I have seen the word codependency A LOT on my social media lately. The universe sent me a sign repeatedly, but I ignored it. Then I saw this video.
I knew my therapist must have written these words in my session notes. I was on to something. Like a good therapist, when I asked, he suggested I research and come back to him with questions. Bugger. I promptly avoided the research.
Weeks later, I googled codependency. There are several different lists of traits, but the main characteristics – have my name penciled in next to them.
So, I continued my research and shared my learning with a good friend. We swapped stories, and they sent me a book. I learned a ton, some that were not me and some that were but are hard to admit.
Instead of self-esteem, I derive my feeling of worthiness via “other esteem.” By the standards of others, am I a good child, student, friend, partner, parent, employee, leader, team member, etc.? I gather all my constant assessments of these external measures and create a virtual leaderboard of points. Forever striving to earn more points and maintain my standing by exceeding others' stated and perceived expectations and sacrificing my needs whenever I deem it necessary. Read ‘always’ here.
In 2003 I learned that my top five strengths via CliftonStrengths include Harmony and WOO (Win Others Over). It took me a year to see these strengths' value in my workplace. I lived in harmony by avoiding conflict and always looking for diplomatic consensus. With WOO, I strove confidently into any room of strangers and looked for new connections and friendships. For 15 years, I felt like everyone liked me and that I could always find someone to fill a need or answer a question.
At what cost? Ha! My entire self. I underdeveloped my ability to define myself. What do I like? Want? Need? Seriously – I had no idea most days. I didn’t consider it. I stuffed that away and waited for someone to notice. I was building up resentment and anger. And…no…one…knew.
At work, I thought I was a strong leader. I was pretty good, but I didn’t understand that avoiding taking a stand or side added little value to my teammates and company. I kept the machine moving forward with little disruption at the cost of the best answer and innovation.
I am working to recover.
Jordan mentioned recently that she did something wrong the other day at work. My initial reaction was to remind her to take the lesson and do better next time. I paused and told her, “Good job. That means you are taking chances and trusting your judgment. Making mistakes is doing great work and showing that you are following your instinct, not someone else’s, even if it is uncomfortable.” I wish I had thought that years ago. Learn it now, girl, at 25, not 53!
When Mike died, I was left with the opportunity to make an independent decision as an adult for the first time. Crazy right? Beige or blue walls? Teal blue. Pave the driveway after 25 years with dirt? Yes, please! Marvel movies, Star Wars, Star Trek, Brussels sprouts, weight-lifting…. All the things.
When I started dating, I backslid a bit. The best part of a loving new relationship with Paul? The safe space to step back up.
Here's a glimpse of my inner thoughts as a recovering people pleaser now -
“I guess I need to make a decision.”
“Ooh – what would the other person want?”
“Oops – what the hell, Mary?”
“Okay – pretend the person is not here. What do you want?”
“What? Why do you need to do that? You are better than that now.”
“Okay, I want this.
“Are you sure that is all you want?”
“Okay, if I could have everything, like magic, make it 4 times as big with glitter.”
“Now, how the hell am I going to say that?
“Hey Paul, instead of going to Italy can we go to that place on the puzzle I put together with the white houses and blue roofs? I don’t know where that is, though.”
Annnnddd…. Mykonos, here we come. I love Paul.
It takes practice, right? Stepping into discomfort over and over until it’s comfortable. The rewards are boundless – my happiness with many pockets and lightsaber ears in Disneyland.
My self-work continues, and here are some resources I have found so far – therapy and coaching – most valuable in my process, books, codependent friends in recovery, and this tik toker.
If this resonates with you, I would love to hear from you! Or share this blog. We’ve got this!