By Darlene Lancer

It’s certainly natural and satisfying to be helpful and kind to others. However, codependent pleasing emanates from low self-esteem — more to get than give. Many codependents don’t have a choice! They can’t say no. As with care-giving, it’s not so much the actions that determine codependency, but the pleaser’s state of mind.

The essential question is whether you are giving from a place of self-esteem or from guilt, fear, or insecurity.

Assume Bill, Brad, and Bob enjoy giving to their girlfriends and always let them choose where they dine.

Bill lets his girlfriend choose to avoid disappointing her and a potential conflict, because he’s afraid of losing her.

Brad’s self-esteem is boosted by letting his girlfriend pick pricey restaurants, even though he’d rather order takeout.

Bob doesn’t care where he eats, but asserts himself on other matters.

Bill fears abandonment, so letting his girlfriend choose the restaurant is sort of bribery. Most people enjoy pleasing and showing kindness to others and feel good when it’s appreciated, but they don’t fear that the relationship is at risk. Brad is mainly concerned with his self-image. He can’t let her know who he really is — also because he fears abandonment. Only Bob is acting out of free choice rather than fear and low self-esteem.