The Codependent Personality
We all know someone who has a hard time feeling good about themselves, unless they hear others making positive observations about them. Meet the codependent personality. These people cannot like themselves without the approval of others. They have such a low opinion of themselves, that they fear rejection and abandonment even from strangers. Their fear of rejection is so profound they end up staying in relationships that are not good for them; they’d rather cling onto an abusive partner, and deny the reality of their predicament, than end the relationship. The defining characteristics of the codependent personality are as follows:
- They feel unlovable and inadequate about themselves, and consistently doubt their abilities.
- They have a hard time saying “No” to others, because they need to be liked; refusing a request brings them tremendous anxiety.
- Most codependents have poor or blurry boundaries, so they end up feeling responsible for other people’s thoughts and feelings, while blaming their own emotional state on others.
- Some might keep a defensive, rigid distance from people, and are hard to reach emotionally.
- Typically, codependent personalities are people-pleasers; they put the needs of others before their own, and will feel hurt if others reject their support.
- They can be very controlling, since they need friends, family or colleagues to behave in predictable ways as a sign that they are still liked.
So, what is there to dislike about the codependent personality?
- It’s not easy living, or being friends, with someone with such a low opinion of themselves as you constantly have to be careful what you say in case they end up feeling hurt or rejected.
- Most people despise constant people-pleasers, while others abuse them because they are so vulnerable.
- Codependents can also adopt a bossy attitude as a way to try and control how you feel about them.
- It can be very frustrating trying to pursue friendly or intimate relationships with codependent personalities; their fear of rejection makes them close up emotionally, or they cling to you emotionally so you end up fighting for personal space – which they will interpret as rejection.
- Few people respect adults who stay in abusive relationships or deny being exploited by others.
It’s not all bad, however. Codependent personalities are gentle souls. Like children, codependents can elicit the caretaker in you to want to protect them, and make them feel good.
How do I deal with a Codependent Personality?
- Becoming aware that you are being manipulated by a codependent friend or family member, and lecturing them to stop it is of little use; it’s the best strategy they have to ensure you don’t reject them.
- Because of their poor boundaries, they are quick to blame you for making them feel bad or being judgmental, when you had no intention of doing so – arguing about this with them won’t help much either.
- Most people find that keeping a distance for a while from a codependent friend or colleague, and then re-engaging later on your own terms seems to work well – for a while anyway. You might have to keep up this routine more than once, which can be frustrating.
- Think of codependent adults as emotionally immature children or adolescents; it might lessen your frustration and increase your understanding when dealing with them.
Am I a Codependent Personality?
- You have difficulty saying “No” and tend to sacrifice your needs so you can accommodate those of others.
- People close to you might have told you by now, out of frustration, that you must stop being so controlling or bossy.
- You have nightmares and experience great anxiety at the thought of being rejected or abandoned, to the point where you spend a great deal of time wondering and fearing whether you’ve offended people.
- Sometimes you’re not sure what you are feeling because you’re so used to focusing on what other people might be feeling.
What can I do if I am a Codependent Personality?
You need the support and guidance of a professional counsellor; your habits and personality style are so ingrained you can’t see them, let alone trying to change them. Your tendency to deny your codependency is another reason why you ought to seek professional help; instead of acknowledging the problem, you see it in others, and keep trying to change them, and not yourself. The good news is codependency can be changed – with effort and patience – into a mature, adaptive pattern of relating and being.