Codependency For Dummies, 2nd Edition
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The best advice in healing from codependency would be “love yourself.” Does that sound kind of cheesy? Probably. It might even feel wrong because you’re so used to loving other people. Or you may not even know how to love you. But think about those you love. You want to know them, support them, encourage them, give to them, and make them happy. Your love for them involves actions as well as feelings. Do you do that for yourself? Here are a few ways you can start.

Have a spiritual practice

Love yourself by spending time alone. Whether or not you believe in God, a spiritual practice is an excellent means of creating a deeper relationship with your self. What better way is there to honor yourself than by setting aside some quiet "me-time" each day?

A spiritual practice doesn’t require religious beliefs. Your intention may simply be to find a centered, calm place to access inner guidance, to develop reverence for life, or to experience harmony with yourself and others. Listening and finding truth gives you greater confidence, clarity, and peace. It helps you let go of control and be less reactionary, despite what’s happening around you.

Receive support

Asking for and receiving help is another way to love yourself. Human beings are social animals, and we need each other. When you’re lonely, confused, anxious, overwhelmed, or in the dumps, reaching out is a way of giving to yourself. Sometimes, turning to God brings comfort and guidance. Other times, your emotions take over, and you’re unable to think or calm yourself. That’s when you need others.

There are times when everyone needs support. When problems persist and don’t go away on their own, that's a sign you may require more than friends can offer. Unfortunately, some people believe that asking for and receiving help are signs of weakness. If you’re used to helping others, you probably don’t feel worthy of or comfortable receiving help.

Changing that pattern is growth. Whether it’s going to a meeting or seeking professional counseling, getting support isn’t an indulgence or a character flaw. In fact, it takes self‐honesty to know your limits, and humility and courage to ask for help. Doing so allows others to give and feel close to you. Appreciating their love and support is both human and healthy.

Meet your needs

It's key to attend to your own needs. If you’ve been tending the needs of others but neglecting your own, it’s time to turn that around and put yourself first. The reverse can also happen — you expect others to fill needs that are your responsibility.

Be sure to address your basic, physical needs, such as healthy food, rest, exercise, and medical and dental checkups. Give special attention to needs you may be overlooking. When you’re lonely, sad, angry, afraid, overwhelmed, confused, tired, or feeling like a victim, ask yourself what you need. If you’re depressed, you may have been avoiding and neglecting yourself for a long time.

Some needs are met by others, such as needs for intimacy and friendship. It’s your responsibility to speak up and ask for what you need and want. Don't expect others to develop ESP and read your mind — that only leads to resentment and conflict.

Have fun

Show love to yourself by planning pleasure, recreation, and hobbies. Though they might seem trivial, these are needs, too. Focusing on a problem often makes it worse. Without balance, pain can turn into self‐pity and become a way of life. There are also people who take themselves too seriously. They develop tunnel vision when it comes to work and problems. For them, living is a struggle, a competition, or a test of endurance and achievement.

You may have forgotten how to laugh and enjoy yourself, which is important in maintaining balance in both your body’s chemistry and your life. Life isn’t meant to be a burden, but to be enjoyed. Celebrate it by making time to relax, play, and be creative — activities that are rejuvenating and bring you into the present.

Sometimes, when you take a break and have fun — even for a short time — your worries magically dissolve, and you gain a new perspective on a problem. Pleasure restores your energy and sense of well‐being, which not only nourishes your soul, but also enhances the productivity and quality of your work.

Protect yourself

Keeping yourself safe from physical, mental, and emotional abuse is an essential part of showing yourself love. Loving someone doesn’t mean you have to accept insulting or ­demeaning words or behavior. If you think you’re being abused, don’t waste your energy or risk your safety trying to change the abuser, explaining your position, or proving your innocence. It won't change them, and it make things more difficult for you.

You didn’t cause, nor are you responsible for, other people's words or behavior, but you do have a responsibility to protect yourself and your children. You have a choice to speak up, set limits, disengage from the conversation, leave the room, get professional help, call the police when there’s violence, or end the relationship.

Accept yourself

Love yourself as the unique individual you are, including your appearance, feelings, thoughts, and addictions. You don’t have to earn respect or prove anything. You’re deserving of love and respect as a human being with flaws and failures. Notice if you’re trying to change for someone else’s validation. Instead, remind yourself that being yourself is more important. When you practice self‐acceptance, you stop worrying about what others think and can be more authentic and spontaneous.

Becoming and accepting yourself takes time. Forcing change with constant self‐evaluation and self‐judgment keeps you stuck, but self‐acceptance allows change to happen with little effort. When you slip or make mistakes, remember that self‐criticism compounds them. It’s much more productive to forgive yourself and focus on your behavior in the present.

Be gentle to yourself

As the old song goes, "try a little tenderness." Love yourself with gentleness and compassion. Modulate your inner voice so that it’s calm and kind. When you’re afraid or in pain, blaming yourself or thinking there’s something wrong with you makes matters worse. When you’re tempted to ignore your feelings and distract yourself with more activity, obsessions, or addictive behavior, practice just being with yourself.

Just as you would for a friend, be the one who is there for you with gentleness and compassion in your anxiety, sorrow, hopelessness, anger, and terror. The child within you needs you. Comfort yourself with all the tenderness you would a crying child or wounded animal. Listen, forgive, and embrace your full humanness. Develop the trust that you can count on yourself.

Encourage yourself

Give yourself encouragement and enthusiasm. Transform your inner critic into a positive coach. Get in the habit of finding things you do well and acknowledging them. Don’t wait for others to appreciate and compliment you. Appreciate and compliment yourself.

In fact, repeat praise over and over. Instead of taking your good qualities for granted, notice them, and give yourself credit. Look for small things you do right and well. Stop doubting yourself, and pay attention to every small sign of progress toward your goals. Tell yourself you can make it — you can do whatever you desire. When you love yourself with encouragement, you'll soon see your self-confidence grow.

Express yourself

Madonna was on to something with this lyric. Your self has been hidden too long. Healing shame requires that you risk being seen. Commit to stop hiding and honor yourself by communicating your feelings, opinions, thoughts, and needs. You have a right to think and feel what you do without explanation or justification. Your self‐respect and the respect you receive from others will grow.

Self‐expression also includes your creativity. There are all sorts of different mediums where you can explore expressing yourself: music, writing, design, art, cooking, crafts, dance, or wherever else your creativity leads you. Tell your inner critic you’re creating for fun. There's no room for them here.

Pursue your passions

Finally, tune in to your true passions. Only you hold the keys to your happiness. Talking yourself out of pursuing your desires leads to discontent and regret. Even if your desires are impractical or unprofitable, don’t allow those obstacles to discourage you.

Every day, take one small step toward realizing your goals or doing something that excites you. If you’re uncertain about your passions, pay attention to what stimulates you, or try some new things. Listen to what calls to you, follow your inspiration, and take risks to experience the fullness of who you are.

If you’re depressed or overwhelmed, it can be hard to think about positive goals. For now, make your recovery your number‐one objective. In time, you will have more energy and motivation about the future and your desires. Be patient. Goals or a specific direction eventually emerge.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in relationships and codependency. Ms. Lancer has counseled individuals and couples for 28 years and coaches internationally. She's a sought-after speaker to professionals at national conferences and in the media.

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