Susan Anderson © April 2017
You don’t need to change something all the way to make a huge difference in your life. You don’t have to go all the way from being codependent to being non-codependent, or from low self-esteem to high self-esteem. You need only to be in the process of improving it – even if progress is slow – to make the difference that makes the difference.
The smallest improvement in your co-dependency or the slightest bump-up in your self-esteem can get you over that hump and into that relationship, job, or friendship you’ve wanted for so long. In other words, you can still be YOU – a person with many strengths and weaknesses – but an evolving you, a you that’s colored in a little bit more.
For example, Cynthia was a people-pleaser. It stemmed from low self-esteem, and went back to her old unresolved abandonment wounds – you know, those abandonment issues we all have to one extent or other.
Cynthia was always giving people everything they wanted or needed – whether they asked for it or not. By being a codependent people-pleaser she was overcompensating – manifesting her feelings of worthlessness, thereby unwittingly communicating it to others, reducing her value in their eyes.
When she’d start a relationship with prospective new lovers, as soon as her insecurity would kick in (that pesky abandonment wound again), she would “lose herself” in them. Her overcompensating behaviors would cause self-diminishment, and eventually they’d pull away.
Of course, Cynthia was attracted to people who were far less codependent than she. She admired them for their self-fullness. The more narcissistic they were, the more she craved their approval. When she met someone more like herself, she would feel repelled by their apparent insecurity and people-pleasing.
She didn’t know how to break out of her pattern except to get angry at people who didn’t reciprocate. But when she’d pull back from them (so there!), she wasn’t sure they noticed or cared.
She desperately hoped (with a lot of pessimism) to meet people who would meet her halfway, would want her as much as she wanted them. But those eager-to-please folks just didn’t have the necessary degree of narcissism to ignite her people-pleasing engine and she would feel blah toward them.
Cynthia was determined to break the cycle, so she decided to act like someone who had high self-esteem, someone who didn’t care if people liked her. But in putting on this act, she wasn’t being real with people. She’d project an “as if” persona which would fail to win new admirers.
She longed to actually BE that person who didn’t need to ingratiate herself with people, who didn’t feel so hurt and needy inside. But she didn’t know how to get there.
- Well, Cynthia, first of all, recognize you are not alone. There are millions of wonderful eligible men and women struggling with the same demoralizing dilemma, beating themselves up over it right now.
- The way out is not to change who you are. That is an unrealistic self-expectation.
- It is to build a new self-loving relationship with yourself.
- This involves taking daily actions on your own behalf – actions that allow you to give yourselves positive strokes for good behavior, i.e. sticking to a plan.
- Some of these actions include hands-on exercises, i.e. abandonment recovery tools that help you inculcate self-love and incrementally increase your self-esteem.
- As you progress, remember that perfectionism is not your friend. Perfectionism will defeat you.
- What you’re looking for is improvement – even if slight – to create the required bump-up.
- This doesn’t happen by thinking about it, but by doing – performing self-loving actions that allow you to give yourself daily pats of approval.
- Yes, it’s a private thing between you and you – between Big You and Little You.
- Make a commitment to practice this program ongoing, so this growth will occur automatically.
- With daily practice, a bump-up is inevitable. No matter how small, it can be enough to get you over the hump. So the next time you start a new relationship, you are able to retain just a tiny bit more of yourself. And that the tiny improvement may be just enough to hang in there with the person, stay grounded, and establish more equal footing, whether it’s with a lover, friend, or boss.
- Remember that giving up codependency and people-pleasing altogether are not prerequisites for happy long term relationships. It only takes the slightest improvement.