The codependent and people pleaser struggles to meet people’s expectations, struggles to say no, overcommits in an effort to avoid displeasing others, often exhausts themselves to reach this impossible and unclear expectation that they feel they must abide by.
The codependent is often the person always saying yes to the overtime or the extra duty at work, meanwhile feeling an intense resentment knowing this means they may not follow through with a promise to a loved one or will have to work extra hard to get back in good graces. The codependent is the yes person; the ride or die, the always reliable person. This is the person who I can tell you was tired of being that for everyone else but themselves.
This pandemic provided freedom for these people, released them from having to live a life without boundaries. The pandemic allowed people to say no, to set intentions of self improvement, individualize, practice self-care and find peace with that.
Boundaries in a pandemic were almost like training wheels to learn to ride a bike. Boundaries are not always a clear and visible line in the sand, they can be emotional, clouded, unclear and sometimes like tripwire.
The majority of us learn to ride a bike in these steps: by first being instructed on the motion our legs should make; then putting on a helmet; then we hop on the bike with training wheels as someone gently pushes us; then the hard part of peddling and steering.
With boundaries it follows these steps:
- learn what boundaries are and what they have looked like growing up and what they are presently;
- bolster ourselves up by looking at other scary things we have tried and succeeded at;
- deciding what boundaries we need to have, modify, or enhance;
- test out the “easiest” of the boundaries and compare the outcomes to how we played them out in our heads;
- then maintaining those boundaries even when others struggle to like them or understand their necessity.
The pandemic allowed us a reason to say no I can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t, but not to say it came with no challenges. Several codependents struggled with saying no despite knowing it was the safest smart thing to do as people reacted negatively to this boundary. However, for many people knowing the CDC had their back and agreed with these boundaries was empowering.
The work for codependents over the pandemic was really overcoming and challenging the fear of how people would react to boundaries while recognizing the gift that boundaries can be and the power they have to help individuals, relationships and communities.