Codependent no more: start bringing the focus back on yourself
Note: The details of the coaching examples provided in this blog are composites based on real situations. Some names may have been altered to respect the confidentiality of my clients.
Last week, I had a conversation with a woman who came to me to understand coaching and how it supports personal growth. We name her Lily to protect her confidentiality. Lily is passionate and self-driven. She never stops searching for what she really wants for her life and career. Therefore, in the past 10 years, she has tried quite a few different professions, such as human resources, marketing, and public communication. As she was talking about her confusions, I sensed that she was not satisfied with her current career and life, although many people around her would think that she’s in a “happy state” as a woman: having a supportive husband, working for a renowned company, and earning a decent income.
“I have always followed my heart in my career choices, but how come after so many years of searching I still do not fully enjoy what I am doing? I’m still not quite there,” Lily shared with a bit of stress and disappointment.
Lily is a smart woman with a master’s degree from a distinguished university. I have no doubt that it won’t be difficult for her to figure out what it is that she truly wants for herself if she’s willing. So, I said to myself that there must be something that’s getting in her way.
With curiosity, I asked further questions to get a clear picture of her situation. Shortly I noticed that she is not just anxious about her passion and future career, but also experiencing lots of anxiety from conflicts between her family’s life preferences and her ideas about life going forward.
As we explored, she became more aware about her emotional and behavior patterns that have been preventing her from truly focusing on her own goals and priorities. These patterns include:
Caring a lot about how others, especially close family members, think of her, therefore overreacting to their comments
Tendency to be overly worried about troubled family members
Consistently spending a great deal of efforts and energy trying to solve her family members’ issues for them
Feeling exhausted and wanting to be cherished
I shared with her the concept of codependency and how her behaviors might indicate some of these tendencies. She carefully listened and nodded her head quite a few times. As we finished our conversation, Lily not only felt appreciative that she’s now able to see a clear direction for her own personal growth, but also developed more confidence that she could think well on her own feet and connect with her inner wisdom and strength.
What is Codependency? According to Robert Subby and John Friel in their book Codependency, An Emerging Issue, originally it was used to describe the person whose life was affected as result of their being involved with someone who’s chemically dependent. This “someone” was usually their close family members. The codependent person developed a pattern of coping with life that was not healthy, as a reaction to their close family members’ chemical abuse.
Later the definition of codependency has expanded, since more groups of people appear to have it: spouses of emotionally or mentally disturbed person, family members of chronically ill people, parents of children with behavior problems, family members of irresponsible, troubled and needy people; professionals who are in “helping” occupations, e.g. nurses, social workers, helpers, etc.
In her book Codependent No More, Melody Beattie described codependency as a reactionary process to others’ problems, pains, and behaviors. In other words, whatever problem the other person has, a codependent person lets the other person’s problem affect them to a degree that it feels like it is their own problem. It is normal to react to the pain of people we are in close relationship with, but it is important to learn to not overreact and act in more healthy ways. Relationship can be more balanced and the other person can take more responsibility for their own lives and choices. Most importantly, when we draw a healthy boundary between people who we care for and ourselves, we save our time and energy for finding peace and happiness with the most important person in our lives – ourselves.
As a life coach who has seen codependent behaviors in various people, I do not believe that this is an issue belonging to a unique group of people. Instead, I tend to think that every one of us has a certain degree of it. The higher the degree, the more seriously it impacts ourrelationships and our own well-being and happiness. Therefore, it is important that we do a “pulse-check” periodically to understand our intimate relationships with both others and ourselves. The questions below can assist you with your reflection:
Is there anyone who is significantly affecting your life, somebody with whom you worry about and wish you could change? What are your feelings?
Are you currently spending much more effort and energy in solving others’ problems than solving your own?
Are you always taking on responsibilities that belong to an intimate partner/family member?
Are you giving yourself time to pause and examine your feelings, needs, and wants? Or are you always thinking about what others may feel, need, and want?
Are you always finding distractions and looking for others’ unmet needs so as to avoid looking into yourself?
I have the privilege of supporting my clients and my own family members to recognize and recover from codependency. I find great joy in witnessing them instill more self-love and enjoy their relationships more than ever before as they create new, powerful pathways for themselves.
To learn more about codependency:
Read: Co-dependent No More by Melody Beattie
If you’d like to discuss your situation and figure out what you need to make a change, I am happy to have a conversation.
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Lucy Qian, Life Coach, PCC (ICF)
About Lucy Qian, International Life Coach
Lucy’s clients say that she has a superpower for helping them see clear direction and next steps, no matter how confused they are in the beginning. Through coaching with Lucy, they become clear about who they are and know what they really want.
Lucy is a certified coach in different settings: Professional Certified Coach (PCC) by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), Certified Laser-focused Life Coach by the Life Coaching Group, and Organizational Coach by the Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership.
In her blog, A Journey to Clearness, Lucy shares life experiences and lessons from her practice as an international life coach.
Learn more about Lucy.