Every Christmas eve since the time I was 8 years old, I sang a few solos as people were coming in and getting settled for the early Christmas mass. It was one of my favorite things to do each year.
And each year, I sang my favorite rendition of Gesu Bambino / O Holy Night as my final piece. On the year that I was 12, I crushed it. It was the best I have ever sang the song and I was really proud of myself.
And then the praise came on. People kept coming up to me telling me how great I sounded, and I was mortified. I was completely and totally incapable of accepting the praise and completely shut down.
Of course, that was in childhood. But also one of my first signs, in hindsight, of codependency- seeking admiration, but being unable to accept it.
Codependents get a lot of their self-worth from praise, recognition, and attention from others. It’s a performance based mindset, one where love is given when the codependent performs (at least, in their mind). Instead of being able to define their own sense of self-worth from what they do, who they are, and how they act, they draw it from what they do for others.
Codependents expend enormous amounts of energy taking charge of another’s life. While it is under the guise of wanting to help, and they do genuinely want to help, there is also the relentless drive to help because it makes them feel like they are therefore worthy of love. They have done something to earn the love, affection, and yes, attention of the other person.
As a child, and continuing through into adulthood, I loved doing things that were worthy of praise. I loved the idea of people being happy with my performance, despite never particularly being good at receiving compliments. Criticism, on the other hand, I was great at taking.
So here’s my takeaway for today: You are worth so much more than the praise someone gives you. You don’t have to perform to be loved; to earn someone through your efforts. Don’t sell your soul for attention. Don’t give yourself away for love. It’s not real, it doesn’t last. It’s only a temporary fix, like a junkie getting a high.
What is real is developing a healthy sense of self worth without the need for validation from other people. Tomorrow, we’ll dive into figuring out how to do that. For today, it’s enough to be aware of the danger.
Don’t sell your soul to buy attention. Or affection. Or love.