- Sara Haines
Am I codependent?
Codependency is a behavioural and emotional condition that we learn very young when we are unable to meet our own needs, and are forced to rely on others around us like a parents or caregivers. It is best explained by the belief “If you’re good, I’m good. And if you’re not good, I’m not good.”
When we adopt this pattern of behaviour, it is because we learned that making other people happy was the most reliable way to stay safe, get our needs met, and our feelings heard. Perhaps you had a parent who was busy or gave you the cold shoulder when you tried to speak up and talk about your feelings? When this happens to us over and over again as children, we learn to withhold, avoid, deny and ignore our big or painful emotions. As a result, we begin to lose trust in ourselves since we don’t know what we really want or how to ask for it, as well as lose trust in others since we know they will let us down and disappoint us.
As we grow into adults, codependency can become problematic because we place our happiness and goodness outside of us and onto others. When our emotional state depends on how our friend or partner is feeling, we will constantly be trying to make sure that they are happy, so that we can be too. This causes us to place the health, safety and wellbeing of others before our own and even forget about our own needs entirely. Being responsive to the needs of others is considered an admirable quality by many, but with codependency it becomes unhealthy when it is so important that it begins to control you. When we begin to make decisions and create our identity based on how our friend or partner is showing up, we set ourselves up to be let down time and time again.
Signs of Codependency
For those of us with codependent tendencies, you may find that:
You feel responsible for other people’s emotions
You have difficulty making decisions
You need a lot of reassurance from those around you
You feel like you need to fix other people’s problems or rescue them
You only feel valued when someone needs you
You have a hard time saying no to others
You keep quiet to avoid conflict and other difficult emotions
You have a fear of abandonment and rejection
You have a pattern of losing yourself in your relationships
You lack of trust in others as well as yourself
You have difficulty knowing or communicating your own feelings, needs, and wants
You feel resentful for giving more than you receive
Why Therapy Can Help
Changing our codependent behaviours can be very difficult for a number of reasons and often requires the help of a therapist you trust. Despite it’s challenges, becoming interdependent in our relationships can create improvements in self-esteem, self-worth, relationship satisfaction and more.
The first step towards unravelling our codependent behaviours is to become aware of them. The more awareness we have towards how these behaviours show up in our relationships and impact our sense of self, the easier it will be to move towards interdependence.