How I Stopped Being Codependent
I used to be a cling-on.
My level of please-like-me is mortifying when I think back to how needy I was for a large chunk of my life. I would have done just about anything to make someone like me, and inevitably, it backfired. Epically. The more I clung to people and the more I strove to make them like me, the more of a joke I became to everyone around me.
Up until I reached Junior High School (Middle or Intermediate school, depending on where you live), I had three friends. That's it. Three. Sure, there were other children I played with, but trust me, none of them considered me their friend. I was just the annoying kid who hung around desperate for people to like her.
When I entered Junior High, my social circle expanded, but not by much. My first friends ditched me because to be brutally raw, my codependency was irritating. So, I made new friends, who sorta kept me around out of pity, I'm sure.
You know how some people who aren't exactly...lookers...have great personalities? Not me. I had nothing going for me to soften the blow of my neediness. Short, too skinny, big frizzy hair, uni-brow, and an overbite - and awkward as hell. I was a prime target for bullies. Or, at the very least, the kid everyone ignored. So, that made me needier because I was lonely.
And forget High School. It only got worse.
When the few girls who kept me around started to date, I was the person they felt sorry for. Boys wanted nothing to do with me. I wasn't even in the dreaded friend-zone. I was in a no-go zone. I did everything to make someone - anyone - like me. I really was shamefully pathetic.
This annoying neediness lasted until I was around twenty-five or so. I didn't have some great epiphany or life-changing moment. One day, I, literally, stopped caring if people liked me. I'd wasted so much of my life being a chameleon. Changing to suit everyone else's needs so they'd throw me a scrap of affection, that I had no clue who this 'Renee' person was. And that scared me. Here I'd spent a quarter of a century on this planet, and I wasn't even sure if the music I listened to was the music I liked. I had grown so used to adapting to other people's likes and dislikes that I had completely lost touch with myself.
Getting to Know Me
Turns out, I was a rocker who loved Metallica, Disturbed, Pantera, etc. I hated my big, teased 'Brooklyn' hair and toned it down to sleek and flat. I re-vamped my wardrobe, and turned 'grunge' pretty much overnight.
I'd gotten my first tattoo when I was nineteen, and a tongue piercing long before it was considered cool - much less mainstream. I was scolded for both. Instead of standing up for myself, I bowed my head and didn't explore additional body art out of fear of being rejected. Once I'd stopped giving a crap, I went and got myself multiple piercings and tattoos. I have since removed my jewelry because, as it turns out, my body doesn't take well to piercings. But, I do have fifteen tattoos - with two prominently displayed on my hands. And am far from finished adding to the collection.
Each day in my own skin moved me farther away from the pathetic, needy kid I'd put out to pasture. But it wasn't easy. I had to claw my way into being myself, fighting tooth-and-nail to break out of my codependency.
I had two friends during this period, both men who didn't give a damn what the world thought of them. I'd be lying if I didn't admit they were a huge influence on me. I saw them being perfectly fine in their own skin, and I slowly adopted that same mindset
I found my footing, and in doing so, realized I stood upon a solid foundation. It didn't take long for me to embrace independence. In fact, I actually liked being alone.
I took myself to the movies and out to dinner. I went for epic walks around my entire neighborhood, enjoying my own company. I thought nothing of hopping on a Manhattan-bound train, alone, to go explore the City.
Being by myself meant I answered to no one. After a lifetime of codependency, it was a refreshing change.
Independence Gave Me Strength
Those years spent settling into myself and shedding my codependent personality, allowed me to give Frankie the best of me. He knows I'm not with him out of neediness. I'm with my husband out of want. There is a huge difference. I want my husband because his love makes my heart happy. I want to hear his voice and feel him lying next to me at night. I want to watch horror movies with him after we send the girls into their rooms for the night. I want to grow old with him, and hold his hand as we walk toward the twilight of our life together. Most of all, I want his face to be the last I see when as I leave this world.
With the 'me' I became after killing off my codependency, Frankie has a partner. If I had stayed that needy wench I once was, he would have been dragging a ball and chain behind him in the form of me clinging to his ankle, begging him to love me. That's no way to live. Not for me, and not for him. That's not being a good role model for our daughters. That's not teaching them strength and courage and independence so they can grow into the best of themselves.
Frankie could have never loved me because he would have never known me. All I would have been was an extension of himself. And that's not only boring, that's sad as hell.
Was it terrifying to stand on my feet? Absolutely. But, as Theodor Roosevelt said: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
He was a wise man, indeed.