As an empowerment coach and recovering people pleaser (AKA recovering codependent), I find work around codependency to be extremely crucial in cultivating a strong relationship with oneself and having a beautiful quality of life that is authentic to ourselves. There was a time where I did not even really fathom what it meant to live a life I really wanted because that life was painted by such strong figures in my life. So, when I did begin the journey of asking myself what I wanted, I let people down and the shame that was to follow was pretty palpable.
Codependent….a word that has been thrown around and even used to shame has a lot of misconceptions. So, what is it?
Well, Melody Beattie is the godmother of Codependency and introduced the world to this term in 1986. When she went to write her first book, her spell checker didn’t even recognize this word. When she graced the world with this concept, people felt relieved. But then like us humans do, we became fundamentalist about it and it became a way to shame others.
In her first book, Co- Dependent No More, Beattie defines a codependent person as “one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.” Ooouuch, right? As the years have gone on, Beattie writes in her latest book, The New Codependency, that it is so much more than just that. Although these are great places to start.
How Do We Know if We are Codependent?
- Difficulty making decisions in a relationship
- Difficulty identifying your feelings
- Difficulty communicating in a relationship
- Valuing the approval of others more than valuing yourself
- Lacking trust in yourself and having poor self-esteem
- Having fears of abandonment or an obsessive need for approval
- Having an unhealthy dependence on relationships, even at your own cost
- Having an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
Okay, so maybe you see yourself in some or all of these examples. This is simply information and a place to begin to look within. We are human beings and we understand on a scientific, spiritual, and cultural level that we are not meant to be isolated beings and that what impacts someone we care for will also impact us. This is 100% normal and healthy. Co- dependency is not a psychosis, nor does it mean that there is something wrong with you. In fact, codependency expert Ann Smith states, “The truth is that what had been labeled in the past as codependency is actually human beings doing what comes naturally—loving.”
It is easy to get caught up in the shame that the label can cause when recognizing that we may have some tendencies toward codependency or may be in a space where we are all around codependent in our relationships. But in reality, it is about taking this information in order to develop a stronger relationship with ourselves that actually makes us much better lovers of people. We do this by taking a step back and considering the motivations of our decisions.
Let’s Look Inward-and Leave Shame Behind!
Am I simply apologizing to this person even though I did not feel the need to apologize in order to get them to like me and make it okay? OR am I doing it out of integrity and taking responsibility for my actions?
Another example: am I going out of my way for this person because it’s coming from a place of genuine desire, or because I want this person to like me? One leads to resentment and one stems from heartfelt generosity.
Recognizing codependent tendencies can lead us to another level of liberation and we can 100% leave the shame behind. It is a way to recognize where we have given away our power and begin to reconnect to our agency. We care for others and want them to know we care. Some believe loving themselves first can lead to a selfish, over-indulgent, lonely life. However, it is quite the opposite. Beattie writes, “Appreciating myself is motivating.”
When we recognize co-dependent behaviors or decisions, we can begin to recognize how we feel in our body when we make these decisions. Do we feel in alignment with ourselves? For some, it is a journey to even understand what that means for them. Instead of making decisions solely on what would please others, we can decide what is the best decision for ourselves. We 100% matter.
Codependency, regardless of what it is stemmed from, is something that is a natural response. It is nothing to feel shame for. If someone were to have been walking in your shoes and experienced what you have, they would respond the same way. It’s important to begin by eliminating the shame component and treat yourself like you would a good friend first and foremost.
As far as I have come in my work around codependency, I still find myself reacting in a way that does not make me feel like myself. What brings me back is self-compassion and curiosity. Rather than placing a moral indictment on myself, I begin to ask myself questions that bring me back home to myself. Was I really tired? Am I holding onto this person too tight? How am I/was I feeling in my body? Does their opinion make me feel more worthy and valuable? What was the reason I did that?
Codependency is an extremely meaty topic, so I have set up a three part series for you. This is part 1 of 3. Next Week, we will discuss letting go of control and setting boundaries. The third week in our series will be about feeling and releasing as we consciously connect with ourselves. I am using the book, “The New Codependency” as a guide for this series, so if you are already hungry for more and want to begin healing your codependency journey with self-compassion, this is an excellent place to begin!
Until, next week, Godspeed!