Codependency is simply an unhealthy relational style.
It’s something that is learned, usually as a result of painful childhood experiences.
It’s not a mental disease or “something that you’re born with.”
And it can be changed.
Where It Comes From
If you grew up in a home where your emotional or physical needs were not met, you probably came up with the idea, “If I’m good enough, then someone will finally care about me.”
One of the best ways to “be good enough” was to start taking care of other people—especially the adults in your life that had significant emotional needs.
Sometimes those adults were addicts. Probably, they were emotionally, physically, or even sexually abusive.
While that relational style made sense back then, that same relational style is starting to back fire now.
Instead of getting the love you want and need, it’s starting to become unmanageable.
That’s because your definition of caring for others includes controlling their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It requires you to dismiss your own needs and is causing you to become resentful and frustrated most of the time.
You’ve never learned how to be responsible for yourself, and, more importantly, never learned how to let others be responsible for their own decisions and feelings.
Once you learn how to do that, you will stop being codependent and start living inter-dependently with others.
What Is Codependency—Defined
Codependency is the distorted belief system where you TRULY believe that it’s your job to take care of everyone else because they are more valuable than yourself.
Other people have value, but you don’t.
As a result of that distorted belief system, you’re always putting other people’s needs before your own and tend to ignore or discount your own feelings.
Your sense of self-esteem has become solely dependent upon your ability to please everyone around you. If you’re able to take care of everyone’s needs—no matter the cost to you—then you can consider yourself a good person.
Some people call codependency a “relationship addiction.”
It is the compulsion to always be thinking about someone else, even when you don’t want to.
It’s not selflessness. Selflessness is a choice. Selflessness comes out of an overflow of your love and esteem for yourself.
With codependency, you’re held hostage by your own guilt and shame if you don’t help other people.
You believe that you are better able to care for someone than they are themselves.
Codependency is actually based in pride and self-delusion. It is the distorted belief that your way is always best and that others can’t be left to make their own decisions. After all, that might put too much of a burden on them.
Find Out If You’re Codependent
There is no official “diagnosis” for codependency because codependency is a collection of behaviors.
You can be a little codependent or über codependent. It’s a continuum.
If you want to get an idea for yourself how codependent you are, take the Codependency Quiz.
Then, after you find out your score, check out the Answer Sheet and click on the questions to see a short video describing what healthy people do in that particular situation, and what codependent people tend to do.