Codependency is rooted in a loss of self

As a little girl, I would feel empty, ashamed, and envious when I noticed other little girls
and their mothers walking hand in hand, laughing and lovingly sharing. My mother was
often overwhelmed, angry, irritable, and out of patience. It always felt like a pane of
invisible, impenetrable glass existed between us. Yet, my heart never stopped aching for
her, and I never stopped wishing I could discover ways to please her.

Through the eyes of my inner child, my mother was a big person. My child’s mind
assumed she knew what she was doing and how she behaved was appropriate. So
when mom was rough, gruff, short-tempered, and indifferent towards me, I assumed
she had a reason to be. I learned early to feel and believe I was not good enough for her
love and that it was my fault she could not love me. It was not until I was a grown-up,
myself and my marriage in shambles, that I was diagnosed with codependency, and
I began to understand how my mother’s unhealed wounds had now become my own.

My mother was the adult child of two alcoholic parents. Her father was domestically
abusive, a womanizer, and what many would refer to as a happy drunk. But, on the
contrary, mom’s mother was sullen, belligerent, and aggressive when she drank.
Between the two, mom felt safer with her father, although she, like myself, never
stopped trying to figure out how to please her mother enough to gain her love.

Like many adult children of alcoholics from unhealthy homes, my mother convinced
herself alcohol was the problem she needed to avoid in her marriage, and she did. So at
nineteen, when she met my father, and he swept her off her feet, she believed her
rescuer had arrived and that she and her new groom would live happily ever after.
However, her childhood left her scarred and void of the ability to express emotions, ask
for help or say no. My father represented the man she needed to please as a way to feel
safe and avoid abandonment. The codependency dance was invisible yet in full swing.
Mom would spend her life trying to please a man that was impossible to please and
assume blame and responsibility for his unhappiness.

Watch The Free Overcoming Codependency & People Pleasing Series At AVAIYA Today. WATCH NOW

Denial is a major stumbling block for adult children. We are unaware we are
codependent or that our childhoods have affected us negatively. Most of us learned to
acclimate to our unhealthy childhood homes and developed codependency to cope with
our fear of abandonment, rejection, and feeling that we were not good enough. Finding
ways to subjugate our needs for the sake of others allows us to exist below the radar.
We have learned that speaking up is painful and that it is best to pretend our fears,
feelings, wants, needs, disappointments, and desires do not exist. Our parents were
often too overwhelmed to attune themselves to our emotions. Fantasizing about
rescuing others or being rescued helped us to escape the razor-sharp edges of our
lonely childhoods. In the process, we subconsciously believed it was our job to prove we
were worthy of being loved and often remained in toxic relationships without the proper
life skills to set boundaries or change our lives.

Codependency is rooted in a loss of self. We are those who struggle to make friends,
start conversations, ask for help, or admit we don’t know it all. Many of us grew up
feeling invisible and unheard and experienced emotional neglect. As a result, we tend to
gravitate toward those who need us to care for them. We have no ‘data’ on how to care
for the self. We focus on others to our detriment and, subconsciously, hope that one day
we will be good enough to feel loved. We are other-focused rather than self-focused and
live a life of enabling, serving, subjugating, and looking to control how others perceive
us as a way to regulate our anxieties regarding low self-worth. If we can please others
enough, it is our secret wish they might find us worthy of keeping around.

As children, as a general rule, we were not asked about what we felt or needed. Instead,
being highly independent was praised, giving us the impression that needing others
meant something was wrong with us or that we were weak. As a result, we are far more
comfortable in the role of caretaker, anticipating the needs of others and denying our
own needs in the process.

Codependency recovery is a long and arduous road. It demands that we look within and
investigate the times in our lives when our young minds began to notice when we felt
unloved, abandoned, and unsafe as children. It requires a humble personal inventory of how we relate to others in unhealthy ways. For instance, failing to set a boundary, denying we need help, and seeking approval from others are ways in which codependency arrests our emotional growth. Below the veil of consciousness, codependency keeps us feeling, thinking, behaving, and rationalizing like our abandoned inner child. Until we awaken and take the time to understand how our childhoods may have impacted our concept of self, we remain stuck in the past, living in fear of being vulnerable and unable to step into the power of our authentic self.

Today, I am a Life Coach, Mentor, and Author who specializes in helping wounded adult
children from alcoholic, codependent, or narcissistic homes confront the limiting beliefs
that arrest their growth and inhibit their capacity to live fulfilling lives. My clients are
willing to outgrow their need for approval for a chance at living a purpose-filled,
meaningful life in which intimacy and vulnerability are viewed as strengths rather than

Lisa A. Romano is a Codependency Recovery Coach and Bestselling Author

2 Responses

  1. Merridy K Cumpton says:

    Over a year ago I wrote my first letter to Lisa as I had found her videos on both Facebook & Utube during Covid Lockdown… I still have that letter and have been carrying it in my purse, and I opened it today and read it to myself…WOW…I had to sit for a little bit and reflect on everything that has happened since then. I didn’t date the letter, but it does say I was close to turning 61 on Nov. 11th, and today is Nov. 8th —3 days before my 62nd birthday. Since then, I have finally moved out of the house I had with my ex for over 20 yrs, (no children w/him, 3 from former)..watched my 2 daughters lose their dad to Cancer in June 2022…and recently lost my mother to dementia after only 18 months of being out of her home…buried her on Oct 29th. Lost my father last year Oct 4th, 2021..
    I have been learning so much about myself now that I am on my own, and it’s very much like Lisa’s story of her own life. It is relatable to alot of people, and for me it is baby steps for now and one day at a time. No more walking on eggshells or trying to take care of everyone, it’s been 3 1/2 months since I left and have maintained no contact with not only my ex, but a few others as well. Working on myself has taken this time and I need to have the time to heal and also forgive not only myself, but my parents for what they did not know. I have forgiven them and now need to fix my relationships with my kids which will be some time and lots of work on my part. We do in fact pass codependency on to our loved ones, and I have certainly done that with my grown children. I am a grandmother of 8 and great grandmother of 2…Time does not wait; it goes on and children grow up before you realize it. I want to Thank Lisa for the continued support thru her books, emails, videos and saying it like it really is! God Bless you and Congratulations not only professionally but personally. Namaste My Dear One, I owe you my Life and will continue to listen and grow from here and to the future. For anyone out there who needs help, I highly suggest you check her out just like I did, you Will Get Better, I promise!
    Lots of Love,

  2. Helena says:

    I’m at this stage also in my life. I’m 64 and my mother died a couple years ago. Even though we didn’t get along much. I’ve been feeling more lost and emotionally empty and exhausted. Trying to take care of everyone else in my life. I’ve really compromised myself over the years and am still doing it.

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