In my early 20s, it was easy for me to become a stressed out mess. I was always being easily affected by other people's "stuff," feeling guilty for doing certain things -- or not doing certain things. Always putting pressure on myself to try to do anything and everything that was asked of me.
I was often trying to be putting other people's needs first before mine, because that's the idea I was taught growing up. The idea that "taking care of yourself is selfish" was so embedded in my mind and overall psyche that I had no idea how to live my life in another way.
I was a total caretaker -- and a total codependent. I focused so much on other people and their own needs and feelings, that I rarely had any awareness of what was going on with me. As a result, I had little sense of what proper boundaries were and how to set them effectively. I constantly found others crossing into my space and myself crossing into other's space.
It was difficult, it was heartbreaking and boy was it messy. My relationships were far from what my heart truly desired them to be like and I had no idea what to do. That is, until I began to do my own inner work.
For those of us who have tendencies toward codependency, learning to stop focusing so much on other people and start to focus more on yourself can be very difficult and damaging. Here are three ways to start taking care of yourself when you're codependent:
1. Break away from other people's problems.
So you may have a friend, family member or partner who seems to always come to you for help. Or maybe it's that they haven't asked for your help but you think that they need help or a "push" with X, Y, and Z with their life.
Break away from this and allow the other person (or people) to have their own space. Say no to their request and then over time just watch and see what happens. Many times if we are having a problem with breaking away from other people's "stuff" it's because, deep down, we don't think that they will be able to survive without our help. his is completely untrue, with the exception of some more extreme circumstances (such as having a child, partner, or relative with severe special needs or a disability). It is merely a false belief that our fear-based mind has created to separate ourselves from being able to have more loving and harmonic relationships.
So make the effort to step away and give the other person their own space. This can be very challenging at first, but be strong and diligent in this. Often we can find ourselves surprised in doing this because we find that others start doing the things completely on their own that we didn't think they could do.
2. Identify activities that you want to do for you.
If you're the kind of person who focuses a lot on other people and rarely on yourself, this can be challenging at first. Ask yourself: What would I really like to do that I haven't been doing? What have I told myself that I would try but I haven't been doing it for myself? What might be cool to try? What things may make me feel better, be more relaxed or feel replenished?
Write all of these thoughts down on a sheet of paper or in a journal. Allow yourself to just brainstorm. This doesn't mean that you have to do everything that you write down, but to try something! Even something as small as meditating 1-2 times a day for 5 minutes or taking a walk every morning.
Once you're done brainstorming, narrow your list down to about 5 things. Write these 5 down in big letters on a sheet of paper and post it somewhere where you can see it every single day. Having a visual like this can be extremely helpful at achieving our goals and intentions.
3. Make the conscious effort to start doing these things for you today! The problem that many of us run into is that once we make a list of things we want to do for ourselves, we end up tossing that thought in the back of our minds and tell ourselves "oh I'll do that someday".
When we do this, change never ends up happening. Codependency can resemble any other addiction, which means that we have to focus on taking it one step at a time every single day. Every day is a new day. We have the power to completely turn our lives and relationships around -- we just have to be willing to make a conscious effort every single day.
So ask yourself: What can I start doing today to start taking better care of myself?
In the comments below, share with me one thing that you are going to do today to start taking better care of yourself.
This blog was originally published on JenniferTwardowski.com
Jennifer is a self and relationship coach and teacher. She helps women worldwide create fulfilling relationships with both themselves and others so they can live happy and joyful lives. Click here for her Free Self and Relationship Healing Meditation.