By Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT
Codependency Recovery: Self-Acceptance & Self-Love
Recovery from codependency is really a process of self-acceptance and self-love. That’s easier said than done. The reason is that most of us have never experienced unconditional love and acceptance.
Our true self is hidden and longs for release and expression. Instead, we carry false beliefs about ourselves learned in our childhood. We don’t realize this because of our own faulty thinking. When we grow up in a dysfunctional family, that’s the planet we still live on. We continue to see the world and ourselves through the warped lens we were given.
For example, if we’re colorblind to seeing blue, no amount of logic can substitute for seeing a blue sky. We have to experience it. Similarly, we have to experience acceptance to know we’re worthy of it. And still, we probably won’t believe it and may not even realize that we don’t.
Codependency Recovery and Denial
Denial is the first obstacle to recovery from codependency. Among symptoms of codependency, it’s the first one to overcome and can take time and education, because we don’t know what we don’t know! Denial includes not only denial of our codependency but also often denial abuse, addiction, and other problems. For most codependents, due to internalized shame in childhood, it also includes denial of feelings and needs. Once out of denial, most of us must learn a set of new skills that we were supposed to have been taught as children.
Identify and Accept Your Feelings
We have to learn to identify and honor our feelings. When we don’t accept ourselves, we’ll judge and doubt them with negative self-talk. Yet our feelings guide us to act in our self-interest and make the right decisions. 10 Steps to Self-Esteem will help you overcome negative self-talk.
Identify and Fill Your Needs
We also have to be able to identify our needs and know how to meet them. For many years, I didn’t acknowledge when I was lonely and needed support. Even when I did, I’d continue to isolate. This stemmed from the lack of emotional connection to my mother growing up although I was never really alone. But like most codependents, I had to deal with painful feelings alone — or by talking to my cat. So first we must recognize our needs and then know how to fill them. If they’ve been shamed and not appropriately responded to, then we might not realize we have the need and not know how to fill it. For some codependents, reaching out and asking for help feels humiliating due to childhood shame. This is an obstacle to getting support and healing.
Knowing our feelings helps us identify a need for boundaries. We must discern them and protect them. When our boundaries are ignored in childhood, we don’t learn about them or how to protect ourselves. In recovery, we learn to communicate assertively and set boundaries. This step above all others requires skill, courage, and trusted support. Practice with How to Be Assertive webinar and ebook.
Develop Self-Love and Self-Nurturing Skills
Finally, it’s not enough to know all this and accept ourselves, we must also learn self-nurturing and self-care. Even if our parents met our physical needs, often they weren’t able to nurture us emotionally. You can start by listening to the Self-Love Meditation.
© 2021 Darlene Lancer
This article was originally published here, and is reprinted with the author’s kind permission.
Darlene Lancer is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and expert on relationships and codependency. She’s the author Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You and Codependency for Dummies and six ebooks, including: 10 Steps to Self-Esteem, How To Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits, Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People and Freedom from Guilt and Blame – Finding Self-Forgiveness, also available on Amazon. Ms. Lancer has counseled individuals and couples for 30 years and coaches internationally. She’s a sought after speaker in media and at professional conferences. Her articles appear in professional journals and Internet mental health websites, including on her own, www.whatiscodependency.com, where you can get a free copy of “14 Tips for Letting Go.”