10 Signs of Codependency: Identifying Problematic Thinking

As mentioned in an earlier post, “I Don’t Have A Dream“, codependent tendencies can have a huge impact on how we live our lives. It can negatively impact how we feel about ourselves, limit our self-worth, and cause us to live small instead of pursuing our dreams and living each day to its full and joyful potential. It causes us to hide ourselves from the people that care about us, and can keep us from showing up in the world. So, how can we get over this? Can we? I belive there is hope! Let’s begin by first taking a look at what codependency is.

Codependency can be defined as simply as “the need to be needed” by those we are in relationships with. Codependency can be observed in romantic, familial, and friendly relationships. The result of fulfilling our need to be needed is the linkage of our identity and worth to the perceptions of other people. Clearly, this is a pattern that can spell trouble for those of us seeking happy and secure relationships. But it can also keep us from being true with ourselves and limit what we are willing to pursue.

In my experience, it has been often difficult to recognize the unhealthy relational tendecnies linked to codependency. In her video, Are You Codependent? Here are 11 Key Symptoms to Look For and How To Recover, therapist Julia Kristina shares some of signs to help us recognize codependency in action:

1) You feel responsible for solving other people’s problems.

If you cannot “fix” their problems, you fear they may leave you. This fear stems from the belief that your ability to fix their problems is the only valuable thing you bring to the relationship.

2) You find it very difficult, if not impossible to say “no”.

You may feel that the survival of the relationship is entirely up to you. Therefore, if you say “no”, you may feel that it is your “fault” that the relationship is in trouble, or that it ends.

3) You are often upset, bitter, or resentful…

…when you feel that others are not praising and recognizing all that you do for them. You may feel taken advantage of because you are giving so much of yourself for little or no recognition.

4) You need to feel like you are in control all the time.

You avoid conflict by giving in to the wants or needs of others even when it is uncomfortable for you. You put your own needs aside because you feel they are less valuable than the needs of others. It is possible that you avoid conflict for fear that the other person will leave you if you are not fulfilling all of their needs.

5) You have difficulty trusting yourself.

You worry that if you make a mistake, people are going to abandon you. You feel the need to keep everything together for yourself and those you care about. You feel like it is all on you to get it right all the time.

6) You feel the need to save or fix others.

You feel that your only value in a relationship comes from your ability to save or fix the other person. You may feel as though it is your responsibility to clean up their messes for them.

7) You may be willing to do unsafe or destructive things…

…to hold onto the relationship. This may stem from the belief that you cannot survive alone.

8) You struggle to assert yourself.

You struggle to assert your own wants, needs, preferences, and boundaries in a relationship. You may feel guilty or selfish for setting boundaries, and fear that if you assert yourself, the other person may become angry or leave you.

9) You may struggle to identify your own feelings.

This can complicate knowing what our own wants and needs are, making it even more difficult to assert them. You are used to immersing yourself into fulfilling the needs of others and may have lost knowledge of your own needs in the process. We may lose a sense of understanding about who we are as an individual because our identity has been tied up in fulfilling the needs of others.

10) You are drawn to people who are likely to need you.

These individuals may be facing a crisis, sickness, a financial issue, or addiction, or are just very needy.

Outlining some key symptoms is certainly a helpful first step to tackling this issue. As with any important pursuit, it will take time and effort to address areas of struggle. But it will be so worth it! And remember – No matter how lonely you may feel in this, you are never alone. I’m in this boat with you, and I can guarantee many others are too! Keep on keeping on, my dear. You are one step closer to getting it together!

Photo credit: unsplash-logoPablo Heimplatz

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It’s Time to Take a Break: Dealing with Burnout

I have spent the last couple of weeks trying to scrape old latex paint off of our wood deck in the backyard. I know, just use paint stripper. Well, this isn’t your typical paint. It’s a product designed to be used on concrete. ie. It is never supposed to come off. Only it did in some spots, wherever the sun was consistently hitting it. So, it was high time to freshen up for spring. Let’s get it together and get this thing done!

Initially, stubborn, headstrong me, decided she was going to get this all done at once. If I really put my mind and back in to it, it will get done – no problem! Sometimes we need a tight deadline to push through and make sure we complete what we set out to do. However, after days… and days… I was slowly broken down. Mental fatigue began to set in as the list of neglected priorities piled up. Here comes our old friend, Anxiety. Anxiety loves to whisper little lies when she comes to visit. Her favourite one lately has been:

“You are running out of time.”

“You will never accomplish the things you set out to do.”

There are, of course other variants of this, but we all get the idea. The physical struggle began to take its toll on me as well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a tough gal! But I’ve also learned that pushing myself to the point of potential physical harm now, can result in adverse long-term health effects. I’m not willing to pay that price, and I don’t want my future family to handle that burden either.

