Am I Codependent?

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Therapy can help you find, and feel, yourself again

While those who are codependent have good intentions, it is actually harmful for both the individual and their relationships. Codependent people have poor boundaries and difficulty understanding their own thoughts and emotions because they spend their time and energy pleasing those around them; leading to a lost sense of self. Codependent relationships can be with a romantic partner, a friend, or family member. Ask yourself these questions to gauge your codependency?

Do you give more in your relationships?

At times, the emotions of codependent people come to the surface before they have time to think. This leaves them feeling out of control. Their emotions have taken over. This reactivity is a reflection of poor boundaries. This could be from constantly putting their own needs aside – until it builds up and they explode from not getting their needs met. With poor boundaries, it can be difficult to be able to separate the opinions of others from your own truths. Without that separation, if a codependent person disagrees with someone, they may become defensive and feel personally attacked.

Are you a people pleaser?

Codependent people feel compelled to take care of others. They have poor boundaries and often feel taken for granted. Codependent people may be hurt or resentful when they are not praised for all that they are doing. They give, and give, and give, but don’t ask for anything in return or express their needs. Your boundaries are a distinction between you, and those around you. With poor boundaries people may feel they are responsible for the issues or emotions others are experiencing – or may feel others are responsible for the issues or emotions they are experiencing.

Are you emotionally reactive?

At times, the emotions of codependent people come to the surface before they have time to think. This leaves them feeling out of control. Their emotions have taken over. This reactivity is a reflection of poor boundaries. This could be from constantly putting their own needs aside – until it builds up and they explode from not getting their needs met. With poor boundaries, it can be difficult to be able to separate the opinions of others from your own truths. Without that separation, if a codependent person disagrees with someone, they may become defensive and feel personally attacked.

Do you feel like you need to be in control?

Control helps codependent people feel safe and secure. With codependency comes anxiety, and feeling in control is a way to ease this anxiety. This could be over-controlling emotions: deciding how they feel rather than tuning in to the emotions that are arising. This could be trying to control the actions, opinion, or emotions of someone else. They may feel the need to control someone else due to line between themselves and others being blurred. This constant need to control can lead people to eating disorders, compulsive exercise, or becoming a workaholic. On the flip side, it can lead people to escaping through alcohol, substances, sex, or video games.

Do you avoid conflict?

Most people don’t like conflict, but codependent people will avoid it at all costs. Even if this means compromising themselves and their values. They don’t express their own thoughts or needs because they are afraid if they do it will upset the other person. They put their own values aside to make sure others are happy. This also involves avoiding conflict within themselves. Often, codependent people will be in denial. They will blame someone else, or blame a situation. They will go from relationship to relationship, job to job, or city to city searching for the answer instead of looking inward. Some codependent people will rely overly heavily on themselves instead of reaching out or accepting help. For some, they will deny their needs because the fear of asking and not receiving is too great.

Do you have low self-esteem or a poor sense of self?

When your purpose comes solely from pleasing others, it is easy to lose sight of yourself or feel lost. When you put others first you are sending yourself a message that you aren’t worthy or important. Instead of turning inward, honoring their needs, and valuing themselves, codependent people will look for external validation. A codependent person may convince themselves that if they can be the “perfect” partner, employee, mother, etc. they will feel satisfied. However, this just feeds into the cycle of behaviors we’ve been discussing.

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So what do you do?

Self-Care

    These thoughts and behaviors are deeply ingrained. This will take time, introspection, and intentionality. You first need to begin to honor yourself — your emotions, your needs, your thoughts. One way to do this is setting time aside for yourself daily for self-care. Sounds simple, right? And yet I bet it’s been a while since you’ve done that. Self-care gives us time to be with ourselves in a way that we find fulfilling. We learn about ourselves through self-care. Self-care also sends us the message that we are important. Self-care can be learning or getting back into a hobby. Whether that hobby is gardening, art, music, wood-work, computer coding, bird watching, or something else. Self-care also includes small moments throughout the day where you intentionally focus on yourself. This could be taking a shower with your favourite scent, instead of the soap you typically buy because it’s someone else’s preference. This could be enjoying your coffee without doing anything else (no phone, no tv). Begin to give yourself permission to learn what activities leave you feeling replenished. Try to focus on activities you can do alone. Remember, self-care isn’t selfish — thought it often feels that way to codependent people.

Boundaries

    Learning to assert yourself is another step in this process. Begin to be honest with yourself and your partner/friends/family. This means speaking up when you don’t like something, providing input to decision making, and stating your opinions. Discussing your opinions will help you begin to give yourself a voice, and value that voice. You are important. Your thoughts are valid. This also means saying “no.” If that feels too difficult, begin with not overextending yourself. If your child’s school is looking for volunteers, don’t sign up. If a friend mentions an upcoming trip, don’t offer a ride to the airport. Work your way up to saying no, and remember you don’t need to give an explanation. If this feels difficult you can try saying something like “That isn’t going to work with my schedule.” After each of these actions, take the time to highlight your success! Even if that is just ten seconds of you telling yourself “good job for _____.” If you find yourself feeling guilt or doubt with saying “no” later, remind yourself of your accomplishment of honoring yourself.

Therapy

    Changing these deeply ingrained thoughts, behaviors, and feelings is no easy feat. If you’ve come this far in the article you’ve already taken a big step in starting this journey. Starting therapy, or bringing up codependency with your therapist, is a great way to have guidance and support on your journey. Your therapist is not only there to support you, but to give you the tools and skills to make the changes you are looking for. Therapy is a great way to honor and value yourself, because you are worth it.

About Sarah O'Leary

I am captivated most by the importance of relationships and emotions and their impact on our everyday lives. Both relationships and our emotions help shape who we are as a person. "Relationship" doesn't just mean partner, but rather connections of all kinds. This means everything from strangers, to friends, to partners, and most importantly, the relationship you have with yourself. Emotions are what underlies our thoughts and behaviors, they are the key to understanding ourselves.