Are you looking for happiness in all the wrong places? What I find with a lot of my clients, the students in the courses I teach, and in my communities is that so many of us are looking to other people for fulfillment.
Deep contentment and happiness, just like real love, can only come from within.
Searching for happiness outside of ourselves or getting our worth, value, and joy from how we relate to others is a problem…and it points to codependency.
I don’t want you to continue to “put the keys to your happiness in someone else’s pocket,” so in this episode, I give you some ideas of ways to turn that around so you can lessen your suffering, increase your joy and finally own your own happiness!
Prefer the audio? Listen to the episode here.
What does happiness mean to you?
From my estimation as a psychotherapist, happiness is a heightened sense of contentment. It’s mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. It’s making choices that create a sense of safety and feeling deeply satisfied knowing your life has meaning.
But if you often find yourself thinking, “Well, if everyone else is good and has what they need, then I’m OK…” I want you to consider that you might be hanging your happiness on other people.
One of the root causes of this kind of codependent behavior is the lack of a healthy relationship with ourselves. So many of us were not taught how to fill up our own cup, so we look to others to meet needs that we should be meeting for ourselves. It can quickly become problematic if every time the person we love is unhappy or frustrated, then suddenly we’re unhappy or frustrated.
So why do we do this? When it comes to the way that we relate to the people in our lives, why is codependency such a phenomenon in our world?
We are literally raised and praised to be self-abandoning codependents. It’s a fact. There’s a very real cultural narrative that being selfless equates to being a good person.
I’m sure you’ve heard the compliment, “They would give you the shirt off their back,” as if it’s an act of beautiful generosity. Giving anyone the shirt off your back leaves you half-naked and smacks of codependency to me. Real generosity is a beautiful virtue, but there’s a difference between that and giving from a place of people-pleasing, conflict avoidance, or from a place of your own need.
We can’t mine our happiness or sense of self-worth from others forever. Eventually, this kind of codependency blows up into resentment and conflict. Lasting happiness and satisfaction can’t come exclusively from our relationships. We must also know and own our intrinsic value.
Codependency is outwardly focused. Basing our contentment on what happens in the lives of others, equates to relinquishing control over our own ability to create joy, meaning, and satisfaction for ourselves.
But codependency is sneaky. It can feel like we’re just being empathic, like we’re trying to spare the people we love from making mistakes, from feeling pain, or from facing conflict or hardship. In reality, if we really want someone we love to grow, we have to let them have the space they need to experience their own life lessons. Everyone has the right to make their own decisions and gain the life skills and wisdom that comes from, yes, making mistakes.
There’s nothing wrong with adding value to the lives of others, but when we’re codependent, we’re really inadvertently making it about us. It’s about centering ourselves in the other person’s life and in their experiences so that we feel needed, useful, valuable, and worthy.
So much of the time, because codependency can operate in this covert way, it doesn’t feel like a choice…instead, it feels like a drive or an urgent compulsion that we can’t seem to help. If you struggle with codependency, you feel overly responsible for the feeling states, choices, and outcomes of others. It might show up as over-giving, over-functioning, giving advice that no one asked for, and doing things for others that they can and in most cases, should do for themselves. Then when people aren’t grateful enough, you might end up feeling under-appreciated and resentful.
Ringing any bells? Then let’s move into what you can do because your happy, healthy life must be mindfully built by you, for you.
So how can we create our own happiness?
- I invite you to take a closer look at when the kind of codependent behavior I’m describing is happening in your life. Who are you playing out these patterns with?
Raising your awareness is the first step to getting a handle on codependency, and I’ve created a downloadable guide for you with some questions to help you get some clarity so you can start to recover and learn how to become the author of your OWN happiness.
- Get clear about things that you love that you can do for you and only you. What brings you joy? What small things, experiences, or activities make you feel happy all on your own? Begin to incorporate one (or more!) of these things into your life each day. What brings you a feeling of contentment and peace? Make a list and keep it where you can see it anytime you need to up your happiness quotient. I’ve included ideas for you in the guide to help you get started, so make sure to grab that right here.
- Keep your accomplishments front and center. What are the things that you’re proud of about yourself? So many of us have been taught to be overly humble about our skills and accomplishments, but that sort of false humility isn’t doing us any favors, especially when we’re stuck looking to others for our value and worth. You can make a list, or even a brag book to remind yourself of your awesomeness. This exercise can help you remember how capable, strong, smart, and incredible you really are. Remembering and honoring all of the good things you’ve accomplished raises your self-esteem and your self-love and those are certainly keys to happiness.
- Focus on the positive. So many people in my crew who struggle with codependency and over-functioning are also perfectionists. I see you and I know you because I was you. When we’re in that perfectionist trap, we are prone to focus on the 2% that went wrong instead of the 98% we did right. Try to shift your focus to the positive. Can we get into acceptance of this beautiful, hot mess? Life is messy. Loving people is messy. Even succeeding is messy because it includes failing. Learn from your missteps and understand that you are a work in progress. Be compassionate with yourself.
It is such a gift to just be here now, because as messy as the world is, we get to be a part of the solution. It has to start within and with you. When you take responsibility for your own happiness, you have so much more to give. I challenge you to get committed to figuring this out because I know you can do it and the world needs healthy you.
If you’re ready to go further and really get on the road to recovery from codependency, I hope you’ll join Mark Groves and I for our brand new course, Crushing Codependency. We’re getting started July 8th and we cannot WAIT. Over six weeks, you’ll get live interactive coaching from us and learn the skills you need to finally be free from what we know is one of the biggest blocks to a happy, healthy life.
[ENROLL IN CRUSHING CODEPENDENCY HERE NOW!]
Your happiness is your responsibility. I hope that this episode inspires you to do something about that. You deserve to be happy and you possess the power to make that happen, right now.
Make sure to download your “How to Own Your Happiness” guide right here, and if you liked this episode, please share it on your social media and with anyone you think could take value from it.
Thank you for caring about your mental health and the quality of your life! I so appreciate you, I hope you have an amazing week, and of course, as always take care of you.
Terri Cole is a licensed psychotherapist, transformation coach, and an expert at turning fear into freedom. Sign up for Terri’s weekly Newsletter, check out her blog and follow her on Twitter.