I had a revelation. An epiphany. Or perhaps I just finally admitted something I already knew. I struggle with codependency. Cue: Hello, my name is Jamie, and I am codependent.
I've always prided myself on being loyal in relationship and friendships. I've gleaned satisfaction from going above and beyond in my jobs. I have happily contributed my talents when the opportunity arose. I have never blinked when carrying out a favor asked by a friend or stranger. And, I relish the chance to be the hostess.
On the other hand, I let myself become a doormat when relationships and friendships become one-sided or unhealthy. I put too much concern into jobs that neither ask for nor appreciate extra effort. I run myself ragged trying to impress people. I do favor after favor, even for those who don't need/appreciate/reciprocate. And, I am always exhausted after prepping, cleaning, cooking, baking, hosting, and cleaning. So my realization is that I am doing these things not for other people, but for myself to gain approval from other people.
I would be ashamed to count and admit the number of times I have made excuses for other people's behaviors as though I was personally responsible for their actions or carelessness. I shudder to think of the excuses I have made for others to MYSELF. It's not because I am blind to shortcomings; rather, I somehow feel if I were to accept another person's poor choice and move on, I would be also claiming that lack of judgment. I have been defining myself by others' successes or failures, which explains my need to over-support and under-criticize those in my life. Hello, my name is Jamie, and I am codependent.
No one ever directly pointed this out to me. At least, not in these words. I have definitely heard the message "you do too much" or "you give them too much credit" or "you're wasting your time". I even have had a few people give me informal book reports on Boundaries (I even received a copy of this one) and Codependent No More. I silently pitied their plight, but be glad they were working to improve their situation. Hello, Pot? This is Kettle.
But no one threw up a banner in my face and held an intervention to let me know what was happening. So I just never stopped to think about what I was doing or who I was. After all, as long as I did what others needed and helped them figure out who they were, I was a good person. See anything wrong with that picture? I am starting to.
I found this interesting article on defining your own codependency. It's terrifying and freeing. Since acknowledging the problem is always step one, I can start spending my efforts on drawing healthy boundaries for myself (i.e. the line between being kind and being used, the line between listening and getting over-involved) and also learn to accept the generosity of others. I can allow everyone around me to be their very own person without me taking credit or fault in their actions. I realize all of this sounds a bit narcissistic, and perhaps it is, but I do claim all of my thoughts and efforts to be in good heart, just misguided direction.
Part of the process may change and reshape my life as I know it. I may finally recognize some unhealthy relationships and move on. I may discover a piece of myself that needs more focus and work. I may even read that book on boundaries. I do know I need to address this now. Because I hear kids can really screw with even the most balance, sane personalities.
After publication note: Right after publishing and sharing, I found this on Donald Miller's blog (great author). So nice to know I'm not alone.