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The Dangers of Codependency: How People-Pleasing Hurts You

Can you relate to one of these statements?

  • I just can’t say “no” – even if I know I can’t do it.
  • They need me. Nothing gets done without me!
  • I know he or she is using me for (fill in the blank), but I can’t help helping whenever they ask.

If you can relate to any of the comments above, we need to talk about people-pleasing, a symptom of codependency.

As a life coach for entrepreneurs, I know many business owners aren’t where they need to be in their personal and professional lives because they are stuck on serving others to their detriment.

That’s why, in this article, we are going to talk about signs that you may have people-pleasing tendencies. This is important because we can’t solve a problem unless we see how it is hurting us.

But before we get into all of that, I want to share my own codependent story – I’m not perfect, and yes, I too have to be aware of how I have enabled people in a way that hurt everyone.

Denial – A Classic Sign of Codependency

Have you ever had a moment when you caught yourself in a moment of hypocrisy?

Yesterday, I was watching the TV show “My Cat from Hell” and experienced it full tilt.

The cat behavioralist named Galaxy told the owner of an obese and aggressive cat named “Mr. Fluffy” that the cause of his angst was due to the discomfort of weight on his joints.

The cat was big mad.

Despite this information, the owner would continue to give Mr. Fluff wet and solid treats throughout the day. Galaxy told the owner at least two times that she was not doing Mr. Fluff any favors.

While I was watching, I sat up high and said to the TV, “She’s an enabler!!!” and “Mr. Fluff could die because of her!”

After the program ended, I turned off the TV, and a voice popped into my head.

Girl, you know you could have been just as bad as that lady.”

The voice was right. If I can quickly judge others for their faults, it usually indicates that there is something within me that needs further examination.

When you are suffering from codependency, enabling behavior has no bounds.

How many times have I found myself enabling old lovers?

Let me count the ways:

  • making excuses for their bad behavior 
  • ignoring their mistreatment of me and others
  • defending them

“It wasn’t THAT bad,” I told myself.

You or someone you know is doing a great job of enabling someone in your life.

It may not be a lover, but perhaps it is a friend/work associate that you know needs to be fired, but you keep covering for them.

Maybe it is a relative that you keep helping with their financial problems. You know the story better than me. 

That being said, in the next section, we are going to talk about signs of codependency. Be honest with yourself as you read through each example. If you can identify something, it’s probably much bigger than you may think.

If you can quickly judge others for their faults, it usually indicates that there is something within you that needs further examination.

10 Signs You May Be Codependent 

I have shared my story of codependency, but what about you or someone you know? Below is a list of signs that reveal enabling or codependent behaviors. This list is not presented in any particular order or rank.

Codependent Sign #1: Excessive Caretaking

You have to be the big momma or papa to everyone, from giving some extra cash to lying to people, all in the name of ‘helping.’ When you have a strong need to take care of others, it can not only distort their capabilities, but also harm your ability to advocate for your own needs and priorities.

Codependent Sign #2: Difficulty Setting Boundaries

Codependents often have trouble setting healthy boundaries, making it hard to say “no” or establish personal limits. 

If you or someone you know is feeling stressed, anxious, or fearful, it could be due to the inability to say NO. Mastering the use of this tiny word will break you free from the craziness, unneeded stress, and discomfort.

Codependent Sign #3: Low Self-Esteem

Let’s be honest: all of us want to feel appreciated and cared for. It helps with our sense of identity and worth. However, what happens if you place your self-worth solely on what you do for others? That can be tricky because we cannot please or help everyone 24/7, leading to feelings of inadequacy when we cannot.

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Codependent Sign #4: Fear of Abandonment

What happens if you were raised in a home where you only received attention when you “behaved well,” and lack of attention was a form of punishment? This kind of upbringing can lead to serious abandonment issues. As an adult, if you fear rejection or abandonment, it may be your mission to keep even the most dysfunctional people around you because the fear of abandonment is worse than the pain of rejection and isolation.

Codependent Sign #5: Lack of Personal Identity

When I was a teenager, I wanted to fit in with all the kids that I befriended. I learned about anime, acting – all things I didn’t care about, but it didn’t matter because I wasn’t alone. 

You or someone right now is involved in activities that don’t even interest you. Someone you like said, “Hey – I am doing this,” and you said, “I’ll do it!” not because you enjoy it, but because it is the only time you can spend time with them. As a result, you don’t really know who you are because you are letting yourself be defined by others’ preferences and desires.

Codependent Sign #6: Denial of Problems

Codependents may downplay or ignore their own problems, instead of concentrating on those of the people they are close to. If you have to say, “It wasn’t bad,” know this – that stuff was real bad, and you may feel raw and bruised from it. 

The road to recovery requires that you call it out for what it really was, without trying to edit or sanitize it into a neat and pretty package.

Codependent Sign #7: Difficulty with Conflict

With a fake, plastic smile, my former supervisor would say, “Nothing is wrong!” And I knew every time she said it, everything was wrong. 

You or someone you know may avoid conflict and confrontation even when necessary to keep the peace. This creates a false aura about you because nobody is foolish – they can sense the tension between you and the situation.

It wasn't bad," know this – that stuff was real bad, and you may feel raw and bruised from it. The road to recovery requires that you call it out for what it really was, without trying to edit or sanitize it into a neat and pretty package.

Codependent Sign #8: Emotional Dependence On Others

I love cooking and did you know the best way to defrost anything is by soaking it in a water bath? By doing so, you can maintain a controlled temperature for the chicken and avoid dropping it to a dangerous temperature. The water also absorbs the temperature of whatever it is immersed in.

And just like a water bath, you or someone you know is so dependent on others that you immerse yourself in emotions of others. You may rely on others for your emotional well-being and feel anxious or lost without them.

Codependent Sign #9: Addictive Behavior

Some codependents may turn to substance abuse, eating disorders, or other addictive behaviors as a way to cope and that is completely understandable because it takes a lot of energy to lose your identity all in the name of trying to maintain an unhealthy relationship.

Codependent Sign #10: Difficulty Ending Unhealthy Relationships

You may find it hard to leave toxic or abusive relationships, as you feel a strong need to “fix” the other person. This tendency is especially strong if you were raised in a home where there was a substance abuse issue or one or both of your parents were controlling and manipulative.

Final Thoughts 

It’s important to remember that codependency is a complex issue and can manifest differently in individuals. If you recognize several of these signs in yourself and believe you might be codependent, seeking support from a therapist or trauma-informed coach with experience in codependency can be a valuable step towards healing and personal growth.

Balancing between being liked versus liking yourself shouldn’t have to be hard. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you need my help. 

Dig deeper by listening to this episode from my entrepreneur podcast. Simply click here or press the play button below.