4 Signs You Are Codependent and 4 Signs You Are Not

Two months ago, I quit my job. The 2+ years leading up to that decision were survival mode since my divorce: get a new job, figure out finances, move 3x! I was excited for a little break.

Despite my enthusiasm, once my break came, all I could do was squirm and complain. I’d never experienced this kind of depression before. It wasn’t the agony I was used to. Depression felt like this constant companion, hanging out right beneath the surface of my words and actions, never screaming, but stifling my motivation for life. What was happening?

There were no external voices to tell me what to do, that I was doing a good job, that I was on the right path, that I was “resting” properly, that I was valuable… nada. 

Desperate for direction that came from the outside rather than the inside, I realized I was codependent.

Codependents often grow up in homes where we feel like we have to grow up very young. Our home life requires us to caretake, and so we do. Our child selves are so desperate for safety and normalcy that we will take on the burden of creating that environment. Ever been called an old soul? Might be a sign you’re codependent.

Simple definition of codependency: Relying on others to validate our existence. 

Four Signs You Might be Codependent: 

  • Making decisions is hard. 

Codependents never make only one decision. For every one decision there are actually 50+ decisions to make, and we can feel like we’re going mental. How will this impact every person in my life? What does this mean for my future? Will I be comfortable? Will the people in my life be comfortable? Who will this piss off? Will this be good or bad for my image? We’re never focused only on our side of the street but regularly focused on how our side of the street will impact everyone else’s street.

  • Personal preferences are hard if not impossible to decipher. 

This hit home when I was trying to choose a career trajectory. I felt safer picking a career path I thought would be respected by others. Is it what I wanted? NO CLUE. But if this job might get me the validation and acceptance I was so desperate for then YAS SIGN ME UP. This inability to peg my personal preferences would even trickle down to picking the restaurant I wanted to eat at. Ugh.

  • Dating is more about getting someone to like us, rather finding someone we like. 

You know those moments where you just KNOW what your date is looking for in a romantic partner? You’ve figured out their general culture, so you can play up your career, or your spirituality, or your environmentalism. Dating becomes a game of making ourselves attractive rather than being the glorious creatures we are. 

  • Social interaction is mostly exhausting (despite extroversion) and riddled with anxiety. 

“How can we possibly know the exact best behavior in a room full of NEW PEOPLE? How can we know what will make a room full of new people like us? Can everyone just please tell me what is fun for them so that I can create those circumstances and care-take my environment? Great, thanks!” This is a slightly dramatized version of what might be going through the subconscious of a codependent at a party. Exhausting, right?

A few signs you are not codependent:

  • Making choices does not feel like a life or death experience. 

The opposite of indecision for codependents isn’t necessarily decisiveness; it is holding things in their proper place. In the grand scheme of life, does it really matter what I wear or what restaurant we choose or even which job we end up taking? The result of most things in life are totally out of our control, and living from this principle is undeniably peaceful.

 

  • Being ourselves is more valuable than getting people’s validation.

When my now boyfriend and I went on our first date I remember saying to him, “I could say right now what I’m pretty sure you want me to say, but I’m much more interested in being myself than getting you to like me.” This was freaking REVOLUTIONARY for me. For most of my life I would not have even been able to tell the difference between what I thought a love interest wanted and my voice. There were TWO OPTIONS NOW instead of one, guys. PRAISE HANDS ALL AROUND.

 

  • We’re connected and compassionate toward our own limitations and boundaries.

A codependent lifestyle is often strung out and a little resentful. We give and give and give without much awareness of our own boundaries until we’re sick and sleep deprived. (I low-key loved being sick — finally an excuse to lay in bed ALL DAY!) A healthy lifestyle recognizes we cannot be all things to all people. I remember being sad about not being invited to as many weddings as other friends were, until I realized I’m most filled from a few deep relationships rather than a bunch I can’t keep up with. Now I cheer – YAY for FEWER FRIENDS!

 

  • Social interaction becomes about what we can give, rather than what we can take.

In my codependency, I didn’t realize that socializing was about approval. I thought if I revolved my preferences and emotional state around whoever I was interacting with, that was loving them. What I was really doing was seeking a desired outcome, which was typically approval. In my post recovery life, loving others is 100% my side of the street. I choose who I want to be and how I want to love others, no matter my circumstances. How people respond is none of my business and no longer dictates my actions. What power! Learning to own who I am and how I show up in the world while releasing (attempted) control over others is such a better way to live.

Codependency is a journey I am particularly passionate about. If after reading this article this seems like something you struggle with as well, I’d love to chat! Slide into my instagram DMs @ilsa_levine, and I would love to talk with you more about my recovery journey. (Don’t worry I’m not selling anything lol) 

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