Have you ever done a favor for someone you care about that’s a bit out of your way, and you ask yourself, “am I being codependent, or compassionate?”
Maybe it FEELS good to help someone out, and you still wonder: “Am I being codependent, or compassionate?”
It’s even convenient to help someone out with something, and you still question yourself, “shouldn’t they do it for themselves?”
“Am I codependent?”
You may know by now that I have a problem with the word codependency, as the interdependent nature of our species is undeniable. I believe codependency is thrown around loosely like it’s some kind of disease, when it’s simply as result of actually caring about each other.
We are compassionate by nature, we were made that way from a scientific perspective so that we could survive, perhaps from a spiritual perspective so we could thrive. There are centers in our brains that are made for others. Our kids would be dead without us. We would be dead without the people who raised us as well.
Even as adults, loneliness is a killer that has been shown to be more dangerous than hypertension, smoking or obesity*.
The cure is in the connection.
We would never be able to take risks and create greater possibilities for ourselves, our families and the future if we did not have people on whom we could depend.
Yet this message, while we know it in our bones because it’s who we are, is still relatively new.
Instead, common belief says we are supposed to be independent and not rely on others, and not allow others to rely on us.
Science shows us that’s like trying to drive a car without wheels.
Which is why I’ve got such a problem with the word “codependency” because so many people are making themselves wrong for caring.
At the same time, I get it:
You CAN do yourself and your loved ones a disservice by going all out for them at your expense. (That’s what a lot of people would call “codependency,” so yes, there is a bit of a semantical issue here.)
So in terms of this line between codependency and compassion, you have to know yourself well enough to understand your tendencies.
Are you someone who has lost yourself and your own needs (or maybe never even admitted them?) by making sure everyone else is okay?
Is that a tendency of yours?
Are you so good at subjugating your own needs that you aren’t even aware they exist?
Then stop it!
That will do no one any good.
That’s what they call “codependency.”
You need to work harder with your boundaries than most.
You need to connect with and express your needs.
You need to stop and ask yourself WHY do you feel compelled to help someone before you go out of your way to do so. What’s in it for you? Does it feel preferable for YOU to be uncomfortable than for them to, as is so often the case for empathic types?
Connect with yourself.
Figure that part out.
Your job IS to look out for yourself. Get some help doing that.
But that typically never means you have to do that at someone else’s expense, because you’re wired for love and connection, and your TRUTH and what’s best for you ultimately is what’s best for everyone else (even if it doesn’t necessarily look or feel that way).
AND – when it’s truly convenient, it really feels good, it brings you joy to see people you care about happy, and it fills your heart up instead of depletes it, then go for it.
Turn your compassion up.
It doesn’t make you codependent.
Rather, the world needs it. Your loved ones are lucky to have you. And so is everyone else to have you as a model, even if you err on the side of “codependency” if you mostly take care of yourself first and foremost.
But, as they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so truly only pour when it feels good, and your cup shall runneth over as a result.
Got thoughts on this issue?
Leave them in the comments below, I can’t wait to read them.
*Cacioppo, J. & Patrick, W. (2009) Loneliness: Human Nature & The Need for Social Connection. New York: WW Norton & Company.
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