Caring or Codependent? Knowing the Difference

Caring or Codependent? Knowing the Difference caring or codependent? knowing the difference
Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

We’ve all experienced that feeling — caring so deeply for another person that our thoughts persistently revolve around their needs, their moods, their validation. This experience isn’t limited to romantic relationships; it extends to various connections in our lives, whether it’s with friends, siblings, parents, or simply those we encounter daily. But when does caring cross the line into co-dependency?

At first glance, the behaviors of someone who is deeply caring versus codependent may not look all that different. Both may go to great lengths to understand, accommodate, and prioritize their loved one. However, the motivations underlying the behavior tell two very different stories.

A person who cares while maintaining emotional health operates from a foundation of genuine love and compassion, rather than from a sense of emptiness they’re trying to fill. Their care and attentiveness stem from conscious decisions to foster the relationship, not from compulsive impulses. Crucially, they can maintain their sense of identity and self-validation independently of how the person they care about responds to them. They don’t rely on external validation to affirm their worth; instead, they find validation within themselves.

Codependency, on the other hand, arises from deep lack of self-love. The codependent’s sense of worth and identity relies precariously on receiving constant validation and earning affection from the person they care for through relentless caregiving. It’s like throwing out desperate lifelines, attempting to quiet the inner demons of abandonment, unworthiness, and feeling unlovable. The codependent finds their sense of purpose and value solely in sacrificing their own needs to excessively cater to the wants and desires of their loved one. It’s a hidden way of trying to control the situation and a desperate attempt to ensure they are never deprived of their “survival object” again.

A codependent might become upset or very angry when the person they’re caring for doesn’t accept their help because it triggers their deep-seated insecurities and fears. For example, imagine a codependent partner constantly tries to anticipate and meet their significant other’s needs. When their partner rejects their assistance, perhaps saying they can handle things by themselves, the codependent may feel hurt and angry. This rejection can make them question their worth and fuel fears of abandonment, leading to an emotional reaction that seems disproportionate to the situation. If they were acting from a place of care, they would be glad that their partner is acting independently, and it wouldn’t bother them as much.

Here lies the critical difference: the genuinely caring individual operates from a position of personal autonomy and demonstrates interdependence. In contrast, the codependent is intertwined and entangled, scared to reveal their true self, fearing they’ll fall apart without someone’s constant overvalidation. Additionally, they may also consciously or unconsciously restrict the other person’s autonomy or need for autonomy.

Do you Care or Are you Just Scared?

If we’re brutally honest with ourselves, we may find that our “caring” crosses into compulsive territories once it becomes a way for us to escape from our deep fears, insecurities and deep emptiness. Care should be a choice rather than something you do out of fear of the consequences of not caring. The issue with caring out of fear is that you may end up worsening the situation or hurting the other person. When you care out of fear, you strip that person of their life or autonomy. That’s what codependency can look like, you can step on someone’s source of oxygen while thinking you care about them.

In conclusion, caring for someone begins with self-reflection. You’re not inherently a codependent; it’s an identity shaped by past experiences. You may still view life through the lens of past struggles, but those experiences don’t define your worth. You’ve overcome challenges you never thought possible. It’s time to break free from the chains of the past, where others’ actions dictated your self-worth. Once you do, caring for others won’t feel like an obligation but a genuine choice, free from fear.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns, then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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