You know the thing about being a codependent is that one day, you wake up and you are staring into a mirror at a stranger. Nobody truly sees this person, and now neither do you. You have lost yourself in a desperate attempt to survive by effacing yourself to keep others happy.
How can you help the invisible woman that you are to become visible again?
When you feel nothing but anxiety, that is a hint that you are hyper focused on everything OUTSIDE of you, the things that you feel you have to control – but deep down you know you can’t. Come home to the one thing you can control: you.
The scary part is that you aren’t even sure, once you find yourself – if it is possible – that you will like what you find. There is a reason we tried to efface ourselves way back when we started tuning into others and tuning out of ourselves. We sensed disappointment, or we were ridiculed, told we weren’t good enough, or we were so badly mistreated we internalized it and assumed we deserved it for being so messed up – we needed to change. So somewhere along the way we believed a lie about ourselves…the lie that buried us.
Now when we try to quiet the outside world so that we can hear ourselves there is nothing but a terrifying empty void. But it isn’t because we are empty. We are the same rich, beautiful person that we were before we got lost…we are just too disconnected to hear ourselves, so we think there isn’t anything there, and that scares us.
How do you reconnect? How do you reclaim your own self when you have been used to giving it away for so long? No one else can do this for you. How awesome would it be to have a hero, a knight in shining armor, come and free us from our captor! But we have been the ones – believing a lie – to give away our own freedom. We sold ourselves out. No one else but ourselves can now claim that freedom.
Let’s try looking at it from a different perspective – because the truth from our view is often skewed. But it’s time to set the record straight.
Since codependents live for others, look at it as if you were helping a loved one in this situation. What would you tell them to do?
If I could write a letter to myself back in this beginning phase of awakening, it would read something like this:
First off, you need to know that YOU – who you are today – you are enough. You are smart enough, beautiful enough, strong enough, brave enough, funny enough, interesting enough, kind enough – just being YOU. Just the way you wake up in the morning. Without changing a thing.
You are a beautiful example of a human being.
Second – and even more important: you are loved.
More deeply and fiercely and completely than you can even imagine. And nothing you have done or will do can ever alter that fact. You are and will forever remain beloved by your Creator. There is NOTHING He won’t do to prove His love – He delights in you and it hurts Him when you spend your time hating on yourself, trying to change the person He loves, trying to bury yourself under all your deeds…
That’s not why He made you.
Let yourself SHINE. Let yourself BE. Don’t be afraid of your feelings – bring them to Him. Don’t be afraid of what you will find when you start digging. He can handle it and He already knows it all anyway. He has made provision for this moment, now, as you are rediscovering the woman in the mirror.
He wants her to be visible. And even if you still can’t, He sees her – in all her glory.
Your authentic self is waiting for your permission to be.
Only you can allow her to become visible.
And she is worthy of being seen. You are worthy. Enjoy your freedom! Claim it! Fight for it! There is no better way to live and no other way to actually be fully alive than to be fully YOU.
That would have been my letter to myself.
I needed to hear those words because in the beginning of this rediscovery of myself, I confess that I truly felt like the most uninteresting woman in the world. See I lost myself in my teenage years, and when I came to I had been in an abusive marriage for years and had two children. I had learned to sense my husbands every nuanced tone and body language but I was incapable of sensing my own emotions until I realized in shock that I was wishing for death – I woke up to a suicidal self, drowning and disconnected from anything authentic.
I woke up to a woman who couldn’t tell you her favorite color and had no idea what she liked to do for fun. I thought that tight rod down my back was normal, that the constant tension which made it hard to turn my head had always been there, that my severe IBS was my own fault, that my exhausting depression was my own doing. Why couldn’t I get it all under control? I woke up to a mess, not understanding how having my stress systems in overdrive for years would take a huge toll physically and psychologically on my well-being. I needed to spend time in the ER – figuratively – in order to recover.
Getting out of that marriage, while it took years and many therapy sessions, brought with it the terrifying challenge of finding myself again. I felt like a lost teenager all over again…who was I?
Here would be my sequel to the first letter to myself:
You are going to make it out of this dark place. Trust me. But for now please do the following:
Step 1: Don’t hate yourself or beat yourself up for being “weak” and having let this happen. You did what you thought you needed to do. It didn’t work – we forgive ourselves, we learn and we move on.
Step 2: Look for the trail… your authentic self also has a survival instinct. It does not want to be buried alive, and it will not go quietly. So it has left you a trail of breadcrumbs to follow… it wants to be found. Pay attention to your feelings – they aren’t to be feared. Take time to follow the crumb trail!
Step 3: Be comfortable with being uncomfortable for awhile. Looking at ourselves is the MOST uncomfortable thing a codependent can do. The silence is terrifying. Looking inward will feel weird and selfish but I promise you it is the only way to heal and become whole.
Step 4: Resist the urge to fall back into the same behavior but in a new way. Same melody just with a different beat, or instrument – but it’s still the same way of distracting yourself from doing business with yourself. It’s easier for you to look outside and focus on others. FIGHT to stay focused on yourself!
Although I didn’t receive any letters quite like these when I was floundering in the baby pool of self-discovery, I did have several good friends, books and an amazing counselor who helped to speak truth into my life and kept me on track. I eventually learned that even if I cannot make others love me, respect me or value me… I can choose to love, respect and value myself. I am worthy of love, just as much as the people I would obsess over.
So my friends, in order to have the starring role in your story (and you should, after all, it is YOURS) you will need to become visible. Start by recognizing yourself – your wants, desires, feelings, fears… validate them. They exist, and they matter JUST AS MUCH as anyone else’s.
Please shift the focus: stop trying to change THEM – you are WASTING your God-given life. Change yourself and let them be them. Let them own their actions and reactions – stop taking ownership for them yourself. Follow the breadcrumbs from your authentic self and see who you uncover – welcome her, celebrate her, free her to BE who she is. Every little discovery is worthy! It takes many puzzle pieces to make a complete picture, so be patient with the process of putting yourself back together. Because someday you will look over and see the beauty in the mirror, and you will know it was SO worth it.