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I'm a life coach.

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Codependency at the workplace

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When we obsess over trying to control another person or situation and fix other people’s problems, it’s codependency. When we rely on others, including our spouse, partner, kids, even our jobs to make us feel good about ourselves, that’s codependency. 

You might think, wait, but codependency is for alcoholics. Because when someone is living with an active alcoholic, they are consumed by the needs, wants, emotions, and actions of that person - to the point of self-neglect. This dynamic can permeate any relationship you have in your life. 

We can develop codependent relationships with people in our lives and even our jobs. I’ve seen it with clients in academia and among activist friends who are drawn to self-sacrifice and martyrdom for a cause or movement. 

For the do-gooders and those who work in the healing and humanitarian professions, it is so important to become aware of codependent tendencies and their source. For some, they sacrifice for their work because they’re trying to heal an unresolved trauma or void from childhood. For others, the illusion of achievement and control fills the sense of self-worth. 

I’ve seen codependent dynamics manifest in a few ways:
1. Perfectionism - when your sense of self worth hinges on how well you perform in a particular arena
2. Lack of boundaries - hesitating to assert boundaries and expressing disagreement in conversations and not communicating your needs at work and home
3. Self-sacrifice - sacrificing for a cause or a person to the detriment of your own needs 
4. Hyper vigilance - constantly being aware of how others feel, what they’re going through, and not taking care of yourself and being so alienated from yourself that your entire focus is on another person or your job or a movement. 

Workplace. Family. Communities. Religion. Friends. You can develop codependent tendencies in any of these areas in life. Remember it is not your job to fix things or to save the world. 

It is okay to have balance in your life. It is okay to depend on others, but also be able to meet your own needs. The move toward interdependent relationships is healthy. It is okay to focus on your feelings, needs, and actions, especially if you’re a woman or from a marginalized group and have been told most of your life to sacrifice for others. 

A client-friend of mine and I were exchanging deep texts one day about this individual/collectivist duality and where codependency fits in, and we talked about how being loving and caring is about acknowledging what someone else is going through and empathizing, but also leaving space for the unknown. Even if I’ve been through the same experience as someone else, I still don’t know 100% what they’re going through. So I can approach it with humility and know that I can only truly know my own experience. I can refrain from projecting onto others what I “think” they feel and trying to manage, control, or manipulate their emotions. 

Healthy caring in an interdependent relationship comes from caring about that person, AND also leaving room for the unknown, AND respecting my own lived experience. This allows for genuine connection, rather than enmeshment. As death doula Alua Arthur has talked about her in work with the dying, she says that we can approach life with humility - and that we can break free of codependent tendencies by returning to our physical senses (touch, smell, sight, etc) and staying grounded in our own lived experience. 

The first step is awareness and learning to value our needs, feelings, and boundaries. Only then, can we transform our activism, our work, and the way we live our lives into something that’s resilient, inspiring, and enduring.


PS: I am a life and career coach who helps smart and soulful women manage difficult transitions and create a life on their own terms, that’s filled with peace, meaning, and purpose and aligns with their soul. Listen to my Podcast Made for Change and follow me on Instagram @drjannycoach. I have a couple of spots opening up this fall. DM me if you’d like to work with me.

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