Codependency is a behavioral condition where people put others’ needs before their own to the detriment of their own well-being.
Though some genuine progress can be made on your own using the tips below, this is just a starting point.
We highly recommend finding a mental health professional who will guide you to a solution and help you to make some positive, long-term behavioral changes. This information is there to help you understand how you’re feeling, something that will be useful when working with a licensed, trusted therapist.
Here are four tips to overcome codependency:
1. Acknowledge Your Codependency
Learn all that you can about it. The more you understand what it means to be codependent, the better you can recognize the patterns in your own life.
The first step in any transformation is acknowledging the problem. Here are a few characteristics of codependent people:
- Suffer from very low self-esteem.
- Have a tendency to fall for people that they think they can rescue.
- Typically have a hard time saying no.
- Fear rejection and abandonment.
- Struggle with compulsive caregiving.
- Think they know best how things should turn out and how people should act.
- Try to coerce people through helplessness, guilt, threats, advice-giving, or manipulation.
- Don’t trust themselves.
Public libraries and mental health centers often provide educational materials and programs to the public. A quick search on Amazon will provide countless reading materials and workbooks as well.
Although, keep in mind that acknowledging it and reading about it won’t effect change the same way professional help will. Changing codependent behaviors requires action, ideally under the guidance of a mental health professional.
2. Spend Solo Time Getting To Know Yourself
Melody Beattie, a well-known name in recovery circles and author of the bestselling book, Codependent No More, defines a codependent person as “one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior.”
Typically, codependents have lost themselves in their relationships. Spending some time alone exploring your likes and dislikes is vital to freeing yourself from the unhealthy patterns of caretaking and controlling.
Explore your passions and interests. Getting to know yourself apart from others’ is a huge step toward untangling yourself from the habit of putting others’ needs and wants ahead of your own.
This will also help you to understand your own motives for doing things. If you’re saying yes to something, ask yourself if you are agreeing because you want to or because someone else wants you to? Are you trying to please someone else or are you honoring your own wants and needs?
Listening to yourself helps to create self-confidence and self-respect.
3. Set Boundaries
As you dig deeper into your codependency with a trusted professional, you’ll often hear terms like “detach with love” and “disentangle yourself and let go”.
What they really mean is: set some boundaries.
One of the best ways to begin setting healthy boundaries is to learn to say no to people and situations that are causing you harm. Of course, this will feel uncomfortable at first, but that’s growth.
Saying no is not cruel or selfish. It’s a way of preserving the relationship you have with yourself and putting your own needs before others. It is an ultimate act of self-love and will ultimately create space for only the healthiest relationships. Which is what you deserve.
So what are good boundaries? They look like taking responsibility for yourself alone, not for things that aren’t yours, like other people’s feelings and messes.
Here are some things to remember when you put those boundaries in place:
- Be firm and use direct language.
- Keep in mind that you are not responsible for the other person’s reactions.
- You don’t have to defend your feelings. They are totally valid.
- It’s okay to be a broken record with your request if you’re met with resistance.
4. Seek Professional Help
Trained and licensed therapists can help you to become aware of your destructive patterns and make long-lasting changes in your behavior.
Don't self-diagnosis or try to heal this on your own. If you feel that you may be suffering from codependency, there are a number of helpful sources out there. Here are a few:
- Attend to a Twelve Step meeting for codependents, such as Codependents Anonymous, or CoDA.
- Seek counseling from a trained mental health professional that is familiar with codependency. They may be marriage and family counselors, social workers, addiction specialists, psychologists, or psychiatrists.
- Check out treatment facilities that offer inpatient and outpatient services. Some also offer week-long workshops and weekend programs.
Overcome Codependency to Discover Independence
Use the tips above to overcome your codependency and start to live for yourself. While it may be tough (or seem impossible) in-the-moment, you’ll feel more independent, accomplished and self-reliant, which is well worth the effort.