Understanding Codependency

Libby Shively McAvoy
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Understanding Codependency

Are you a people pleaser? Are you the person others lean on to solve their problems? Do you fear being alone and, as a result, tolerate poor treatment in relationships? All of these situations are signs of codependency.

In a codependent relationship, your identity is wrapped up in a loved one. Codependency is a set of behaviors that causes an unhealthy relationship. In a healthy relationship, the goal is interdependence, where it is mutually beneficial. A codependent relationship is one-sided as opposed to equal.

Behaviors Associated With Codependency

  • People pleasing to gain approval
  • Feeling selfish when you cannot satisfy the needs of others
  • Rescuing or fixing others
  • Self-sabotaging
  • Difficulty identifying personal needs
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty setting boundaries
  • Worries excessively about others
  • Struggle to say no
  • Trouble being alone

The codependent tends to lose themself in the other person. They may be clingy. They struggle to regulate their own emotions because they take on the mood of the person they are with.

Why Am I Codependent?

Often codependency stems from childhood neglect or trauma. To be seen and accepted, you may have developed codependent traits. For example, I had a client who was raised by an alcoholic. She was not only neglected and abused but became the caretaker of her parent at a young age. She had low self-esteem, constantly tried to please others, struggled to say no, and had no boundaries. Adult relationships mirrored her childhood, and she was physically and verbally abused.

Sometimes the only way you feel you can get attention is to put the needs of others above your own. The truth of the matter is those who love and care about you will treat you as an equal. Those who have addiction problems or are abusive do not deserve your attention.

Now What?

Codependency is very damaging to your soul. At the moment, you feel you are being a loving and giving person. The problem is it is self-sacrificing. You have lost your identity and need to get back in touch with yourself. 
Once you recognize yourself as codependent:

  • Seek therapy
  • Set boundaries
  • Learn to enjoy being alone
  • Join a help group such as CoDA

CoDA is a twelve-step recovery program for codependents designed to help form healthy relationships. They approach codependency as a pattern of addiction. You become addicted to the other person.

Learn to detach from outcomes. Accept that your happiness is not dependent on other people. Adopt a new habit or project.

I did not realize I had codependent tendencies until several relationships failed, and I started looking for answers. I did not show intense symptoms, but I definitely had a fear of abandonment, had always been a people pleaser, I had no boundaries, and at the time, I was dishonest in an attempt to keep everyone happy. So yes, I was indeed codependent. So then what?

I had to get deeply honest with myself. I journaled my feelings, my needs, and how my relationships were going. I rewired my subconscious thoughts with positive affirmations and learned to set boundaries. I now believe that I am worthy of the love I know I deserve. I enjoy being alone and the peace and solitude that it brings me.


The first step to overcoming codependency is understanding its symptoms and behavior. Next, self-study is essential. Revisit your childhood and see where your low self-esteem stems from. Seek therapy or support groups. 

Helping others and being empathetic is excellent, but not at your own expense. Learn the difference and stand up for yourself. A healthy relationship means both people are equal and contribute equally to helping each other.

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Libby is a Personal Development and Relationship coach specializing in emotional intelligence. By blending motivational speaking, leading yoga and wellness retreats, and writing, she has mastered the art of living her best life while helping others.

Cincinnati, OH

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