Finding a balance between your needs and those of the people and situations around you can be a challenge for all of us. You don’t want to be selfish, yet when you try to please other people more than you listen to your inner intuition and sense of personal direction, you feel off-balance and find yourself running faster and faster but never getting anywhere.
I came across a great definition of co-dependence recently: “the chronic neglect of self in favor of something or someone else.” Sound familiar? One of the useful things about this definition is that it doesn’t just talk about your relationship to spouse or family, but to something or someone else. It could be your job, it could be a relative, a former partner, or even a social concern like immigration concerns. Or it could be something “good” in itself, like becoming a better lover.
If you’re trying so hard to become better that you chronically neglect your own spiritual, physical, emotional and mental well-being, you’re not only selling yourself short, but you’re cheating your sweetheart out of the experience of living with a well-functioning, alive and creative person. Whenever we neglect ourselves like this it has a negative effect not just on us, but on all those around us. Which is odd, since usually the reason we do it is because we think it’s good for the other one!
You may find yourself looking outside yourself to find out who you should be, what you should do, how you should live your life. You compare yourself to your friends and feel less successful. You read what they’re up to on face book and lament that you’ll never measure up. You compare yourself to the person you think you should be a feel inadequate.
If there’s a big difference between your Ideal Self and your True Self chances are you’re perpetually dissatisfied with your performance and you need to get reassurance from other people – looking outside yourself again. So you’re people pleasing – trying to keep everybody happy and invariably neglecting yourself.
This is a difficult pattern to change, because most of the people around you are doing it too. Each person does the dance differently, but no-one wants you to stop dancing because that threatens them. It makes it more difficult for them to dance on in the same old way. This becomes especially scary when the threatened person is a family member or spouse who has gotten used to certain music, steps and rhythms as they dance with you.
So when you’re ready to change, when you want to stop neglecting yourself and find balance, you’re going to need plenty of support. If you decide to make meditation a regular practice you may want to join a meditation group. If you decide to work on your dreams, a dream partner might be useful. Many people join Codependents Anonymous 12 step groups or begin work with a counselor or therapist.
However you decide to make the changes you need in your life, you can expect to meet with resistance from those around you and especially those close to you. Find the support you need to keep going. It will be worth it in the end; gradually your changing will make those around you have to change too. As you develop better boundaries and raise your own standard to self-care you’ll be challenging them to do the same. Not only will you become happier and more serene, but gradually your loved ones will as well.