There’s really no substitute for healthy self-esteem, but many of us try to find it outside of ourselves. Instead of doing good work for our own satisfaction, we do it for the approval of others.
If you grew up performing to get positive attention or the love you craved, more than likely you have cast yourself in that role as an adult. The good news is, your desire to please may actually be working for you on many levels. Overachieving, perfectionism, and enabling can play well in the workplace. Eighty-hour workweeks can often lead to bigger titles and more money. On the flip side, working that hard can also produce stress-related illnesses, divorce, and alcoholism.
If you’ve been looking for validation from your boss, coworkers, or clients, it’s time to look inside yourself instead.
In his book, “Healing the Shame that Binds You,” John Bradshaw talks about high achievers who seek approval from a place of shame. For those of us who played the family hero, we can end up becoming “human doings” instead of human beings--performing to overcompensate for bad feelings about ourselves.
Codependency is defined as “a loss of personal identity in a process of painful external validation.” Below are different types of workplace scenarios charged with codependency:
Your Boss = Your Parent
During my first ten years in business, I would put my bosses in parental roles--looking for their approval and special handouts. If their reaction wasn’t what I expected, I’d feel unhappy and unfulfilled.
Validation by Client
Many of us in the service business are people pleasers without boundaries looking for recognition and praise. By focusing on meeting our client’s needs we are secreatly looking to meet our own.
Work Husband or Wife
It can be a positive thing to find a coworker of the opposite sex that will ride the corporate ladder with you. But often this is a one up-one down relationship where resentments can form easily.
Mom and Pop Business Owners
Not only have I worked with my husband, but I have also consulted with many husband and wife teams in a struggle for control and power. There’s often difficulty recognizing individual needs and wants while each spouse tries to convince the other of what they should think or feel.
If you’re in the habit of throwing out a life preserver to those that need to be rescued, I’m guessing that you’re exhausted! That’s because codependency doesn’t work in the long run. You’ll eventually hit a wall. To find out if you already have, answer these four questions honestly:
Do I control others to relieve my fears?
Do I let others control me for fear of their abuse or neglect?
Do I adapt or change behavior for others?
Do I validate my value and worth as a person through others?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, start to become aware of the underlying feelings you have when you are controlling, caretaking, fixing, rescuing, people pleasing, or playing the victim or martyr. You’ll begin to realize that you may not be acting out these behaviors from a loving place, but a lonely place.
Lao-Tzu, the founder of Taoism once said, “If I keep from imposing on people, they become themselves.” It took me a long time to see the truth in this, and when I did, it set me free--and everyone else in my life.
Robin Fisher Roffer is a leading brand strategist and reinvention specialist. Founder and CEO of Big Fish Marketing, she is the author of Make A Name For Yourself: 8 Steps Every Woman Needs To Create A Personal Brand Strategy For Success, The Fearless Fish Out Of Water: How To Succeed When You’re The Only One Like You, and Reinventing Yourself: 10 Steps To Shifting Your Career Into High Gear. Learn about her Reinvent Yourself! Workshops at http://relevanceinstitute.com/