Codependent thinking and behaviors can sabotage our health, happiness, and relationships. Here are some examples:
Codependents neglect themselves in order to take care of others.
Codependents lose their individuality trying to please others.
Codependents don’t ask for what we need – and often don’t know what they want or need.
Codependents get obsessed with other people and their problems.
Codependents worry excessively.
Codependents are afraid to say no or set boundaries, so they get taken advantage of or hurt.
Codependents stuff their feelings (and then sometimes explode).
Codependents feel undeserving, unlovable, or flawed.
These codependent behaviors and feelings are based on distorted thoughts and false beliefs that we likely developed in childhood. They’re overly negative, inaccurate, and unhelpful. Yet, they seem so natural to us because we’ve been thinking this way for decades and unconsciously reinforcing these beliefs.
Change Your Codependent Thinking
As we work on changing our codependent thoughts and behaviors, it can help to intentionally repeat healthier thoughts that support us in improving our self-esteem, taking better care of ourselves, and building relationships based on mutual trust and respect. Doing this helps to direct our thoughts away from codependency and toward healthy interdependency.
Try reading the reminders below once or twice a day to reinforce the thoughts and behaviors you’re trying to develop.
1. I can’t control other people, but I can control my reactions.
Logically, we all know that we can’t control others, but that doesn’t always stop us from trying! But trying to get others to change or do what we want, never works. Everyone ends up frustrated or resentful. It’s much more effective to focus on what you can control – changing your reactions to what other people are doing. When we change our reactions the entire relationship dynamic starts to shift.
2. It’s healthy to have my own ideas, feelings, interests, goals, and values.
You don’t have to think and feel like everyone else does; you’re not simply an extension of your parents or spouse. You’re entitled to be a unique individual and develop a strong sense of self, regardless of whether it’s pleasing to others or not.
3. We’re all responsible for managing our own lives.
It’s not your job to fix other people or solve their problems. In most cases, it’s impossible to do so and we often drive ourselves crazy trying, only to end up frustrated. Instead, we should focus on managing our own problems, feelings, and lives.
4. I am not powerless.
Sometimes we sink into depression or a victim mindset because we can’t see our choices (or we don’t like them). But we always have choices, which means we are not powerless to change our situation and improve ourselves.
5. I can say no and still be a kind person.
Contrary to popular belief, setting boundaries is not inherently mean or unfair. In fact, it’s kind to set clear expectations and let others know how you want to be treated.
6. Taking care of others shouldn’t come at the expense of my own wellbeing.
I don’t have to sacrifice myself in order to care for others. I can take care of others and establish limits to protect my physical health, finances, peace of mind, and so forth. This ensures that I will be well enough to continue giving to others in a way that supports everyone’s needs.
7. I deserve the same kindness and generosity that I give to others.
When I practice self-compassion, I recognize that I am worthy of loving-kindness – just like everyone else – because we all deserve to be treated with kindness.
8. My self-worth isn’t based on my accomplishments.
Your worth as a person is inherent. It’s not based on how much you accomplish or what you achieve. We all have different strengths and abilities and none are better than others – they’re just different. You are just as worthy as everyone else.
9. My self-worth doesn’t depend on other people’s approval.
No matter how hard you try, it’s not possible to please others all the time. And when you base your self-worth on what others think, you give away your power. Instead, you can value yourself regardless of what others think. We can build our self-esteem and learn to love and value ourselves by noticing our strengths, forgiving ourselves for our mistakes, and most importantly, remembering that love doesn’t have to be earned.
10. Doing what’s right for me is not selfish.
Many codependents mistakenly think that doing what’s right for them – whether it’s spending the holidays away from their family or refusing to loan money to a friend who never repays them – is selfish. Doing things for others, when it’s detrimental to your own wellbeing, is being a doormat -- not being selfish. Truly selfish people only think about themselves; our goal is to consider our own needs and other people’s needs. And when they are in conflict, we sometimes need to prioritize our own wellbeing. This doesn’t make us selfish. When others call you selfish it’s often simply an attempt to manipulate you into doing what they want.
11. Giving unsolicited advice is usually counterproductive.
In an effort to help, codependents often try to solve other people’s problems by giving advice or nagging. But, let’s face it, unsolicited advice is rarely taken or appreciated. It can even be disrespectful to assume that you know what someone else should do.
12. I don’t have to be perfect to be lovable.
Being perfect isn’t the key to being loved. Love surpasses our flaws and often it’s our imperfections that draw us closer and make us more relatable and lovable. So, perfecting your appearance or accomplishing more or saying the right things isn’t the way to attract love. Be yourself. The right people will love you – and it’s okay that you’re not everyone’s cup of tea.
Changing our codependent thinking and behaviors takes a lot of practice. So, don’t give up if it doesn’t happen right away. Little by little, you’ll get there. And I’m sure it will be worth the effort!
To continue practicing with these 12 reminders, you can print a cheat sheet from my Resource Library, which can be accessed for free when you sign-up for my email list below.
Learn more about codependency
©2019 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.
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Free yourself from codependent patterns
Navigating the Codependency Maze provides concrete exercises to help you manage anxiety, detach with love, break through denial, practice healthy communication, and end codependent thinking. It was written by Sharon Martin, a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience helping people overcome codependency, people-pleasing and perfectionism and find their way back to themselves. For more info and to view sample pages, click HERE.