Codependency is a world-wide disease.
It erodes your self-esteem, drains your energy and leaves you profoundly unhappy.
Yet you feel powerless to change it.
I can feel your pain.
After years of living with the distress, I finally see the shimmering light at the end of the tunnel.
And the cure to that is not independence.
Ironically, it is through admitting your dependency and building meaningful connections based on it that you can overcome codependency.
Let’s see how.
How is codependency formed?
The direct cause of codependency is emotional neglect in childhood.
As a child, your emotions weren’t acknowledged, and your needs and wants weren’t fulfilled by your parents. They raised you primarily to fulfill their needs, such as the need to be praised, the need to be valued and the need to be loved, as they never learned to meet these needs themselves.
As such, when you voiced up your thoughts, feelings, desires that do not align with meeting their needs, they scolded and punished you as if you were wrong and wouldn’t hesitate to correct you because you made them feel threatened.
Because of this, you felt unseen and unheard, and no one gives you the support that you need. You also learned there was something fundamentally flawed with you and it’s not okay to be yourself and speak your truth.
This created a void in you, and it grew bigger each time someone, either your friends, family or partners invalidate your feelings and ignore your needs and wants.
Feeling unloved and rejected, you will do everything to fill this void, including:
- Going out of your way to help others;
- Caretaking others;
- Taking responsibility for others;
- Being obsessed with others’ life and even try to fix them;
- Control or manipulate others so that they “need” you.
You might appear helpful and selfless to others, but you know that deep inside you is the craving for their love and attention in return for your favor.
When you don’t get what you want, you get frustrated and even resentful. The inner void widens, and you feel more and more deprived.
To cope, you either exist the current relationships but quickly jump to others with similar patterns, or withdraw altogether. Both help little to overcome your codependency or make you feel better.
Build meaningful relationships to heal codependency
Because the inner void was created by lack of love and emotional connection, it can only be filled with the same thing so that you can heal.
And the fastest way is to build deep, meaningful relationships with people who give you love, accept and support unconditionally.
A word of caution for codependents to build relationships
Not all relationships are created equal. Codependents are especially susceptible to those toxic ones where they give incessantly and receive little in return, leaving them drained and crushing their self-esteem.
It’s nothing new that codependents and narcissists are insanely attracted to each other.
The reason is that both have a void and are desperate for love.
Narcissists ask for love directly, while codependents give generously first to receive.
However, selfish as narcissists are, they will never provide the genuine love and connection that a codependent needs.
The relationships usually end up depriving the codependent, whether they are romantic ones or with friends and family.
6 steps for codependents to build relationships
If you are determined to overcome your codependency, make building healthy relationships your top priority. Let it permeate your work and your personal life.
It might be painful if you had been in toxic relationships for a long time. Practice on regardless. The better it gets, the better it will get.
Let’s dive into the six steps to build relationships for codependents.
Step#1. Accept that we all depend on each other
Humans are relational species, and we need each other to live and thrive. Unconditional love and support from others keep us alive as much as food and water.
You might have been shamed for asking for things you wanted when you were young. But know that you’re no longer subject to your caregivers. You’re worthy of love and support and people who genuinely love you will be more than happy to support you.
So stop blaming yourself for needing others like what your parents did to you.
Accept it that we all need each other.
Step#2. Practice self-love and self-care
You might have been busy pleasing others that you never learn to love yourself unconditionally. You aren’t happy because you don’t know how to meet your needs and wants.
Start loving and caring for yourself.
Follow your passion, nurture your body, and get enough rest. Treat yourself how you would treat a dear friend.
Self-love is not selfish. It is when you fill your glass full that you have extra to give to others.
Step#3. Establish self-worth
If you suffer from codependency, chances are you need approvals from others excessively to feel good.
Know that everyone needs external recognition to some extent, but don’t let others’ judgment erodes your sense of self.
Your infinite worth was with you when you were born and remain intact for the rest of your life. It doesn’t change whether you do or don’t do something. You are perfect and invaluable just as you are.
Establishing self-worth should become a top priority if you want to overcome codependency. Affirmation, meditation, the mirror exercises, and writing down things you like about yourself are all effective methods to help you improve self-esteem.
Building connections and establishing self-worth go hand in hand. When one progresses, so will the other.
Step#4. Leave toxic people and relationships
Nothing destroys your self-esteem more than toxic relationships. People with codependency are more likely to attract friends and partners who are unavailable and abusive.
The chances are that you know who are draining your energy and diminishing your value. Leave them.
It might be challenging to cut the cord with people who you’ve known long. Accept that you’ll suffer from the pain of separation for a while.
Don’t fight the sorrow and let yourself grieve.
Just bear in mind that no pain is permanent. As you establish self-worth and believe that you deserve love, you will attract people who love and accept you for who you are.
Step#5. Be vulnerable and open your heart
You might dread speaking your truth because you learned that doing so spells punishment.
But realize that you’re no longer the little girl that was subject to your parents’ punishment if you spoke up. And not all people will judge or reject your truth as your parents did.
Pay attention, and you will find those who can see, hear, and understand what you have endured. These people will accept you for who you are without needing you to change.
Be bold and show your true self to others. Not everyone can handle your authenticity, but those who do will become a reliable source of love and support.
Let your intuition guide you when you can be direct in your communication.
Step#6. Accept rejection
You’ll be rejected at some point.
In the beginning, this could be painful, as it makes you feel unloved and worthless.
But everyone struggles with rejection sometime in his life. Those who learn to ignore it move on and keep trying until they find the ones that accept and love them for who they are.
Don’t be afraid of rejection and accept it as part and parcel of the process. Without it, you can’t fully appreciate the truly intimate, supportive relationships you can build up after the initial pain.
Overcoming codependency frees you from toxic relationships and help you get the love connection you desire. It takes practice, but the reward of living a fulfilling life where your needs and wants are met is worth the effort.
Do you agree that building meaningful relationships is the cure to codependency? Please share your comment below!