Do you give ‘till it hurts in your relationships?
Do you feel responsible for other people’s feelings, problems, and situations?
I can’t tell you how many comments and emails I get asking me: “How can I tell if I’m codependent?” and “What’s the difference between being caring and codependency?”
Over the last 25 years as a psychotherapist and as a recovering codependent myself, I can tell you that raising your awareness of these 8 codependency warning signs can help you start to focus on your own side of the street.
In today’s video, I’m walking you through the most common symptoms and red flags that could point to codependency.
Codependency is being overly invested in the feeling states, problems, and outcomes of others. Why is codependency a problem? Well…being actively codependent is frigging exhausting. It takes up so much bandwidth and is one of the biggest blocks to healthy relationships and intimacy.
The good news is, even if you discover you are chronically codependent, it does not have to be fatal. You can heal from this.
Raising your awareness is the first step to transformation, and you can absolutely do this. Please have compassion for yourself as you go through the list of behaviors below.
8 Codependency Warning Signs
1. You Have Communication Challenges
You have trouble articulating your own feelings and emotions. You might be an expert at the feelings and emotions of the people in your life, but you have a hard time separating what you are feeling and thinking from others. Communicating your true thoughts and feelings effectively can be difficult for you, especially if you are conflict avoidant, afraid of being rejected, or afraid of not being seen as a “nice” or “good” person.
2. You’re a People Pleaser
When you have “The Disease to Please,” you prioritize other people’s needs above your own. You say yes when you want to say no, and you avoid confrontation at all costs.
You apologize often. Not only when you’re not sorry, but also when you are angry, sad, frustrated, or anxious. You’re afraid of what might happen if you do something that displeases someone else, so you subvert your emotions, preferences, and needs.
Sound familiar? Then you might be a people pleaser. The problem with people-pleasing is on a deeper level, you might be looking outside of yourself for validation from others to give your life meaning. But others can never fill the hole that only self-love and self-worth can.
3. You’re an Auto-Fixer
When someone comes to you with a problem or situation, do you immediately jump in and start trying to solve it? Maybe you hop onto Google trying to figure out what they should do or immediately give them your opinion and a step-by-step plan. This can also look like you making excuses or doing things for other people to fix situations they can and should be handling themselves.
Empaths can be particularly prone to auto-fixing because we feel people’s emotions as if they are our own. If we’re really honest with ourselves, underneath the compulsion to auto-fix is driven by how uncomfortable we feel with someone else having a problem.
4. You’re a Boundary Disaster
The very definition of codependency is disordered boundaries. Codependents are constantly anticipating what we think other people need without asking them. Boundaries are often blurred, non-existent, or outright violated in codependent relationships.
When you are a boundary disaster, you’re either making other people responsible for the way you feel and for what’s happening in your life or you’re taking responsibility for how they feel and what’s happening in their life.
As codependents, we are outwardly focused on others, which can make it difficult to identify, establish and maintain healthy boundaries.
5. You Ignore, Minimize or Deny Problems
When someone is behaving badly towards you, do you tend to make an excuse for their behavior? Something like, “oh well, they are really stressed at work,” or “they are just tired and cranky. I know they didn’t mean it.” If you often find yourself thinking, “I don’t want to make a big deal out of this,” take note.
When I was actively codependent, I thought I was just being a good person. I thought I was being understanding, but the more I dove into therapy, the more I realized I was denying the problem because I didn’t have the skills to confront the person or the situation. I was too afraid of my own anger. I was too afraid of other people’s anger. So by minimizing a problem, I was “benefitting” from not having to confront those feelings directly.
Denial in itself is one of the main psychological defense mechanisms our mind can use to protect us from discomfort or pain. But in the long run, our feelings don’t just disappear because we deny them–they go underground which makes problem-solving that much more confusing.
6. You Are Overly Self-Sacrificing
Self-sacrifice has long been held up as a virtue in many cultures, but it is important to take a close look at where you are sacrificing what you want and what you need for other people.
It might look like helping others to the detriment of your physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and/or financial wellbeing. It could look like you not doing things for yourself that would allow you to rest or bring you joy.
Self-sacrificing is definitely a telltale sign of being codependent because you are more tuned in to other people’s needs than your own.
7. Unhealthy Helping
This looks like doing things for others they can and should do for themselves, sometimes without even being asked. There’s a great book by Shawn Meghan Burn, PhD, Unhealthy Helping: A Psychological Guide to Overcoming Codependence, Enabling and Other Dysfunctional Giving, that I recommend. It sheds light on the difference between actually helping and unhealthy helping. Unhealthy helping is motivated and driven by something other than your love or kindness.
So much of the time we like to see ourselves as being caring and point to that as the reason we do so much for others (hello, 20-something Terri!) The thing with codependency is, this behavior can be tied to a need to be needed. Codependents are often driven by the fear of abandonment or rejection, and so attempt to make themselves indispensable by providing value. Codependency is also an overt or covert bid for control, so taking over tasks for others is a way of maintaining control as well.
I’m not saying you can’t care deeply for the people in your life or help them when they need help and ask for it. I am saying it is your responsibility to be honest with yourself about what is going on and what is motivating your helping actions.
8. Overgiving and Over-functioning
When codependents overgive and over-function, it’s usually coming from a compulsion to go above and beyond to add value to everyone else’s life. This could show up at home, at work, in your personal and professional relationships…even with a stranger you just met at a coffee shop. Codependents often find themselves doing more than their share, and it just isn’t sustainable, because if you’re giving until it hurts, burnout and bitterness are inevitable.
That’s my list! How many of these resonate with you? Drop me a comment or connect with me on Instagram (it’s my jam) @terricole and let me know!
Keep in mind, I am a recovering codependent, so I’m not judging you now or ever. There is nothing wrong with you and you are not broken. You can heal.
My goal is to help you change this behavior pattern in your life and in your relationships because you will be so much happier when you do.
Just by reading this, you’re raising your awareness bringing you one step closer to healing your codependency. If you are interested in taking the next steps, Last year, I teamed up with my pal Mark Groves (@createthelove) to create a course to hold your hand and guide you to do the work it takes to change your ingrained behavioral patterns.
Inside Crushing Codependency, we take small steps to build real self-awareness, self-knowledge, and self-love so you can stop looking to others and what you do for them to fulfill you.
I promise you – I was you and you can absolutely learn something new and stop these codependent behaviors in your life!
I super duper appreciate you being a part of my crew and as always, take care of you.