Today’s post is straight #realtalk. Truthfully, this entire blog falls under that category, but this message feels a little more heavy than my other posts so far. It doesn’t have to be. But hear me out…
Your value, your worth, your identity – is not dependent on what other people think of you, how other people treat you, or why other people say or do the things that they do to you. This is such an important message to remember. Hurt people hurt people.
Basing your worth on how someone else treats you is a classic codependent behavior and mindset.
Sometime in 2014 I started seeing a therapist after receiving some news that was relativity devastating. I knew I didn’t want to let that experience define me, but rather wanted a chance to write my own story and take control back. I had previously engaged with one for a few sessions back in 2012 when after ending a very serious relationship and found it extremely helpful.
Why do I mention this?
Because about 6 minutes into my first session in 2014, my therapist handed me a book called “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie and told me I was “uniquely codependent.” If you asked me to define the word codependent at that point in time I would have given you some literal definition – something like I depend on other people for survival (which I found blatantly untrue). However, like many people, I misunderstood what the word meant. Codependency is a behavioral condition in a relationship where one person enables another’s behavior. It’s a complex form of emotional dependence, and is contrasted with a healthy form of dependency (interdependence).
After five years of learning about codependency, attending codependency support groups led by my church, reading daily devotions from Melody Beattie’s App- “Language of Letting Go,” and a lot of prayer — I really feel like I have a better handle on what codependency is.
Codependents don’t usually look dependent to those on the outside. In fact, sometimes they look the exact opposite, which is all part of the codependent’s need to for others to confirm their worth. Codependents say and do things that make them seem in command, even controlling. Most learned at a young age to please their parents or to be good enough to be accepted, often repressing thoughts, feelings and impulses.
My therapist said I was “uniquely” codependent- I’m not sure exactly what she meant (I only saw her for about 6 months before switching to another provider), I can take a guess. When I read through a list of classic codependency symptoms- I most definitely have some of them- feeling responsible for solving others problems, making excuses for other people’s bad behavior, feeling used or underappreciated, and even being in relationships based on need rather than mutual respect. I also don’t relate to many of them and am sometimes still put off by or confused as to whether I am truly codependent (I am) because of that lack of relation to many signs.
I don’t know how I was so lucky to be raised this way, but I honestly and truly grew up thinking that I was capable of doing anything. That I could climb mountains or move them, and anything or everything in between. That empowering mindset, mostly given to me from my mom, was something that has served me well personally and professionally. I’ve been told that I have the “it” factor by loads of people. While I don’t know what that means exactly, I always interpret it as my “I can do anything, and I can do it wearing Louboutins” attitude. To this day, I can’t think of anything that feels out of reach if it’s something that I truly want to achieve and is part of God’s plan for me.
But, like most things, that mentality also has a downside — fueled by the right set of circumstances about ten years ago and further fed by my lack of awareness of its grips, it first manifested in me thinking I should (because I could!) fix people. I love solving problems, and was pretty good at it, so I started by taking on other people’s problems and trying to fix them as though they were my own. It gave me a purpose in a time where I was feeling emotionally neglected.
I PRIDE myself on being a fixer in my day job- I am usually the person people come to with complicated commercial or business issues or even difficult personalities that no one else wants to handle. I cherish that role and think I crush at it (see, there I go again!). I’m pretty sure I had been coined a fixer long before Olivia Pope’s character came into the light on Scandal or before anyone knew Michael Cohen’s name.
All this to say, we have to own our power to take care of ourselves. It is no one else’s job to make us a priority. Maybe other people should, but it’s not their job. It’s ours. We are uniquely qualified to accept or reject how others treat us; we are uniquely in the position to set and stick to boundaries we put up in our lives. We are also uniquely primed to forgive ourselves for failing to do so in the past. We can rise up from the depths and darkness to the life we are meant to live.
One reason that I have taken my journey through codependency so seriously is because of my children. Codependent behaviors are most often formed due to some sort of emotional neglect or dysfunctional family dynamic experienced in childhood. The other way it may manifest is through enmeshed romantic relationships. Children are born and bred to copy adults – they develop their sense of identity, recognize their values, and learn to express their needs and feelings based on their interactions with the people most prominently around them. I was working so hard to set my children up with the best chance of success at life in every other way; I didn’t want to neglect them in this most important area.
This is one of many reasons why I am such an advocate for Montessori education. Children in Montessori classrooms are respected and valued by their guides. Independence is fostered so they learn to solve problems for themselves and take pride in the completion of tasks big and small. Freedom of choice is a significant aspect of the methodology, allowing them the freedom to grow, make and learn from their mistakes. The system is quite literally founded on the idea of children realizing they have the ability and intelligence to do things for themselves, empowering them and raising their confidence to new heights. That is exactly what I want being fostered in the minds of my children, particularly in conjunction with the work I’m doing to teach that at home.
While I am still what I consider early in my journey away from codependency, I do know that there is life on the other side. The quote in the picture above is a quotation from that place — Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.”