Do you wonder if you have codependent behavior? Are you aware of your codependency, but don’t know how to overcome it? Do you struggle with setting boundaries in relationships? If so, you are probably beating yourself up for continuing that vicious cycle of codependency.
Codependency has become a buzz word over the last several years. It’s become trendy for people to write and talk about our behaviors that are codependent and recovery from codependency. I’m not usually one to jump on the bandwagon of trends.
However, I think it’s important for me to write about codependency now. The trendiness of codependency talk is actually opening people up to the possibility of learning how to overcome codependency and allowing people to take a look at their own behaviors that are codependent.
Let’s look at defining codependency. Merriam Webster defines it as “a psychological condition in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition.” My definition is a bit different and a little simpler. My definition is based on my work as a psychotherapist.
Behaviors of Codependency
For me, codependency is the inability for a person to function without others. We ALL have codependent behaviors whether you want to admit that or not. Don’t go beating yourself up just yet, though.
We learned our codependency as a normal way of functioning, but that does not mean it’s healthy. To take that a step further, most of us were not taught anything about setting boundaries in relationships in order to avoid being codependent.
Due to that, we are left with our codependency because that is actually what we were taught. Just know that recovering from codependency is still possible, if you’re willing to do the work. Now, let’s take a look at these behaviors that keep us in codependency. Here are some very common examples.
Examples of Codependent Behaviors:
• Needing others to make or help make decisions for you
•Requiring validation from others/attention-seeking
•Lacking your own identity apart from others
•Struggling to find happiness outside of relationships with others
There are so many more examples I could give, but these are some of the main ones I see in my line of work. I’ll break these examples down a little more.
Acknowledging Your Codependency
Needing others to make or help make decisions for you is something we have all probably done on some level. I am not talking about seeking advice or opinions. What I am talking about is the inability to form your own decision without others telling you what you should do. On top of that, you probably ignore your own intuition and do what you are told you should do.
As a psychotherapist, I often have clients wanting me to tell them what to do. That is NEVER my job. I merely help guide people to make their own decisions. If I tell them what to do, I am stepping right into codependency with them.
Requiring validation from others is one of the biggest forms of codependent behavior in our society. Surprise! Surprise! I am talking about social media and the need for validation with regard to likes, comments, followers, etc.
Please know I am NOT just referring to teens and young adults here. If you want to learn more about this, check out my blog post 4 Ways We Teach Kids Attention-Seeking Behaviors with Social Media. Adults are just as guilty of this behavior as teens and young adults.
I’m not going to dive too deeply into this because you have to be willing to take a deep look at yourself and you might not be ready to do that.
Here’s a hint, though. If you read my post about social media attention-seeking and it angered you, then you are probably guilty of requiring validation from others on social media.
Lacking Your Own Identity
Let’s more on to the codependent behaviors of lacking your own identity apart from others. There are two main ways these show up. The first is when you are only able to identify yourself through the roles you have in life.
For example, your entire identity might be the roles of mother, father, your profession, husband, wife, etc. You were not born with those roles. Therefore, they cannot be your true soul identity. If you want to learn how to find your true soul identity apart from your roles, read my post 2 Ways to Answer Who Am I.
Now, let’s take a look at the behaviors associated with struggling to find happiness outside of relationships with others. These can show up in romantic relationships, work, friends and family relationships. The way it plays out is that you are only happy when you are with others and are a part of something with those others.
If you struggle to find happiness when you are on your own, not in a romantic relationship or not actively involved with others, then you are probably stuck in codependency.
Now, take a deep breath and don’t start beating yourself up if you recognize yourself in these examples. Recovering from codependency is hard, but far from impossible!
5 Steps on How to Overcome Codependency
- Identify your feelings when you are with others and when you are alone. (The feelings when you are alone are probably a lot tougher because you are dependent upon being with others to get those “positive” feelings.)
- Start exploring your own likes and interests that don’t require others. (You may have to try many different things, but don’t give up because you WILL find enjoyable things!)