So, what can I do? Let’s get real. It’s time to take a break. Rest is so important. I cannot stress this enough. It is a hard lesson to learn, especially for those like myself – riddled with stubbornness, perfectionism, and the fear that they will never have enough time to accomplish anything that matters. I struggle with this every day. The tempatation to listen to the little lies is strong, and it is perpetuated in our culture in a really big way. We are told we can “make it” one day if only we have enough hustle, enough grit, if we don’t sleep (because sleep is a waste of time), etc. You all know what I’m talking about.

But here are some facts…

Sleep deprivation can cause the cortex, the part of your brain responsible for thought and action, to shink! Try being efficient and effective without sleep, my friend. It ain’t gonna happen. Shrinkage of this part of the brain is also linked to increased vulnerability to depression and addiction. Read more about the research here.

For those of us with the “I can do it all… forever” mindset, a state of burnout is likely, I’m sorry to say it, just around the corner. I wish this weren’t so. But I’ve experienced it, and I’ve experienced it often. It is an ongoing challenge for me to know when to call it, and make the decision to take a break, or end the day. Burnout is characterized as a state of chronic stress that causes us to experience mental and physical exhaustion, feelings of detatchment, ineffectiveness, and hopelessness. I think we can all agree this is bullsh** that none of us needs. Let’s take a look at how we can better recognize when it’s time to take a break, and what to do if and when we end up burning ourselves out. Early signs of burnout can look like this:

  1. You feel tired all or most of the time.
  2. You have trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep.
  3. Your concentration sucks.
  4. You feel anxious and irritable.
  5. You just don’t enjoy the things that usually make you happy.

If you’re recognizing some of these signs, calm down. You don’t need to get it all done today. I recognize that sometimes we have a deadline coming up, and it does in fact, need to be done today. But as soon as you can, take it easy. You will not be effective or efficient at anything when you’re running on fumes. And let’s be real, it’s just a sh**y way to live. Here are some steps we can take to recover from burnout:

1) Take some time off. Real time off.

Not just replacing the tasks you are taking a break from with other ones you think somehow don’t count. Everything counts.

2) Do something you truly enjoy.

For some of us that can be reading a book, going for a hike, gardening, or spending some quality time with friends.

3) When you are ready, reassess what is important to you.

As high-achievers, we tend to thow ourselves into our work, whatever that might look like. Often we can begin to lose touch with other important things in our lives like our family, friends, or hobbies that bring us joy. I find that journalling has been a great tool for this step. Even scribbling down some quick bullet points can help us visualize and put into perspective the things that are important to us.

4) Learn to say “no” to new oportunities during this time.

This is a tough one, but it is possible.

5) Practice positive thinking.

Positive affirmations spoken outloud about yourself can be very helpful in recovering from our burned out mental state. We are not hopeless! Starting with, “everything will be okay” is a good place to start. In the same way, speaking God’s word over our lives and mediating on these truths will uplifit our thinking, and our spirit! You can read some of these truths here.

If you are anything like me, seeing these steps in a simplified list makes overcoming burnout bullsh** seem doable. And it so is. I forsee that learning to move past the “I can do everything” thinking will be a lengthy process. But I do truly believe that we can get it together and get through this! One small step at a time. Don’t forget, every little thing (that you don’t think counts), counts. Keep moving forward, and move forward in joy!

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoAki Tolentino

How a Breakdown Became a New Beginning

When my father was sick, everyday was really hard. Really, really hard.

It was my final year of university. I was studying in the faculty of architecture, immersed in my studies, pushing forward to accomplish the feat before me. I was pursuing a vision I had for my life. The path was laid out before me. I would slay the deadlines, crush the presentations, and graduate in the spring. A career was waiting for me. I loved the vision – late nights at the office overlooking the city, a fancy condo downtown, fancy dinners, fancy car, fancy friends.

I had recently ended a five-year relationship with my best friend. We were high school sweethearts. We were inseparable, and everyone saw our future as certain. We did too. But it eventually inseparable was not “cute” anymore. Inseparable was not healthy. Inseparable was actually co-dependency masquerading as romance. It was a constant string of back-and-forth self-pity, guilt-trips, emotional manipulation. Inseparable became an unspoken competition between the two of us. The winner was the one who needed the other more, the bigger victim, the one who needed to be rescued by the other.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to get on by myself in the world, but I was happy to have the opportunity. It was my time to do what I wanted without having to answer to anyone, without having to worry they would feel sad and abandoned if I went out on my own. This was going to be a time of freedom, a time to finally find myself. I found Jesus instead.

Over the following months, I would be broken down by failed relationships, friendships, emotional and physical burnout, the silent chaos which was home, and my father’s decline into the final stages of pancreatic cancer.

