Codependency is an unhealthy behavior we confuse for empathy. It is not similar to empathy at all.
Empathy is what makes us all human. It lets us form bonds, allowing us to have awareness beyond an individual perspective. Highly sensitive people show a higher level of empathy. If you end up crying after watching an emotional movie, then it indicates that you’re experiencing empathy.
The main difference is its lack of authentic self. ‘Self’ is a sense of who you are in this world and how you think of yourselves. Sometimes, you don’t develop a stable sense of what makes you who you are because of your past experiences. This is why you tend to look for approval and validation in your earliest relationships.
Codependency can be considered as a learned behavior we acquire in childhood. This happens when your family lacks boundaries. You are taught that it is necessary to be hyper-vigilant to the emotional states of others just in order to receive love.
If you have a father who is a perfectionist, you might feel as if you are not worthy enough to receive love unless you’re perfect. We think that love means survival, so we place our focus outside of ourselves to get another person’s approval.
If you don’t move away from the attachment styles created by your earliest relationships, then you take those same behaviors into your adult relationships. Codependency makes you indecisive, and you constantly analyze the behaviors of others.
Empathy is when you have a solid sense of self. You are able to understand a person’s emotional state and behavior without taking it as something personal.
When a person is going through an emotional experience, empathy allows you to hold space, whereas codependency doesn’t allow you to hold space. Codependency makes you go into fixer mode.
A codependent person cannot function on their own. A person whose thinking and behavior revolves around another person, process, or substance. The big problem is that many codependents place a lower priority on their own needs while being excessively preoccupied with the requirements of others.
If you are a codependent person, then don’t you worry because it can be unlearned, given the fact that it is a learned behavior. You also need to realize that true empathy means having clear boundaries. Understand that every person has their own version of the truth and that you can’t impose the truth on others.
Signs of codependency include:
- They have difficulty making decisions in a relationship.
- They have difficulty identifying their feelings.
- They have difficulty communicating in relationships.
- They value the approval of others more than they value themself.
- They lack trust in themself and have poor self-esteem.