomes too much and you wear yourself out. That can be the turning point. When you are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Only then is the codependent willing to change.
Start redirecting your desire to help towards taking care of yourself. Figure out what you need. This feels uncomfortable at first because you're not used to it. With practice you’ll start to realize that your needs count and is the beginning of self-care!
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 to go for dinner speak up! Baby steps count as you gain confidence and learn that it's okay to say what you mean.
That doesn't mean others will always agree or like it. If friends and family are used to your people pleasing they need time to adjust. Give it time.
If they don't accept your having needs, it may be time to adjust your expectations. Maybe they're great for hanging out but not much for deeper connection and emotional support.
3) Start to Set Boundaries
As people pleasers, saying yes and offering help happens without a second thought. This often leads to feeling burnt out and resentful. Asking yourself, where's mine?
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 the biggest challenge for codependents because your self-worth is wrapped up in helping and being the hero. Being the hero is addictive for the codependent because you're 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 act like everything's okay - even if you are scared to death.
This doesn't mean denying your feelings. It helps you get through the moment when you're scared. You might feel guilty taking care of yourself, especially if helping others has defined your self-image. Keep practicing and you'll notice how much better you feel. It's exhausting to keep taking care of others!
Progress Takes Time
Recovering from codependency takes time. Because the characteristics impact so many aspects, you need to be patient. It's a process where you will learn more from your mistakes than your successes. Dissect what didn't work and learn from it.
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 everyone in your life.
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