Back in the early days of my journey, every day was painful to get through. I was in a constant state of heartache. Depression had become my best friend and I’d never before known fear that could completely cripple you like that which I was experiencing.

I used to be an “If only,” person. I’d be happy, if only I was thinner. I’d be happy, if only I made more money. I’d be happy, if only my mother wasn’t so critical.

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

I always looked for things outside of myself. I always looked to others for permission and to show me my value. I also never understood or owned my own power. It wasn’t until I realized that I had it backwards that my life started to change.

It is ingrained in Codependents that our well-being is dependent upon our ability to please. We’ve been programmed to be keenly aware of the interests of those closest to us, even if it comes at the expense of our own well-being. We’ve learned how to pick up on cues from those around us that tell us we’re good, or that we have to try harder. We were taught that the reflection of ourselves in someone else’s eyes was somehow more important than our own view of ourselves, so if someone else was happy with us, only then did we have value.

It’s very hard to shake this mentality especially when it has been played out again and again and again. The key is that we have to learn to start looking inward. We have to teach ourselves the right way to perceive our environment by putting our own needs first. We have to learn that our opinions about ourselves matter. They not only matter, they are the only opinion that actually does.

“What other people think of me is none of my business. One of the highest places you can get to is being independent of the good opinions of other people. ” – Wayne Dyer

It’s important to be aware of small changes we can make that will make a huge difference to the way we perceive others, ourselves and the way we interact with our environment. I’ve listed a few to keep in mind:

Trade in your need to please for the pass it back technique: Rather than internalizing the behavior and beliefs of other people I started to see myself independent of that person’s judgement of me. I stopped getting hurt by what they said or did and started looking at them. I learned that healthy people don’t go around acting out inappropriately and they certainly don’t get off on hurting people. So I learned that when I see outrageous behavior in others, especially when it’s directed at me, it actually has nothing to do with me and I don’t let it affect me. Instead I pass it back to them where it belongs.

Become like Teflon: My sister-in-law was telling me recently that my six year old nephew was the target of bullying at school. Seeing such a sweet little boy become so hurt by what others were saying about him was heartbreaking. It changed his happy-go-lucky personality into someone who was shy and withdrawn. I said to him, “Watch this. Blanca (my sister-in-law) you’re ugly.” His face looked shocked. “Is your mommy ugly?” I asked. He shook his head vigorously. “So what did you learn? That just because someone says something doesn’t make it true. Miserable people say miserable things. When someone needs to make you feel small, so they can feel big, it tells you that there is something wrong with that person.” Once you’ve learned to stop internalizing the behavior of others and you learn to pass it back, you can let things just bounce off of you, because you get really good at looking at the source. You figure out their agenda and you just don’t play their game.

Simplify your life: I started paying attention to any person, place or thing that made me feel bad and I got rid of them. How I felt became my top priority. If I was hanging around certain people that made me feel drained I just stopped hanging around with them. If some people in my life acted like drama queens I left them on their stage and walked out. I looked for any type of peak and valley relationship and I left it behind. I only allowed stable, responsible and positive people a front row seat in my life. If a material object made me feel bad, I got rid of it. If going somewhere made me feel uncomfortable, I didn’t go. I started practicing putting my well-being at the top of my priorities list.

Get to know you and embraced all of those parts of you that you feel are unlovable: When you live your life to please others you forget about who you are and what your needs and desires are. It’s important on any journey of self-discovery that you figure out who you are. Take a look at all those aspects of yourself that you have been taught to hate and feel shame for and realize that all those little quirks and imperfections are what make you the wonderful person that you are. I used to hate my hair. I have curly, frizzy hair and I always wanted shiny, poker straight hair. I would punish my hair everyday with product and heat, making it just the way I wanted. I still style my hair, but when weather threatens, I just put it up and don’t really care too much about it. I’ve stopped expecting it to be perfect. I was also taught to feel ashamed of my body and trying to accept every part of it has been a struggle, but I’ve learned that I’m not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Some people are going to love me and others…not so much. The difference is that I’ve become focused on those that do and I’ve stopped trying to convince those that don’t.

“There’s no part of me that I don’t feel completely comfortable showing, exposing.” – Jennifer Aniston on new husband Justin Theroux

Be authentically you: Learn what makes you happy, what is important to you, what your morals and values are and live your life according to those things. That’s how you know you’re living an authentic life, when everything is in harmony and you’re not trying to be someone you’re not.

Do what makes you happy: This sounds easy enough, but sometimes you’ll find that doing what makes you happy will contrast with what someone else wants you to do. There have been many times in the last little while that others have wanted something from me, or expected me to do something that I didn’t want to do. They would take up an inordinate amount of my time, doing them wouldn’t make me happy, quite the opposite in fact, nor would they add any value to my life. When I get to feeling that way I’ve learned to be ok saying, “No.” No is hard for pleasers, especially when those other people will judge you and not be happy with your decision. I’m sure people have thought I was being selfish, but then I go back to rule # 1 and 2 – ‘what you think of me is none of my business’ and I’ve learned to be like Teflon, so it just slides off.

You don’t attract what you want. You attract what you are: This concept really scared me, especially while I was going through day after day of heartache and depression. Cognitively I knew that the longer I stayed in this emotional funk the longer the environment would continue to bring low emotional energy people and low emotional circumstances into my life. So I literally had to battle my feelings. It’s easy to stay in an emotional funk, sure it hurts like hell, but it’s a lot easier than say, doing something like….changing. Understand that you have to be an active participant in your emotional healing. Nothing gets better until you decide it’s going to get better and you take one little step after another, battling the whole time.

By the end of it you will know what it feels like to be a warrior. You’ll understand how much control you really do have and how to put you and your well-being first.

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