- Read the post I mentioned 2 Ways to Answer Who Am I. (This one is important because your identity has been dependent upon others and that is NOT your true soul identity.)
- Allow yourself to spend at least 1-2 hours a week without the company of others. (This may be hard, but is required if you are really working on recovering from codependency.)
- Practice self-care throughout each day. (This can be hard to do, but is essential to your healing from codependency.)
None of these steps is easy. If you are truly working towards recovering from codependency, you will do these steps. If you aren’t ready, don’t force yourself because it won’t work, and you’ll just be left incredibly frustrated.
For those of you who are ready to do this work, I’ll give you a little more information about each of the steps on How to Overcome Codependency.
The Nitty Gritty of Recovering from Codependency
Step One is not easy, but that’s true for each of these steps. You probably feel happy and fulfilled when you are with others and that happiness is dependent upon your being with them. When you find yourself alone, you probably feel sad, empty, lonely, lost, anxious or depressed.
In order to truly heal and overcome codependency, you HAVE to allow yourself to “sit” with those feelings. If you push them away by finding ways to be around others all of the time, those “negative” feelings will only grow larger.
Eventually, that happiness you feel when you’re around others will begin to dissipate because it was merely masking your true feelings. So, you’ll still be left with those “negative” feelings but will no longer have a way to get those “positive” feelings back.
Step Two can be challenging and discouraging at times. You probably don’t have a clue about what you like to do or what interests you have. That’s ok if you’re willing to change that.
There’s not a lot for me to explain about this step because the journey of this step will look different for each person. Just don’t give up and keep trying new things until you find a few things that feel good for you and are emotionally and/or physically healthy for you.
Your Identity Minus Codependency
Step Three is self-explanatory. Read my post 2 Ways to Answer Who Am I. The reason this is important is that the root of codependency is not knowing who you are or being able to stand firmly in your true soul identity.
You deserve to know who you are and to learn how to love your true soul identity. Not only that, but the world needs more people who are living as their true, authentic selves.
Now, for step four. If you have really strong codependent behaviors, spending time alone is very difficult. Not only that, but you have probably created a life that leaves you without much alone time.
It is incredibly difficult to practice self-care if you haven’t mastered creating the time for it. If that is the case, read my post 4 Ways of Creating Time for Self-Care. That post will teach you how to create the self-care time you need and the importance of that time.
Step Five is the final step and is just as difficult and important as the others. This step is important for two reasons. So, don’t skip it!
The first reason Step Five is important is that self-care typically requires you to be alone. That is incredibly hard when you are in the midst of really strong codependent behaviors because you have created your days to avoid being alone.
The second reason Step Five is important is that you probably don’t know what you can do to practice self-care. If that is the case, then I also have a post you need to read for that. If you struggle with knowing how to practice self-care or feel clueless about what self-care would look like for you, click to read my post What is Self-Care.
Refrain from Beating Yourself Up During this Process
Hopefully, these steps will help guide you in your recovering from codependency. Don’t forget that everybody has struggled with codependency in some way. So, you are not alone. However, if you are reading this, then it shows you have some motivation to begin healing and changing your codependent behaviors.
Wrapping up this post, there are three things you need to keep in mind. First, as with all of my posts that guide you towards healing, allow yourself plenty of time to complete each step. Healing does not have a time requirement. Rushing it will actually slow your healing.
The second thing you need to keep in mind is not to beat yourself up when you struggle with these steps. Your behaviors of codependency have probably been with you for many years. So, it will take time to do these steps and make changes to become more emotionally healthy.
The third and final thing you need to keep in mind is the importance of finding a good, licensed therapist to help you through your healing process. Finding a therapist with whom you click can be difficult. If you want to learn how to do that, read my post 5 Important Steps to Finding a Good Therapist.
Sending you love as you begin your healing journey of stepping out of codependency. I’d love to hear your thoughts, struggles or successes during your journey of recovering from codependency. Comment below to share those with me and others because we can all learn from one another.
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This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.