The key to ending co-dependency is to build a sense of self-worth. This will allow us to relate to people on more equal footing. Michelle Farris, LMFT, shares her thoughts on reclaiming your self-confidence in codependent relationships.
When you’re codependent, the saying “be your own best friend” feels like a foreign concept. Codependent relationships are based on an unhealthy dependency that turns relationships into obligations. You form a strong bond with others, but in the process, your self-worth and self-confidence become dependent on that intensity. And building self-esteem is especially challenging because getting validation from others is faster than trying to give it to yourself. When you struggle with codependency you:
- Get your self-worth from what you do, not who you are.
- Have difficulty asking for what you need.
- Depend on others to make you feel happy.
- Feel joy only when loved ones are happy too.
- Look to others for answers because you don’t trust yourself.
While there are several different definitions of codependency, here’s a simplified version for you.
Codependency is a pattern of focusing on others at your own expense. Their problems become your problems, their needs overshadow all others. Eventually, relationships become one-sided as you neglect yourself in favor of pleasing others. Because of this, Some consider codependency a “relationship addiction” much like alcoholism.
When you depend on someone else to make you happy, you start needing them to make you feel whole. You may not see your own dependency until the relationship ends. That’s when you feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach – when the relationship has crashed and you’re by yourself again.
At the heart of codependency is an unconscious need to make someone else your Higher Power. They become a lifeline for validation, approval, and support. It’s like waiting for your prince or princess to save you – only that person doesn’t have to be a romantic partner. Codependency can develop with a friend, a child, a mentor, anyone that you find yourself needing just a little too much.
When they’re happy with you, you feel like the hero, but if they’re upset, it’s heart-breaking. Your feelings become dictated by their moods. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that never seems to stop.
Acknowledge That It’s Not Working
Unfortunately, the codependent person doesn’t hit bottom easily. While an addict can also struggle with issues of codependency, it is the codependent that has trouble seeing their behavior as an addiction to fixing, helping and depending on others as problematic.
Caring “too much” about others is a barrier to satisfying relationships – with yourself and others. We all want to be loved but when we ignore our needs, we’re teaching others to do the same. And relationships aren’t fulfilling when your needs are neglected.
The first step in codependency recovery is to acknowledge what isn’t working, whether it’s pretending everything is fine, relying on others to feel worthy, or trying to control people, places, and things. Eventually, you’ll become mentally and emotionally exhausted enough to let go. Ironically, it’s feeling powerless that helps you see that you are not God and neither are they.
Be Your Own BFF
Depending on relationships too much was a very painful lesson for me. Women’s friendships run deep, like a sisterhood. So, when a close friendship ended, it knocked me off my center. Despite working on my codependency, it caught me completely off guard. But I learned one of the most important lessons in my life.
Without a strong sense of self, others can dictate my self-esteem. No one single person – even your partner – should determine your worth. The concept that you can’t love others without loving yourself is painfully true.
Treat yourself like you would your best friend because the relationship you have with yourself will be the longest and most important one you ever have. While there is no replacement for true friendship and intimate partnership, neglecting ourselves eventually becomes destructive. Some may get addicted themselves or lose faith in relationships altogether. Finding something bigger than yourself to rely on provides a comfort that can be a sign of hope.
Building a Relationship with a Higher Power — Or Not
A vital part of recovery is finding a new source of connection to support you. While some may choose a religion, others cringe at the thought of a God or spiritual being. By developing a relationship with a Higher Power, many in 12 step recovery programs (such as Al-Anon or Codependent Anonymous) have found a new found strength.
There are many paths to creating an individualized spiritual practice. Some people love walking meditations or listening to inspirational videos on YouTube. Yoga or Tai Chi are also popular choices to de-stress and connect with your body and soul.
Relying on others to feel complete is one of the more painful aspects of codependency. Recovery means being willing to confront dependency issues and begin the shift towards self-reliance. Releasing yourself from the chains of dependency means your relationships with others will take their rightful place behind the one you have with yourself.
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