What is wrong with helping others out of love and caring? Absolutely nothing! However, sometimes helping others means neglecting yourself. When we rescue or caretake others we may not have the time, energy, and/or resources to help ourselves adequately. We may also harbor resentment and disappointment that those we help aren’t helping themselves. My definition of codependency is taking responsibility for others emotionally, physically, relationally and/or financially when they are not taking responsibility for themselves. A common consequence is that when we do too much for others, they stop doing things for themselves. Helping others and being selfless is a good thing except when it disables the other person or results in our own self-neglect. Why do some people focus on rescuing others to excess?
Focusing on meeting others’ needs can be a distraction from dealing with your own issues. Sometimes we seek to fix and rescue others in an attempt to avoid dealing with our own baggage. In some cases, we seek to rescue others to feel better about ourselves and to give us a sense of purpose and meaning. Pride may prevent us from acknowledging our own flaws and keep us focused on others’ issues. Sometimes our fears related to control, vulnerability, failure, intimacy and rejection can motivate us to focus on others’ problems rather than our own. Lastly, anger and resentment from not getting our own needs met can keep us stuck in this unhealthy pattern of relating.
As I’ve already mentioned, serving and helping others can be a positive trait when balanced with healthy self-care. What can one do differently? Allow others to fail (including our children) recognizing that people learn more from failure than success. Set appropriate limits and boundaries related to how much you do for others, especially when they’re capable of doing for themselves because otherwise they will feel inadequate and incapable, knowing that they need you to bail them out. Learn to accept help from others and allow people to take care of you every once in awhile. Lastly, take care of yourself, not selfishly, but so that you can sustain your own well-being and continue to positively impact others.