Do you regularly find yourself saying, “I don’t know what I want”? Do you constantly change your mind? Do you feel like you are disconnected from your true goals and dreams? Do you let people walk all over you and have trouble saying no to people? These are signs you may be struggling with codependency.
Codependency is when you are completely reliant on another individual, whether it be family, friend, or romantic partner. You are not able to have a healthy relationship with yourself because this person takes up a large part of who you are. You may not even have any hobbies or interests of your own anymore because you have given up your identity to enmesh with this other person.
If you think you may be codependent, keep reading to learn 7 ways to help heal and improve your self-worth and independence.
What is ‘Good Girl Syndrome?’
Good Girl Syndrome is a phenomenon caused by the social expectations about how women should behave. There are expectations that a woman should act a certain way; She should be gentle, compliant, not easily upset, and always submit to male authority. If she doesn’t ‘behave’ in these ways, she is punished socially or professionally.
Good Girl Syndrome can be seen at every level of a woman’s life- in her work, her friendships, her family, her romantic life and in her religion. It leaves women vulnerable to toxic relationships where they are walked on, taken advantage of, and made to be codependent.
Symptoms of Codependency or ‘Good Girl Syndrome’
Here is a list of common codependency symptoms:
- You feel like you don’t deserve love if you aren’t good enough
- You don’t speak up when your needs aren’t met
- You put other people’s needs before your own
- You have poor self-esteem
- You feel the need to take care of everyone
- You have difficulty making decisions about what you want
- You place other’s opinions in higher regard than your own
- You always feel the need to be in a relationship, even if it isn’t healthy
- You do too much for others and then become resentful (martyr-complex)
Codependency can lead to an unhappy and unfulfilling life and relationships. When you break free of this cycle, you will become more in tune with yourself. You will be better able to make decisions that lead to your personal happiness.
1. See a therapist
Therapy is an important way to begin dealing with your bottled-up emotions, especially when they are the result of growing up with a toxic or abusive family. When left too long, they can swell and fester into much bigger wounds. Talking with a therapist who specializes in DBT or CBT may be exactly what you need to sort out your own thoughts and process societal, religious and family trauma that contributed to your codependency.
2. Read up on codependency
One of the best ways to break free of codependency is to learn more about it. Doing so will enable you to recognize the signs and understand how it negatively affects your life.
One book I recommend is Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More. This is one of the most well-known and loved modern classics on how to break free of codependency and start caring more about yourself. It includes a number of tools, such as example stories, exercises, and ways to test yourself.
3. Join a women’s circle
Surrounding yourself with women who share a common story is a great way to learn soul healing. It is always easier when you are going through a difficult time with others by your side to support you. It’s also a good place to collectively process and nurture each other in recovery of patriarchal wounds.
Women’s circles will also allow you the opportunity to open up and express thoughts and feelings that you have previously pushed beneath the surface. Chances are, if you are dealing with Good Girl Syndrome, then you probably have some unresolved negative feelings towards others.
4. Meditate or journal daily
Meditation and journaling are important self-care tools. They will both give you space from others and put you more in touch with your own needs. This gives you the headspace you need to recognize unhealthy patterns.
Here are great journal prompts for codependency healing:
- What goals and hobbies interest me? (What dreams did I have when I was younger?)
- What boundaries do I need to set in my life?
- What do I really want from my relationships?
- What goals have I pushed aside to make room for another person?
It is a crucial step in the battle away from codependency to improve your self-worth. There are many ways you can work on this, but one of the best is by using appreciation exercises.
This includes practicing gratitude, celebrating all your wins (no matter how small), and using positive affirmations. Even though it may feel hard at first, the more you practice self-worth, the easier it gets.
Codependent people are often highly sensitive and empathetic. They can easily feel the emotions of others, which makes them want to help.
Sometimes, the best thing to do is shield your emotions and ground yourself so that you can separate your own feelings from other people’s.
Here are some tips for how to shield your emotions (and more in this post about self-care):
- Use visualization to shield yourself
- Set energetic boundaries
- Balance your social time with alone time
- Focus on your breathing
- Choose a mantra to repeat when you are in emotional overload
- Spend more time in nature and away from the internet
It can be very difficult to start setting boundaries, especially in relationships where you previously did not have them. These people may try to pressure you or make you feel guilty for your boundaries because they feel entitled.
Don’t waver with your decisions. Stick it out, and the people who genuinely deserve to be in your life will still be there at the end of it.
It can be helpful to practice saying no in an unapologetic way. Try to be firm but polite. Practicing will make it easier to do in real life.
Codependence can be a difficult cycle to recognize and even more challenging to break out of. However, being in codependent relationships will never enable you to achieve the sort of happiness and life satisfaction you could have in healthy, loving relationships (starting with loving yourself first). Use these tips to make positive changes and if you need more help, reach out for one on one coaching.