Beliefs also come from experiences with siblings and peers, as well as other authority figures and cultural, societal, and religious influences. In all, our beliefs are a conglomerate of other people’s opinions. Usually, they’re not based on facts, and they may be challenged.
Our over-reactions to people when we’re triggered are perfect opportunities to analyze and challenge the thoughts, feelings, and the beliefs that are being activated. For example, if someone doesn’t return your call, do you feel hurt, guilty, ashamed, or angry? Do you assume they don’t like you, are angry at you, that you did something wrong, or that they’re inconsiderate? What is the story you weave, and what is the underlying belief?
A few of the common beliefs codependents hold are:
• Other people’s criticisms are true
• People won’t like me if I make a mistake.
• Love must be earned.
• I don’t deserve love and success.
• My wants and needs should be sacrificed for others.
• I must be loved and approved of to feel okay.
• Other people’s opinions carry more weight than mine.
• I’m only lovable if a partner loves me (or at least needs me.)
Many codependents are perfectionists and hold false, perfectionistic beliefs that who they are and what they do are “imperfect,” making them feel that they’re inferior or a failure. See “I’m Not Perfect, I’m Only Human” – How to Beat Perfectionism.)
Challenge your beliefs
Once you’ve identified your beliefs, challenge them.
• Ask yourself what evidence you have to support your beliefs and thoughts?
• Might you be mistaken or biased?
• Are you certain your interpretations of events are accurate?
• Check out your assumptions by asking people questions.
• Is there any evidence for another point-of-view?
• Are there instances in your experience or in the experience of others that even occasionally contradict your assumptions? Survey people to find out.
• Do people disagree with your conclusions? Find out.
• What would you say to someone else who thought and felt as you did?
• What would a caring friend say to you?
• Do you feel pressured to believe as you do? Why?
• Are you free to change your mind?
• What are the consequences of remaining rigid in your thinking?
• What would be the consequences of changing your mind?
It’s not enough to read about codependency. Real change requires that you risk behaving differently. (See my Youtube, “Codependency Recovery”) This requires courage and support. Instead of being your codependent self, start “Affirming Your True, Authentic Self.”
Think good thoughts about yourself. Notice and change how you talk to yourself. For example, instead of looking for what is wrong with you, start noticing what you like about yourself. Instead of saying, “I can’t,” say “I won’t,” or “I can.”
Take action to meet your needs.
Authenticity is a powerful antidote for shame. Express who you really are. Speak up, being authentic, and share your thoughts and feelings. Set boundaries.
Take action to do what you really want. Many codependents are sure they’ll fail and are afraid to risk. Try new things, even though you don’t believe you’re good at it! Discover you can learn and improve with practice. This is the master key that unlocks many doors. Then you know you can learn anything. That’s empowerment!