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Am I Codependent? Exploring Needs and Self-Worth

Jun 10, 2024 | Codependency

Consistently prioritizing another person’s needs above your own or lacking assertiveness in a relationship can create a sense of imbalance. Maybe you feel an overwhelming sense of guilt or even question if you might have codependent tendencies.

Codependency often blurs the line between healthy support and unhealthy over-reliance, leading to patterns that can harm one’s well-being and relationships. For some, this occurs in only one relationship in a person’s life. For others, it is a pattern which extends to some or all of a person’s life. Understanding the nuances of codependency and distinguishing it from healthy independence is crucial.

Understanding Codependency and Relational Strategies

Codependency is often characterized by an excessive emotional reliance on a partner, typically one who also relies on their caregiving role in supporting a dependent partner. This reliance can lead to a pattern where your self-worth is tied to the approval and needs of others, making it difficult to set healthy boundaries.

Understanding relational strategies is essential for overcoming codependency. Relational strategies are methods we use to build, maintain, and nurture relationships with others. We can think of functional relational strategies as those that support the well-being and autonomy of others, while dysfunctional relational strategies enable an unhealthy dynamic with others.

Relational strategies in codependent relationships include:

  • Caretaking and Rescuing:Caretaking or rescuing refers to taking on a role that prioritizes others’ needs above one’s own. In some cases, they may attempt to “fix” their partner’s problems, make excuses for their behavior, or enable destructive patterns.
  • Lack of Boundaries: Codependents often struggle to maintain healthy boundaries, often sacrificing their own needs, desires, and well-being to please their partner.
  • Control and Manipulation: Codependents may resort to controlling or manipulative tactics.
  • Denial and Avoidance: Codependents may deny or minimize problems in the relationship, avoid conflicts, or distract themselves from addressing issues.

While these strategies occur in some form in every relationship, the priority is often overcoming differences and focusing on supporting one another. When these strategies take priority over healthy expression and functional support, it may be a sign of codependency.

Often, building independence and autonomy is a powerful way to modify these relational strategies and move towards relationships where you grow and support your partner functionally and confidently. Two ways to address independence are building self-worth and developing assertiveness.

Codependency and Self-Worth

Codependency can often stem from a lack of self-worth, where an individual’s value is measured by their ability to please others. This need drives people to seek validation through their relationships, creating an unhealthy dynamic where their happiness and sense of self rely on external approval. As a result, individuals may sacrifice their needs, suppress their emotions, and endure negative situations to fill the void of self-worth. The individual usually does not have awareness that this process is taking place.

When self-worth is low, the tendency to rely on others for emotional fulfillment becomes stronger. This reliance can perpetuate a cycle of dependency, where one’s identity and self-esteem are intertwined with their partner’s well-being. Addressing self-worth is, therefore, essential in breaking free from codependent tendencies.

Strategies to Improve Self-Worth

Improving self-worth is a deeply personal journey that must come from within. It’s essential to understand that true self-esteem cannot be sourced from others and must be cultivated internally. While never easy, the journey to improve self-worth improves well-being and emotional regulation.

  • Set Boundaries: Learn to say no and set clear boundaries to protect your emotional and physical well-being. If boundaries are not being respected, it can be helpful to distance yourself from others who don’t respect those boundaries.
  • Self-Reflection: Spend time understanding your own needs, desires, and values. Evaluate whether these needs are your own, or whether they were influenced as important by someone else and may need to be revised.
  • Practice Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and understanding. A practical way to enforce this is by replacing negative thought patterns (such as doubt or self-deprecation) with positive thought patterns.
  • Build a Support Network: Surround yourself with positive and supportive individuals who encourage your growth and independence. A good rule of thumb is to spend time around people who you want to be more like.
  • Seek Professional Help: Psychotherapy and counseling can provide a safe and empathetic space to explore self-worth and develop coping strategies.

Codependency and Assertiveness

The relationship between assertiveness and codependency is a bit more complex but still related to independence and how we interact with others. Assertiveness is a relational strategy that involves confidently and respectfully expressing thoughts, feelings, and boundaries. It can be considered a manifestation of independence, as it enables individuals to maintain their sense of self while engaging with others.

In codependent relationships, the absence of assertiveness can lead to impeded boundaries and individuality. Without assertiveness, individuals may find it difficult to say no, sometimes prioritizing others’ needs over their own. This dynamic not only perpetuates codependent behaviors but can also lead to feelings of resentment and burnout if left unaddressed.

Strategies to Improve Assertiveness

When practiced effectively, assertiveness allows for healthy boundary-setting and promotes balanced, mutually respectful relationships. By cultivating assertiveness, individuals can build their autonomy and ability to communicate needs and boundaries with others effectively.

  • Practice Clear Communication: Use “I” statements such as “I feel” or “I would prefer” to express your thoughts and feelings clearly, without placing blame on others.
  • Use Confident Body Language: Addressing body language takes practice but can significantly affect your psychological state. Standing taller, making eye contact, and using a calm voice not only convey confidence, they can also make you feel more confident.
  • Practicing Saying No: It is okay to say no and decline requests from others. However, like addressing body language, this is a skill that takes practice and should be approached in small steps so that you become more comfortable with the process.
  • Role-Playing Scenarios: Practice assertive responses in a safe, controlled environment, such as with a Psychotherapist, to build confidence for real-life situations.

Addressing Codependency and Building Healthier Relationships

Codependence, at its core, represents a sacrifice of individuality for the safety and comfort of a seemingly secure relationship. Enabling, caretaking, and avoidance are strategies to protect the individual, but they often come at the cost of both individuals’ well-being and mental health.

Breaking free of this cycle is challenging and requires sincere work and dedication. However, by focusing on strategies to foster independence, build self-esteem, and set better boundaries, individuals can engage in more mutually supportive relationships and be more fulfilled in the process.

Taking the first step towards this journey to independence and mutually supportive relationships is often the most challenging part. With the help of a licensed psychotherapist, however, you can safely practice these strategies in a constructive and empathetic setting. With professional support, you can overcome codependent tendencies and cultivate healthier, more empowering relationships.

Get the Support You Need With Start My Wellness

Understanding the patterns of codependency, low self-worth, and lack of assertiveness is the first step towards building healthier and more balanced connections. By building your independence and ability to set boundaries, you can begin to break free from codependent tendencies and foster more fulfilling relationships.

At Start My Wellness, we understand the challenges of overcoming codependency and the importance of professional support in this journey. Our team of licensed psychotherapists and counselors is equipped to provide a safe, empathetic, and constructive environment where you can explore and develop strategies to build independence, set healthy boundaries, and enhance your self-worth.

Take the first step towards a healthier, more independent you. Contact Start My Wellness at (248)-514-4955 and meet our therapists today to begin your journey toward more empowered relationships.


  1. Start My Wellness: What Does It Mean to Be Codependent or Independent?
  2. Start My Wellness: Is Codependency Bad in Relationships?
  3. Start My Wellness: Building Blocks of Self-Worth
  4. Psychology Today: Assertiveness
  5. Start My Wellness: The Difference Between Codependency and Interdependence
  6. Start My Wellness: How to Break the Cycle of Codependency
Dr. Anton Babushkin

Author: Anton Babushkin, PhD

Looking for a Therapist? Start My Wellness has highly experienced Licensed Therapists that are currently accepting new patients.


Blog Posts Tags: Self-Awareness
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