If you consistently put your own needs last, caring for everyone else before yourself, you may suffer from codependent tendencies. Engaging in codependent behaviors will compromise the healthy functioning of interpersonal relationships, and leaves little time for essential self-care. Neglecting your own needs in lieu of the needs of others will likely leave you feeling resentful, empty, and discontented. If you do not first take care of yourself, your ability to take care of others will be severely compromised. If you continuously attempt to meet the needs of others before meeting your own needs, you will essentially be giving away something that you do not have to give – landing yourself in a place of emotional debt.
Fortunately, codependent behaviors can be reversed once they have been acknowledged. Most cases of codependency are born as the result of growing up in a harshly dysfunctional environment (for more information on the causes of codependency, see our blog post Why Am I Codependent). As children, we are essentially stuck – we require parental care and guidance; we cannot pack our bags at age 7 and leave in search of a better life. Rather, we develop strategies and coping mechanisms to help us survive in whatever environment we are born into. Codependent traits that develop during childhood are simply adaptive, and once we are adults, we can see the roots of the problem more clearly. Once we become fully aware of the issue at hand, we can begin to take action. Rather than continuing to live our lives as scared children who constantly feel the need to prove our worth, we can reclaim our independence and autonomy and begin truly living for ourselves.
Am I Codependent?
The term codependency is frequently misused, especially in the realm of addiction and recovery. Individuals who struggle with codependency do not merely care deeply for others, they consistently sacrifice their own needs in order to make sure that the needs of others are being met. If you constantly attempt to convince yourself that your situation will improve soon while engaging in the same self-destructive behavior, you may be in denial. Most codependent men and women are in some state of denial, unwilling or unable to view their behavior as damaging. They may work tirelessly to keep themselves busy and distracted, which will successfully prevent them from addressing underlying issues for an extended period of time. They may feel depressed or get physically ill without understanding why, or engage in other diverting and injurious behaviors such as overeating, self-harming, or substance abuse.
Ask yourself the following questions when attempting to determine whether or not you are truly codependent:
- Does helping others make you feel better about yourself?
- Do you feel personally responsible for the thoughts, feelings, actions, behaviors, wants, and needs of others?
- Do you find that it is easy to change your own plans in order to be there for someone else?
- Do you often feel used and angry?
- Do you say ‘yes’ to others even when you want to say ‘no’?
- Do you say ‘yes’ even when you feel it is not in your best interest?
- Do you find it difficult to have fun, feel joy, or do something spontaneous and spur of the moment?
- Do you find that you frequently choose partners who are not emotionally or physically available?
- Do you tend to stay in relationships long after it becomes clear that it will not work out long-term?
- Do you avoid talking about your own wants, needs, and dreams, because you feel that what you have to say is silly or unimportant?
- Do you often feel depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed?
Codependency and Self-Care
Despite your best attempts, you may find it extremely difficult to authentically connect with others if you do struggle with codependent tendencies. This inability to connect is a good indication that your personal needs are not being met. Addressing neglected personal needs is directly related to self-care, and self-care is an absolutely essential component of a fulfilled and meaningful life. While the definition of self-care may vary slightly from person to person, it always has to do with taking care of personal needs, self-assertion, and balancing the time and energy that we put into dealing with and helping others. Taking care of our own needs first allows us to truly show up for others when they need us, and allows for reciprocal and genuine emotional intimacy. Not until we heal from past harms and address our own needs can we truly begin living a life of balance and happiness.
Take a moment to reflect on whether or not your personal needs are being met – emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual. Consider your inner and your outer needs, and make a commitment to seek any supplemental help you may need to set yourself back on the right path. Codependent tendencies can be successfully combatted with a careful combination of self-care and therapeutic guidance. For more information on codependency, or for information regarding our male-specific program of trauma and addiction recovery, please call us today.