Naturally, I pretended that I had it all together. I needed to be there for my family. I needed to be there for me. It had always been difficult for me to be vulnerable enough with others to share my pain, and this time was no exception. When asked how I was doing, I had a go-to response. “I’m okay.” Maybe I was trying to convince myself, too. But it didn’t work for me; It only worked to convince everyone else, and keep me in isolation, keep me lonely.

I was more alone than I ever had been in my entire life. And yet, I wasn’t. A small miracle, in the form of a chance meeting that wasn’t really chance, would open up my heart to God, whom I had been running from for many years. The God I had convinced myself was angry with me, out to punish me for my wrong-doings, would become my Comforter and my Companion.

Pretending to have it all together when I didn’t would eventually wear me down.

I was broken. But broken turned into a blessing.

He was there to listen, and was waiting to show me a life so much better than the bullsh** vision I thought I had wanted – The one I allowed the world to convince me I wanted.

I am still learning where this new life will lead me. So far, I have learned that I have gifts far beyond the skills and talents I had always been convinced were the most important. Above all, I learned about selfless love, and I learned about compassion. I am beyond thankful for these gifts, and truly believe they will be instrumental in the future I have before me.

By no means do I think I have it all together, though many years have passed. But, looking back, I can see that because I was broken, I became more whole than I ever had been before. Because I was broken, I have been able to get it together far more than I ever dreamed possible. And this is just the beginning.

If you are going through a difficult season, take heart – These seasons are when growth and healing happen. Breakdowns can happen as well. But, these can be a new beginning for you, too.

Photo credit: unsplash-logokevin laminto

“I Don’t Have A Dream”: How We May Have Lost Our Dreams & Where to Find Them

We know that if we want to “make it” we are going to have to hustle. Tons of great advice in the form of books, articles, podcasts, you name it, is out there to help us achieve our dreams. Our internet search bars quickly lead us to useful “how to” pages. As we pursue lives of fulfilment, whether that be through entrepreneurship, personal growth and inspiration, or general strategies for high achievement, our internet ads become littered with information on these topics. Much of the information is even free! Imagine that!

Over the course of years I’ve taken advantage of this access to information and inspiration. I’m ready to hustle! I’ve come to understand the importance of a solid daily routine, including setting my alarm for the same time early each morning. But when that alarm goes off, I often find myself wondering,

“What exactly am I getting up for?”

“What exactly am I pursuing, directing my energy toward?”

Inevitably, the lack of a clear vision has me hitting the snooze button. There are some great resources for tackling this issue. Gaining clarity when it comes to a vision for our lives is possible!

But, I’ve come up against a tiny (but giant) problem. Once I think I might have it all figured out, and I’m so excited to get started, I think,

“What if my loved ones are upset by what I’m trying to achieve?”

“What if my dreams are an inconvenience to them?”

Though a variety of insecurities may arise, I imagine these concerns are not typical for most dream-seekers. But for those of us who have a history with co-dependency, such concerns may stop us from even letting ourselves think about pursuing what really brings us joy.

In fact, it may be easier for us to throw ourselves into somone else’s dream, rather than to clearly recognize our own.

This odd phenomenon became clear to me when discussing the future with a friend the other day and they asked me, “What do you want?” I struggled to answer in any meaningful way. My immediate response was to rattle off reasons for doing things I think I should, or because it would make the most sense. Maybe some part of me was also afraid of what they would think. Most importantly, I legitimately did not feel that I had a solid answer.

I don’t know what I want. I don’t have a dream.

I refuse to believe this is the truth. Bullsh** questions like the two listed above caused me to bury myself away so that someone else can shine. This is false humility. If you think this is a good quality, think again.

The world needs you – the real you. Not the you trying to be someone else.

It’s suffocating and exhausting to live that way. I found myself feeling as though I was working hard, burning myself out, and simply spinning my tires while getting nowhere. Perhaps this wasn’t really true. But this feeling reflected subconscious knowledge that I was not moving toward what would bring my own heart a sense of fulfillment.

If you are struggling with this as I have, I’m certain there is a way forward. I have found journaling to be a wonderful tool for honest self-analysis. Here are some prompts which might be useful in discovering who we really want to be; What we really like and what we want to do:

  1. When I find myself with spare time, what do I usually find myself doing that brings me joy?
  2. When not occupied by work, tasks, distractions, where do I find my mind drifts off to? What do I daydream about?
  3. What is the feeling I seek to live in? What gives me this feeling?

Writing a journal, or even sharing your answers with a trusted friend can be so freeing, and super helpful when seeking clarity about your dreams. This is one practical step we can take to move forward. We can find greater clarity, and we can get it together.

Photo credit: unsplash-logoCody Black