I started being unkind to myself sometime around when my parents split up. We think things like this are “normal” because they are common. Yet, there is nothing normal about going through the developmental stages of adolescence with two parents in the same house who somewhat suddenly split up. As a child that is very confusing. For me, that was around the time I went from secure to very insecure. That was around the time I stopped thinking I mattered.
When you stop thinking you matter to your parents, you tend to look elsewhere to feel like you matter.
I look back on some of my behavior then, and I can hardly believe I let people treat me the way I did. I can hardly believe I was that lost.
Now, to combat any shame of the past, I try to remember that I was a developmentally stuck then. I was stuck at the age of a fifteen-year-old girl well into my early 20’s.
I try to be kind to myself, but the truth is that being aware of my own needs is always a choice I must intentionally make. And even at 31 years old, I must be mindful of my thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
If I am hurt, it is far easier for me to brush my own feelings aside, sometimes taking blame for something that is not my fault. My friend asked me once, “Isn’t that heavy? To carry that around all the time?”
The truth is, when you do the same thing for so long, it just feels normal, even if it is not right. It does not really feel uncomfortable because you get comfortable functioning in your own dysfunction.
This habit of mine is called codependency. It is a term that can be easily confused and misused. In fact, the first time someone pointed out that I struggled with codependency, I thought, “No way. I am strong and don’t need anyone.”
The thing is, I thought I was strong because I was taking full responsibility for a lot of my relationships. I was able to take fault, keep fighting, and move forward. This is not exactly strength. It is not strong to ignore my own needs and feelings entirely to appease those around me. It is not strong to become some sort of Gumby, constantly adapting to everyone else.
Now, I must do the harder thing, the thing that feels heavier for me. I must stand up for myself, stop and think about how I feel. I hang onto empathy and my care for others, but I also check in with myself, and make sure I am also doing what it best for me.
If you struggle with people-pleasing and neglect your own needs and self-care, you might want to consider why. If you are always apologizing, even when you are not at fault, you might want to dig a little deeper. When did this start? Was it in childhood? Is it time to make a difficult change to improve your relationships? You might be genetically predisposed to this sort of behavior. It might be part of your personality. It also might be due to past hurts. Sometimes nature and nurture can combine to make the perfect recipe for dysfunction.
If you are facing a hard truth, do not be discouraged. There is help and hope to live a healthier, more balanced life, codependent no more.