How to Embrace Your Imperfections in Codependency Recovery

By Michelle Farris, Psychotherapist and Relationship Expert.

Recovering from codependency is empowering, but trying to do it perfectly makes the process harder than it needs to be. People who struggle with codependency think they have to do recovery perfectly or it doesn’t count.  

However, codependency is like a tree with many branches; it impacts everything, so expecting yourself to do recovery perfectly sets you up for failure, and that’s not fair.

The process of codependency recovery means unlearning dysfunctional behaviors while learning how to validate and esteem yourself. It also means learning the skills to create mutually satisfying relationships without sacrificing yourself.

When you struggle with codependency it effects your:

  • Self-esteem
  • Ability to take care of yourself
  • Ability to set boundaries 
  • Ability to have healthy relationships 
  • Ability to trust your own perceptions
  • Ability to trust yourself

Striving for perfection may give you a boost of energy at first, but that level of effort isn’t sustainable. In this article, you will learn how to embrace imperfection in codependency recovery, so you are more successful in the long run.

What is Imperfection in Codependency Recovery?

Embracing imperfection allows you to accept your mistakes without making yourself wrong. It’s letting yourself to be human and letting go of the compulsion to beat yourself up.

Trying to be perfect is a losing battle. For instance, codependent people are notorious for taking too much responsibility for everything around them. As a result, they wipe themselves out because their expectations of themselves aren’t realistic. Often this causes people to abandon their recovery out of frustration. 

Codependency recovery is a gut-wrenching process with many emotional ups and downs. Expecting recovery to be quick and easy is another unrealistic expectation. There are no shortcuts in codependency recovery.

People who are successful in recovery understand that it’s a long, emotional journey filled with many lessons. Examining your relationships plus your own behavior can be daunting but focusing on one day at a time will keep your goals more realistic. 

Here are some tips that will help you embrace imperfections in codependency recovery and make it a success.

Expectations in Codependency Recovery:

Knowing what to expect in codependency recovery will make the process much easier. For instance, codependent people are high achievers because their value is tied to their performance. You strive to do everything at once, which isn’t the best way to do codependency recovery. 

When you struggle with codependency, you expect too much of yourself, you approach your recovery with the same mindset as you do anything else – you do too much too fast. 

Unfortunately, that’s exactly how you burn yourself out in recovery. Diving head first in recovery doesn’t speed up the process. It only creates frustration and a sense of failure because you are expecting too much of yourself.

Realistic Expectations of Yourself in Codependency Recovery:

You may think – “If I can tackle all this by myself in a couple of months, I will be perfect” but codependency recovery can’t be done in isolation. You need a community of support because recovery takes years not weeks or months. That’s why getting involved in 12 step programs such as Al-Anon or CODA can be extremely helpful.

Finding a source of outside support will help you feel less alone. In isolation, it can be easy to shame yourself for not achieving more in recovery. 

For instance, expecting to fix all of your relationships is unrealistic. Relationships cannot be fixed entirely by yourself; you can do your part, but you can’t fix the other person.

Another example is expecting yourself to go through the 12 steps of recovery in a month. Or, you attend 90 meetings in 90 days expecting to graduate. That is not going to work either. These steps are meant to be a gradual growth process that will happen when you are ready. We can’t rush the process. 

Change Your Focus in Codependency Recovery:

In order to embrace imperfection and create a more realistic recovery, get the focus off of others and onto yourself and changing your own behavior. This will make the process of recovery more manageable for you.

Codependency recovery is a two-steps forward, three-steps back process. While you can have success in certain areas, you may struggle in other areas. That’s why recovery is such an imperfect process. There are simply too many areas to focus on at once. That’s why the saying “One Day at a Time” really works. 

Instead of over-achieving in your recovery, practice the mantra – Progress, not perfection. This is a popular 12-step saying that reminds you that progress is not about being perfect. Recovery is not a linear process. It requires a lot of patience and acceptance.

Embracing Resistance in Codependency Recovery:

At the core of codependency recovery is change, and sometimes, people resist that change. You may worry that you’re not setting boundaries fast enough or you should have left your toxic relationship by now, but that resistance is part of recovery too. You cannot force yourself to change before you’re ready.

What we resist will persist.  

So let yourself off the hook – resistance is part of the growth process. You can’t control the resistance but you can accept it as part of recovery. Eventually, that resistance will change into the willingness to take baby steps towards change. 

In Codependency Recovery, You Will Have Slips: 

When you’re in recovery long enough you will experience times when you slip back into old codependent behaviors. For instance, you might not be willing to set a boundary with a family member for fear that they will be disappointed in you. Or, you might agree to something that you really don’t want to do even though you know in your heart you’d rather say no. 

Slipping into old behaviors can serve as a powerful reminder of how it feels not to honor yourself. Pain can be a great motivator because when the pain becomes greater than your fear, you will do something different. 

You may not be willing to do everything you used to do. That’s all right. This is where embracing imperfection in codependency is key. It will give you the grace to practice recovery at your own pace without constantly berating yourself for not doing more.

It’s not like sobriety, where you can be 100% sober.

Codependency impacts everything – self-esteem, boundaries, relationships, and self-trust. So, expecting perfection in all these areas will create unnecessary stress. Your progress will depend on what you are currently working on, and we can’t work on everything at once. Some things, like self-esteem and boundaries, can take years to improve. 

Don’t Compare Your Codependency Recovery to Others:

There is a powerful quote “comparison is the thief of joy” that creates feelings of low self-worth in recovery. Seeing someone in recovery that is further along than you can make you doubt yourself and your recovery. 

Often people compare their weaknesses to another person’s strengths but this isn’t a fair comparison. Remember, you don’t know where they’ve come from in their life. Each person has their own unique history of pain and trauma. Comparing your story with someone else’s only contributes to feeling worse.

You are running your own race in recovery. It’s not about what everyone else is doing in recovery; it is about embracing what you are doing in recovery. Acknowledging your progress will help you stay focused on the positive. Even when it seems like you aren’t growing, as long as you keep coming back, you are in better shape that you realize. The more you embrace that, the more progress you will make in the long run. 

The Final Step in Embracing Imperfections in Codependency Recovery:

Cultivating self-love means accepting who you are, with all your mistakes and quirks. Nobody on the planet is like you. You have to keep in mind that you are enough. That is an integral part of codependency recovery. A significant portion of being enough is accepting your imperfections. 

We will all make mistakes sometimes but that doesn’t mean you are bad or stupid; you’re human. Feeling like you are enough is one of the key goals in recovery. 

Although it’s tempting to expect codependency to be linear and predictable, it isn’t true. Each person’s codependency recovery consists of their own unique adventure with occasional slips and problems. Letting yourself be imperfect is the best gift you can give to yourself.

By Michelle Farris, Psychotherapist and Relationship Expert. Get your 12 Free Journal Prompts for Healing Codependency here:

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