Do you feel responsible for other people; their feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being and destiny? Do you feel compelled to help people solve their problems or by trying to take care of their feelings? If the answer is yes, then you may suffer from a syndrome known as codependency.
Let me give you some more examples of codependency.
Two people at your workplace are vying for a promotion. One is a friend, the other is not. The promotion doesn’t go to your friend. You feel angry and possibly even more upset about this than your friend.
Now let’s alter the situation a little bit. Imagine that you got the promotion over your friend. Do you feel insecure and guilty that you got what someone else wanted even though you might have actually deserved it? Do you find yourself apologetic and defensive even when this doesn’t help the situation but ends up making it worse.
Do you feel bored and worthless if you don’t have someone else to take care of, a problem to solve, or a crisis to deal with? This often happens when one is unable to stop talking, thinking and worrying about other people and their problems. When you are the ‘problem solver’ in any given situation, your self-worth and the sense of being is on an all-time high. The second the issue is resolved, you feel agitated and lost.
Codependent personalities don’t just love drama, they are addicted to it. When they don’t find drama, they create it. When they don’t find any victims among their acquaintances, they go look for someone with problems. This is not healthy.
One problem when one is addicted to codependency is that one loses interest in their own life when they are in love. Basically, everything becomes about the other person and the things that make them happy. People end up doing things that are unsustainable in the long term. This works only for a short term and one can’t keep up with the pattern they have set. What happens is that the other person gets used to a certain treatment and when we pull back, the situation becomes unpleasant. Then one ends up staying in relationships that don’t work. When one finally does muster up the courage to walk away, it is messy.
Codependency can happen in any relationship, be it life, work, love, family or friends. Codependent people can be so stuck on other people’s approval that they will go to any lengths to please and get their approval. This often stems from low self-esteem and a desire to be loved by all.
Here is the harsh but simple reality: how can you love anyone if you can’t even love yourself first? Hearing the announcement on the airplane when they tell us about the oxygen masks always makes me smile. It goes something like, ‘please put on your own mask first and then help the elderly and children’. You have to be good to yourself before you start going out of your way to help others. I know so many people who literally run themselves ragged because they are so eager to please others. People love such individuals but the problem for codependent persons is that they wind up tired, overworked, stressed out and in poor health.
I am in no way preaching selfishness. It is a beautiful thing to be there for people and to make the lives of others easier. To care is a wonderful thing. But don’t love others to a point where you lose yourself in the process. If you are not on your own priority list, then eventually you will collapse and lose all sense of sanity.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2014.
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