It’s human nature to put effort into things that are important to us. Whatever you value will have a high priority in your life. For some, it’s work. For others, it’s family. Some people are health conscious and make diet and exercise a priority in their lives. Many people put God or a higher power first. Where are you on your priority list? Do you even consider yourself when thinking about the important people and things in your life? If you are not at the top of your priority list, you should be!
Many of us were raised to believe we are being selfish if we put ourselves first. It can feel uncomfortable and wrong to think of our needs and what’s best for us. While it’s true that we are supposed to give to others, giving can either be healthy or codependent. Do you know the difference?
When you value yourself, you are giving from an inner fullness and happiness. From this place, you have something to give to others, and it is unconditional. You are not looking for something in return. If you get something back, that’s great. However, you are okay regardless of whether you get something or not. The satisfaction of knowing you helped someone is enough of a reward.
When you are codependent, you are empty and need to be filled. Your giving to others is based on needing something in return. It could be love, appreciation, validation, acceptance or anything that helps you to feel good about yourself. Rather than knowing your worth on the inside, you need to receive it from the outside… constantly! Doing for others can be a way of filling this endless need. Codependents are great helpers! They are the first ones to jump in and help, even if it’s not good for them. They have a very hard time saying no. The old tape telling them they are being selfish keeps playing over and over again. Because they don’t know the first thing about taking care of themselves, they put everyone and everything ahead of them. So while it appears that they are all about you, it’s really about what they need from you in order to be okay.
This is a great example of codependency. When we are on a plane and the flight attendants gives their safety speech before takeoff, they instruct us to put our own oxygen mask on first before we put the mask on any children we are traveling with. Why? Because if you pass out, how can you help your child? You need to breathe and be okay, or you have nothing to give to anyone else! It’s not only healthy, it is also necessary to put our needs first. I once had a very funny flight attendant who said to put the mask on a child or anyone acting like a child! While this is a joke, it’s a little too close to the truth. Codependent relationships are often childish, since children are dependent on others to take care of them. When we grow into healthy adults, we know how to take care of ourselves.
One way to test whether you are giving from a healthy or codependent place is to ask yourself how you feel. Are you saying yes to a request from someone because you genuinely have a desire to give, or are you saying yes because it’s too hard to say no? Notice if you feel joyful or guilty and stressed. Sometimes we think it’s okay to do something for someone, but later we realize we weren’t taking care of ourselves. So notice this also — without judgment — and let it be a lesson for next time. Before you automatically say yes to a request, be sure to check in with yourself to see how you really feel.
As you can see, codependency puts a lot of stress on relationships, especially with an intimate partner. It’s up to you to heal your wounds, change your old programming and become a healthy person who knows your worth. Otherwise, you will have unhealthy relationships. Before you can have true intimacy, you must have a loving relationship with yourself. Being overly focused on doing for others often interferes with what they need to do for themselves. So focus on your own journey toward wholeness, which I am happy to be here to help you with.