Before I begin, I would like to state that I am not a professional and that everything I’m speaking about is from experience.
When I was 13 years old, one of my friends told me that if she needed something done, she’d always ask me first because she knew I’d never say no. That is something that’s stuck with me for a long time: the fact that I really do never say no.
At my current workplace and the ones before, it was known that if you needed a shift covered, always ask Duaa and she will take it. I’ve always found it so hard to say no even if what was being asked immensely inconvenienced me. It wasn’t until one of my first sessions with my therapist where I was asked, “when was the last time you said no to someone” and I genuinely could not remember. Then, a flag was raised and I realized that maybe this is a problem. It was then that I was introduced to the concept of codependency.
According to Journey to Joy Counselling, codependency is the term used to describe the behaviours related to feeling the need to overperform in order to make others happy. Codependents tend to do the most they can to please the people around them. While this may not seem terrible, it slows down the development of the person’s own personality. They spend so much time trying to please everyone else that their needs get pushed to the side and don’t have nearly as much value in their eyes.
For me, this looks like simple things such as editing my friends and classmates’ work when we’re on a deadline, even though I’m not done my own. Or telling people yes even when I’m uncomfortable because saying no makes me anxious. I put the wants and needs of others above my own to the point where if I need to do something for myself, I’ll do it because they want me to do it not because I want to be better for me.
I struggle to find the will to want to be better for myself. I’ll say things like “I’m going to work on myself for my family” or “I’ll be a better person for my friends” but can never find the motivation to be better for me and only me. My self worth has never been high enough for me to want to be better for myself.
It has become really easy for me to say I’m a people pleaser but the catch is that instead of just going out of my way to make people happy, I’ll ALWAYS do what I have to to make people satisfied with me. Whether that means changing who I am as a person or doing things the regular me would never be comfortable with, I often had to take a step back and really ask myself whether I’m doing something because I want to or because I think it’ll make the people around me like me more.
Oftentimes, all of these mannerisms are subconscious, I don’t intentionally pick up on things and act a certain way. Here’s the catch though, 9 times out of 10, people just want the real you. It becomes hard sometimes to subconsciously take on this role of a people pleaser because when you’re not doing it intentionally, you change without realizing it. And you can only pretend to be someone else for so long until you forget who you really are.
That realization hit me my senior year of high school, when I realized that I had moulded my personality around the group of people I surrounded myself with and I felt like I had lost those key developmental years of my life. I often say, “coming to university saved me” and, while that may seem dramatic, it’s the truth. Suddenly I found myself in a place where I didn’t have to be a certain way for people to like me. I could be myself, whoever that was.
Over the last two years, I’ve discovered who I am as a person, my values, my beliefs and combatted the need to feel like I have to be a certain way. While I will probably still say yes to taking your closing shift even though I’m opening the next day and editing your work before I’m done my own, I no longer have to take a step back and ask myself if I’m actually doing things because I want to or because I think it’ll please people.
Being codependent is hard; it makes me overthink everything and confuse my character but it also gave me the space to find myself in an environment where I could authentically be myself. Most of all, I’m finally learning to love myself as much as I love the people around me.