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One of the hardest things about codependency is letting go of the urge to control the opinions and narratives that others have of us. We often engage in behavior and actions not because we genuinely want to, but in the back of our minds, we know this influences how a person or people see us. At the end of the day, everyone wants to be seen as a kind, loving person because it fulfills this sense of belonging and mattering. Think about the last time someone accused you of doing something hurtful; how did it feel? Not great, probably, right? It triggers something within us. It triggers this inner child in us that feels compelled to convince the other person otherwise, to convince them that we are decent human beings, that we are not the sum of our mistakes and shortcomings. The issue is that when we allow this codependency to takeover, there’s no end. You can spend your entire life trying to convince a single person that you’re decent. Codependency is sometimes vague and hard to define, and many authors have attempted to make it concise. But I have found that codependency is the pain we feel when another person’s reality is not on par with ours. It’s the sense of urgency of “I need to convince this person that their opinion and narrative of me is wrong because if I don’t then who am I?” Codependency is the contingency of you seeing me as a decent person so that I can see myself as decent. That is why we can become defensive when someone approaches us with something that challenges our view of self.
Codependency and toxic shame are two constructs that work together. Show me a codependent person, and I’ll show you the toxic shame that torments them. Show me a person with toxic shame, and I’ll show you a person who is codependent in their relationships. Toxic shame makes you think you are defective, ergo the urge to control how others see you, which is codependency. That is why people-pleasing is a significant issue in codependency; a person wants to please the people because when the people are pleased, then they can be pleased with themselves; the irony is that people-pleasing is the least selfless thing a person can do; it’s actually quite selfish. People-pleasing is selfish because it’s not really about the other person being happy; it’s more about me being happy with myself, thinking that I am a decent person because I did something the other person wanted.
If we want to be genuine and authentic people, we need to let go of the idea that we can control the opinions and narratives others have of us. Ultimately, people will have opinions about you, and you are responsible for correcting every misunderstanding people have of you. If a person cares enough, they’ll be open to hearing your side and communicating.