One of the books that hit me in the gut right after my divorce was a book called “Codependent No More” by Melody Beatty. I didn’t know what “codependent” meant, and I think most people hear “codependency” and think that it means that you’re dependent on the other person for your happiness—but that’s incorrect. It actually means that your happiness comes from the other person being dependent on you.
I learned that a lot of us with chaotic childhoods or abuse situations in our past tend to like to control things (my parents are good people, 10 kids just means there was a lot of chaos). We didn’t get a whole lot of praise or attention from our parents or anyone in general growing up, so we have a tendency of seeking those things—hence the codependency. I spent a whole lifetime seeking those things. If I found someone that said I did a really good job at something and gave me an award, I would do it even if it didn’t necessarily bring me joy. We have a tendency to be drawn to those things.
But, that feeling never lasts long. If we don’t get really clear on what is important to us—like starting that business or podcast, going on that family vacation, or saving for that second home—your joy will be hollow and temporary. What is really going to give you the most joy, pleasure, and fulfillment in your life?
Outside validation is not sustainable
True love starts in the mirror. YOU are the love you seek! It’s a journey to get there, but it’s a journey that all of us have to make at some point in our life. Being a people-pleaser and defining your worth from any source other than inside of yourself doesn’t last. I know first hand.
We tend to focus on the few things that didn’t go exactly how we wanted them to go. It’s so easy to keep our attention on our mistakes—something you wish you wouldn’t have said, a conversation that didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, or a business meeting that didn’t go exactly the way you wanted. When we focus on what’s gone wrong, and we completely forget how far we’ve come, what we’ve accomplished, and all of the other “wins” that happened in the 23 other hours of our day. Maybe that one hour didn’t go do well, but don’t dwell on it!
That’s why it starts with yourself—we can never get true joy and fulfillment if we are getting an accolade or praise from an outside person. It has to come from us. External gratification will fade. I know all of us want to be loved and hear kind words—and we obviously need to hear those words sometimes. But it fades after a while. And if it doesn’t come from within, you won’t believe it when someone gives you a compliment. “You look great!” “No, I don’t.” …It really won’t make you feel any better.
It’s all really about the work we need to do to get into the truth of who we are and what we have accomplished, and getting to that gratitude again for the experiences that have made us who we are—the good, the bad, and the ugly, because we’ve all had trauma in one form or another. Do that healing work and say “You know what, yes. There are a few things that didn’t go right. Yes, I’m not really good at a few things. But we are not just those things. We are not the few things we have done wrong. We are a whole, complete, amazing human being that has accomplished a whole lot and gone through a whole lot.” It’s more about remembering that—constantly remembering that and refocusing on it. “That didn’t go well, but I did do this well,” so we are not pigeon-holed into one little mistake. I’m not just a divorced woman. I’m not just a foreclosure.
Write about the experiences you have. Get that bird’s eye view, and then you can drill down to the truth of the matter. “I would have not learned this specifically had I not gone through that.” Make a list of 20 things you wouldn’t have learned without certain experiences—based on everything! It applies to every single interpersonal relationship we have. It’s so important. It’s changed me in so many ways. And just remember that it’s always a work in progress. It’s daily work.
Character over reputation
“Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” -John Wooden
What matters most is what happens when nobody’s looking—those quiet moments with your husband and children, alone at home. When you give yourself quantifiable goals for what you want to accomplish in those moments—the day-to-day stuff—you can know you’re doing a “good job” (whatever that looks like for you). Nobody’s going to tell you you’re doing a good job there with those things that matter most to you—your kids definitely aren’t going to tell you anything. I never get anything from my kids!! You have to develop a sense of accomplishment for yourself. Because everyone makes mistakes—huge mistakes! And everyone else is judging you from the outside. How would my mom know I’m being a good mom? All she’s got to go off of is outside appearances.
We have so many pressures in our businesses, homes, and families to be perfect and do things a certain way—but they’re actually just perceptions of what’s real. So when we get crystal clear about what’s important to us, we make small quantifiable goals to get us closer to those things. Then when we do them, we know we did a good job. I can spend hours making a beautiful pamphlet or logo—even if the clients hated them, I would have felt secure enough in my self-worth to know that I loved what I put in front of them and that I was proud of my work. I wouldn’t need that outside validation.
Ask yourself: How can I create the belief in myself that I am enough? What does that look like for me? What one thing, if I did it, would make me feel good? Because we’re all different. We all have different goals, dreams, lives, and jobs. What could I accomplish right now, today, this morning, or this week, that would make me proud of myself? Little by little, you will work on yourself. You’ll be able to say “I worked on that. I’m proud of that.” Over time it develops into your identity. And soon they’ll become the thoughts that you have most of the time.
Wishing you lots of love,