10 Life-Changing Shifts to Move from Codependence to Healthy Interdependence
By Rhoberta Shaler. PhD.
Have you ever caught yourself relying too much on others for your self-worth and validation? Well, it’s time to break free from that codependent cycle and embrace the equality of healthy interdependence! Dive deep into these ten transformative shifts that will help you cultivate a balanced sense of self and foster the kind of relationships that bring joy and fulfillment to your life. So, grab a cozy seat and get ready for a revealing journey of personal growth and healthy connections!
- Get to Know Yourself: Start by taking some quality time to get to know your answer to “Who am I?” When codependence is present, you are likely to let other people define you. Now is the best time to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, needs, skills, and boundaries. What makes you tick? What are your core values? Understanding yourself, your strengths, and your limitations will serve as a solid foundation for healthier relationships. Knowing what you want in life and how you want to be treated is key to teaching people how to treat you.
- Make Self-Care a Priority: You deserve your own attention. Make self-care a non-negotiable priority in your life. Engage in activities that bring you pure joy, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Whether it’s curling up with a good book, going for a long walk in nature, having a daily dance party in your car, or indulging in a massage, taking care of yourself will help you build a stronger sense of self and rely less on others for validation. Show yourself you’re important!
- Set Boundaries: Imagine creating little personal bubbles of respect and self-care. That’s exactly what boundaries are. Communicate your needs and limits to others with love and kindness, while also respecting their boundaries. Expressing healthy, non-negotiable boundaries helps create a safe and harmonious environment in your relationships, where everyone feels heard and respected.
If you shudder at the thought of speaking up about your boundaries, you may think that boundaries are aggressive. They are not. You can learn to express them in clear, neutral, assertive ways. (You may need help with this.) Do you know what your boundaries are? Start with just one, for example: “For me to hear requests, I need to be spoken to in a calm voice. If that doesn’t happen, we will need to have this conversation at another time, when it can.”
- Speak & Listen As an Equal: Give yourself permission to take up equal space. Break down those walls and open up. Practice authentic communication by expressing your thoughts, feelings, and desires honestly and kindly.
Remember, it’s not just about expressing yourself but also actively listening to others without judgment. Participate in healthy dialogue (if available), and when conflicts arise, approach them with compassion and a willingness to find constructive solutions together. Healthy relationships actively champion equality and thrive on mutuality. (I wrote about this in my book, Kaizen for Couples: Smart Steps to Save, Sustain & Strengthen Your Relationship)
- Embrace Your Autonomy: Autonomy is “the quality or state of being self-governing.” You don’t have to ask for permission to be you, to express your values, beliefs, needs, and wants. Own your individuality by pursuing personal goals, hobbies, and interests that ignite and support your passion. Discover what makes your heart soar and dedicate time to nourish your own dreams and aspirations. By being self-reliant and taking responsibility for your own happiness, you’ll contribute positively to your relationship with yourself and others, bringing a vibrant and confident energy into the mix.
- Be Mutually Supportive: Relationships are a two-way street, and healthy interdependence is all about knowing, respecting, and supporting each other. Embrace the dance of give-and-take, where both parties contribute, share responsibilities, and respect each other’s autonomy. Together, you can achieve great things, uplift each other, and create a harmonious balance that nurtures growth and fulfillment. (There’s more about this in my ebook, What is Healthy Love…and Do You Have It.)
- Break the People-Pleasing Cycle: Sometimes, you learn early on that you’re supposed to be “nice” at all costs. No! It’s time to break free from the chains of people-pleasing. You don’t need to constantly seek approval or mold yourself to fit others’ expectations.
Learn to say “no” when necessary, set boundaries around your own needs, and remember that your worth isn’t defined by how much you can please others. You are worthy and worthwhile just as you are, and your true friends will appreciate and love you for your authentic self.
- Build a Supportive Network: Actively seek out and surround yourself with a team of cheerleaders! Seek out friendships and relationships that lift you up, encourage your growth, and genuinely care about your well-being. Together, you can create a powerful circle of support where everyone celebrates each other’s victories, big and small. Surround yourself with those who see your true potential and inspire you to be the best version of yourself, and who will also tell you the truth. A clan of yes-people are not always the right people, but friends who will help you see clearly, with kindness, are valuable indeed. YES!
- Heal Emotionally: We all carry some emotional wounds, but it’s time to let the healing begin. Consider engaging in personal therapy or counseling to address past traumas, develop emotional resilience, overcome past relationships, and learn healthier coping mechanisms. This journey of healing will contribute immensely to healthier relationship patterns, as you release old burdens and create space for love, joy, and genuine connections.
- Validate & Affirm Yourself: Give yourself the recognition you truly deserve. Shift your focus from seeking external validation to nurturing self-validation. Celebrate your worth, acknowledge your achievements, and love yourself unconditionally. You will uncover your unique gifts and strengths. Welcome your journey of self-discovery and growth, and know that you are always enough, just as you are.
Embarking on this transformative journey from codependence to healthy interdependence takes courage, and you have that. I know that because you are still here, ready to take on a new challenge.
By cultivating self-awareness, embracing your independence, fostering authentic communication, and practicing self-care, you are breaking free from old patterns and creating space for thriving relationships. Remember, it’s all about mutual support, respect, and personal growth. Independence and interdependence feel SO much better than codependence. The shift is an inside job, and you’re up to it. You’ve got this!
Host of the Save Your Sanity podcast, Dr. Rhoberta Shaler helps clients worldwide to recognize, release, and recover from toxic relationships and emotional abuse. She is the author of Escaping the Hijackal Trap and Kaizen for Couples. Learn more: https://www.emergingempowered.com