I was Codependent
I am not sure the intent behind the above poem After A While, but to me, it is about undoing Codependent habits. A few short years ago, I was the poster child for Codependency. If you looked it up in a textbook, my picture would be right there!
I fought every day to control things or people that were beyond my control. I was constantly frustrated, aggravated, exhausted, and irritated. Remember I told you that I would get upset when my friends wouldn’t follow my advice? It wasn’t really advice; it was more of a direct order.
Codependency is characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other to fulfil nearly all of their emotional needs. It is usually based on one person enabling the irresponsible, addictive or underachieving behaviours of the other person.
To put this into perspective, my relationship with my mother was one sided – I tried to love her, but she could not reciprocate so I contorted myself to enable her distorted way of thinking. I tried everything to make her happy. The same can be said for the toxic relationships that I had later in life. I was trying to make them happy when they were choosing not to make themselves happy. It was all beyond my control, but I didn’t know that at the time. I truly believed I was failing because they were so miserable.
Do you expend all of your energy in meeting your partner’s needs? Do you feel trapped in your relationship? Are you the one that is constantly making sacrifices in your relationship? Then you may be in a codependent relationship.
Signs of Codependency
- Low self-esteem – feeling you’re not good enough or comparing yourself to others are signs of low self-esteem. You believe others are judging you for not measuring up to their standards.
- People-pleasing – Codependents believe that are supposed to please other people. Saying “NO” causes them anxiety. They go out of their way to accommodate other people, usually sacrificing their own needs to do so.
- Poor boundaries – Codependents have blurry or soft personal boundaries. They feel responsible for other people’s feelings and problems. They allow others to judge or control their feelings, thoughts and needs.
- Reactivity – a consequence of poor boundaries is that you are highly reactive to other people’s thoughts and feelings. If someone says something that you disagree with, you will either alter your perspective to match theirs, or you will become highly defensive.
- Care taking – another effect of poor boundaries is that if someone has a problem, you need to help them to the point of sacrificing yourself. You place the needs of others before your own.
- Control – Control helps codependents feel safe and secure. There is an inner turmoil brewing that is too scary to explore, so they turn their control on external factors, or situations they truly have no control over (people, environments)
- Dysfunctional communication – Codependents have trouble effectively communicating their thoughts, feelings and needs. Often times, you know your own truth, but for fear of rejection or ridicule, you won’t speak up. Your own inner shame prevents you from speaking your truth. Your communication is more passive-aggressive, in that you wait until you can no longer hide your truth and explode in a fit of rage.
- Dependency – Codependents need other people to like them to feel okay about themselves (external validation). They are afraid of being rejected or abandoned. This makes it difficult to end a relationship, even if they know it is harmful or toxic.
- Denial – it is very difficult for most codependents to seek help because of their denial of the problem. They deny their own feelings and project blame on to the people and situations that surround them.
- Unhealthy attachment – Because of the fear of rejection, personal shame and weak boundaries, often times codependents struggle to have open, close and honest connections with the people in their lives. They are very guarded about their own emotions and cannot share this with others. There is a wall of protection that is penetrable from the outside.
- Painful emotions – Shame and low self-esteem create anxiety and fear about being judged, rejected or abandoned; making mistakes; being a failure or feeling trapped. When the feeling get too much, they simply feel nothing, go numb.
Here are a few Codependent Traits that I have honed into beautiful skills:
- Strong Problem-Solving Skills – growing up in a chaotic environment teaches you to resolve issue quickly. Crisis Intervention is where I excel!
- Foresight – I can see a problem before it happens and in the flash of a second or two, I will have created several possible outcomes, and effective resolutions for each outcome. I have the ability to assess the most probable outcome and apply a solution before most people even realize what was about to happen.
- Intuitively Understand People – Because of the trauma and chaos I grew up in, I can look at someone and understand their internal struggle. I do this everywhere I go, grocery store, beach, or theatre. You cannot hide your struggle from me. I see you and we will talk about it.
From Codependent to Independent
People talk about Codependency like it’s a terrible curse, something to be ashamed of. I disagree. A big part of who I am today is because of my journey through Codependency. I have the ability to quickly de-escalate almost any situation without the use of physical restraint. My ability to accurately read or assess people and behaviours allows me to proactively defuse a problem before most people even realize its could be an issue. I use these skills more often that I’d like to, but I’m grateful they are as effective as they are.
If you have struggled with anxiety, depression, codependency or you are like me, struggled with all three concurrently, I want you to know that this can become one of your greatest assets!! You have the ability to take back your power, walk out of the fear and hone these skills to your advantage.
Did you just ask me how? Well, let me help you with that.
The first step is figuring out who you are now. You have been living your life based on who others thought you were or expected you to be. Now is the time for you to truly take a look at who you have become as a result of your story.
Task – Life Lessons
- Remember that list of major life events in Chapter 1? I want you to pull that out right now. Look at that list and beside each event, write down what you learned.
2. I want you to also look at your List of Accomplishments. Would you have accomplished everything on that list, had the above events not happened?
Each of those accomplishments also taught you something so let’s have a look at that too.
I want you to go through your entire list of accomplishments and write down what you learned about yourself with each one. Express gratitude for the events that have shaped your life and made you the badass woman you are today!!
What have you learned about you? Take a moment and truly celebrate everything that you are because of everything you have been through!! Don’t forget to share your journey with us at The ME Factor!
Download Chapter 3