Why Beginning to Express Yourself Is Vital to Recovering from Codependency
By Marlena Tillhon.
Codependency, people-pleasing and inhibited self-expression go hand-in-hand in my experience.
The deep-rooted toxic shame that is so ingrained in codependency makes us search for validation in others.
We crave the relief of the constant doubt that hangs over us … “Am I a bad person? Does thinking or feeling like this mean that I’m bad? Am I somehow broken? What is wrong with me? I know there must be something …”
And so, to not have everyone reflect our biggest fear back to us – the fear of being bad, broken or flawed in some way – we try to please others.
We go above and beyond to make them like us.
We need to be seen as good in someone’s eyes.
But what that usually costs us is our integrity.
Because all of a sudden what you do and don’t do, what you say or don’t say, all depends on whether others will or won’t like it.
That’s self-imposed censorship of the harshest kind.
My truth now lies in your hands.
Plus, I have to take the risk of guessing and getting it wrong.
It’s a very insecure and disempowered position to put yourself in which is why we normally experience high levels of anxiety.
Beginning to find my voice and speak my truth was a huge part of healing from codependency for me.
And it was scary as hell.
I never really had problems with people who I didn’t like or respect not liking me. I would even have debates with them that didn’t trigger me in the slightest.
What I struggled with was being myself and being open about it when I did like someone.
It felt like their rejection had the power to devastate me at that time in my life. At least, that’s how it felt back then.
It would trigger all my abandonment wounds and send me down a shame spiral that could last for a long time and cost me weeks of my life.
So how did I overcome this rather huge hurdle?
I made self-expression a priority.
I practised it every day in little ways that grew and became bigger and bigger as my confidence grew.
It helped that my fears were unfounded and instead of people rejecting me or feeling disappointed in me or realised by me, they opened up more to me too.
It was the most surprising element of it all!
I had never imagined that my inhibition limited the connection and depth of my relationships.
Before then, it wasn’t something that had ever even crossed my mind.
Because to me, I protected my relationships from failing by inhibiting myself.
I assumed that if people knew who I really was they wouldn’t like me.
So I held back.
I didn’t want to lose them.
I didn’t want to take that risk.
What I didn’t realise was that I created artificial and superficial relationships that could never meet anyone’s emotional needs.
They were nice and pleasant and they looked good from the outside but they didn’t nourish anyone.
The nourishment we crave comes from the emotional connection we create when opening up and sharing who we are.
That required me to look at myself first.
Not through the eyes of toxic shame but through the eyes of someone wanting to heal and move on with her life.
To finally live her life.
If that means having to break through my inhibitions, then that was the price I was going to pay.
I was sick of feeling how I was feeling and living how I was living.
I felt like a shell.
I felt like I could have been anyone.
I felt like all I did was go through the motions and tick boxes of what a happy or successful life is meant to look like.
But it had no substance.
It didn’t feel right to me.
It felt forced and fake and somehow nothing felt like me.
That’s the price I had been paying for living my life seeking the approval of others, or maybe more accurately, avoiding the disapproval of others.
I was done.
I had wasted decades by that time and I didn’t want to waste any more of my life.
I needed to get honest with myself and others.
And I needed to respect them more by letting them choose me.
I started to see how it was wrong of me to try to control their perception of me.
I also realised that I would never feel liked or loved for who I was if I didn’t share all of myself.
And so I did.
I started to ask for what I wanted – even if it took half an hour to get the words to come out of my mouth.
I started to say no, knowing I would disappoint a friend and leant into trusting that they’d understand, which they did.
I started to stand up for myself instead of laughing along to a ‘joke’ at my expense – which really was just a critical and unkind comment disguised as a joke … you know the kind, right? – even when I was terrified that it could lead to an argument.
And I started to have arguments.
I didn’t run away and eventually, I stopped going into freeze mode too.
Bit by bit, I reclaimed my truth, my power and my integrity.
I grew in confidence and I became more assertive.
I was also still kind, patient and considerate.
Because that’s the objection I come across the most in my client work (which was also my greatest concern before I started this work): the fear of becoming rude and selfish.
That is an unfounded fear.
You can freely and openly express yourself and still be kind.
You can argue and stay calm.
You can say whatever it is you need to say and remain tactful.
In fact, the way I express myself is the most respectful and loving way of communicating.
Because it’s honest.
It’s full of respect, consideration and trust – all of which go both ways.
They extend to the other person and they extend to me too.
But what I have learnt is this: self-expression is a skill.
And like every other skill in life, the more you practise, the better you get at it.
So don’t waste another day.
Start right now.
Get honest with yourself.
What do you want right now?
Start with something small and something practical.
Share it. Just say it.
Let it out.
And watch how nothing bad is going to happen.
When you choose to unleash your truth and to express yourself in ways that feel loving and empowering, you reclaim a huge part of yourself that you didn’t realise you had lost but had always felt somehow incomplete without.
By Marlena Tillhon, Codependency & Relationship Expert, Psychotherapist & Self-Actualisation Coach. I invite you to outgrow codependency by reconnecting to yourself, expressing your truth and healing at the deepest level so that you can finally create the relationships you long for and get the love you need. You can work with me directly or choose one of my programs and courses. Learn more about my 1-1 container at https://www.epiclove.me/codependency-coaching