Codependency and Selfishness

Codependency and Selfishness


What I’ve noticed about my codependency in relation to my selfishness is that my disease has led me to take care of others for most of my life. Most of my time on this earth has been consumed by what someone else needs, wants, and has to have. Taking care of them has been priority number one, along with feeling their feelings and being the scapegoat for whatever has gone wrong.


Juliet’s Codependency Patterns and Feelings at work here:

  • Your moods and actions are my fault.
  • If you hurt, I hurt; I think I have to fix you.
  • Your customs and thoughts are always right. I’m always wrong.
  • I am obsessed with making you happy, with saving you.
  • My fear of abandonment and fear of rejection determine how I behave.
  • Please don’t get mad at me. I’ll do or be whatever you say.
  • I think I have to be perfect and so do you. Nothing less will do.
  • I am less than.[1]


Juliet’s Feelings:

  • This is all my fault. I did something wrong.
  • They are right, I am wrong.
  • They are going to abandon me.
  • They are going to reject me.
  • I don’t deserve good things.
  • I am less than.
  • I am ashamed.
  • I’m bad and now everyone knows it. I’ll be alone forever.
  • Different from everyone.[2]



I have focused on the needs of others so much in my life that at one point I woke up and realized I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted, or how I felt. Then I came to CoDA. I started learning who I was, what I liked and wanted. Most important of all, I strengthened my relationship with God. I learned what He wanted me to do with my life. So when I finally came face-to-face with who I was, who God wanted me to be and what He wanted me to do, I wanted to spend all of my time in that place doing what God wanted me to do.


By this point, my inner child had made me wake up and pay attention. My inner child was saying, “What about me, when do I matter? When do I count?”


I hadn’t had much time to answer those questions and fulfill those requests of hers, making time for her, letting her know she matters, that she counts and that what she wants is important. So in the beginning I may have been a little selfish about my self-care. I was just learning to take care of myself. I am also learning what is mine to take care of and what isn’t. That distinction is really important for me to understand and respond to appropriately.



Positive Affirmations:

  • Taking care of myself is not selfish, it’s self-care and that is a good thing.
  • It’s okay for me to put myself first.
  • Juliet deserves good things.
  • Juliet matters.
  • Juliet deserves to be happy, even when someone else isn’t.
  • Juliet deserves to take time off without feeling guilty, even if someone else is busy or working.


The good news is that as long as I follow my process, I can defuse the feelings I identified above and get all that negative stuff out of there.



Working through Selfishness with My Processes


So let’s plug my processes in to an instance when the phone is ringing after hours and my inner critic has called me selfish.


Process One:


  1. I consciously breathe in and out slowly. Breathing with awareness brings me back to the present moment. It gives me an automatic time-out.
  2. I become aware of what I’m doing.
  3. I ask myself, What’s going on in my body, feelings, and brain?

Body: Tense, heart-racing, muscles are clenched

Feelings: Feeling threatened, unsafe, a little angry, but guilty, shameful, bad, and selfish as well

Brain: My brain says that my boundaries are feeling violated and I need to step back and take care of myself. My inner critic, however, is labeling me as bad and selfish for not taking care of the other person. I am believing him.

  1. If possible, I write down the information and journal about how I’m feeling. I feel guilty, shameful, bad, for being selfish. My inner critic is after me.
  2. I pray for the willingness to accept the situation and information as it is. God help me be willing to accept the situation as it is. Someone I care about is calling too late and I need to be in bed. Help me to be willing to accept that I may have to disappoint them, and take care of myself by getting some sleep.
  3. I pray for acceptance of the situation. God, I am now willing. Please help me accept the fact that someone is calling too late and I may have to let them down by not answering the phone.
  4. I admit powerlessness over said problem. I am powerless over what this person will think of me by not answering the phone.
  5. Then I become willing to feel my feelings. I am willing to feel my feelings of feeling threatened, unsafe, a little angry, but guilty, shameful, bad, and selfish as well.
  6. I pray for God to help me with the pain I feel inside. Dear God, please heal the painful feelings I feel inside of being bad, selfish, blamed, shameful, threatened, unsafe, guilty, and a little angry.
  7. I put a note in my God Box about it. Dear God, I give you the situation with this person on the phone and my feelings and the solution to the highest good of all involved.
  8. Where can I put my mind that is not on this? I go do something else.
  9. In this case the something else would be to go to sleep.
  10. I have to remember that God doesn’t make junk. I am a beloved child of God just the way I am. I don’t have to do anything to be okay. I am okay just because I’m me. I must never forget that. I am a worthwhile person just because I exist.
  11. From now on, I will turn off the phone at 8:00 pm and will stay away from it until morning. I will deal with the problems or issues then. I will pray and give it to God too. He will help.
  12. Even if I listen to the phone and feel awful or pick up too late as the critic has convinced me what a selfish person I am, I am still okay. I’m still a good person. I am a beloved child of God. I can always talk to God about it. He’ll help me.
  13. Take myself to Tanglewood: If I’m not near my picture, I use my cross ring as an anchor to remind me to go to Tanglewood in my mind. This helps me relax.



After I go through Process One, I proceed to Process Two — Make a Plan:


  1. I recheck my anxiety level. How am I feeling? Better, less sad, less panicked, more relaxed
  2. I breathe big and deep.
  3. What’s the information? The phone is ringing too late and I can hear it and I’m feeling selfish for not answering. The machine got it and I feel selfish for not calling back.
  4. What are my choices? I can call back and be resentful and cranky about it, or I can go to sleep, wake up fresh tomorrow, and call the person back when it’s convenient for me.
  5. I hold the outcome in the Light of God, give thanks, and visualize what I want. God I give this situation to you to the highest good of all involved. What do you want me to do?
  6. I take action in the direction of the choices I’ve made. If needed, I plan my additional steps. I listen for God’s guidance and directions.
  7. I affirm my choice and accept it. God is telling me to go to sleep and handle the situation in the morning. There is no urgency in spirit. Seasoning things overnight is always a good plan.
  8. I give it to God by either placing my problem in an imaginary goblet and offering it up to Him with arms outstretched or by getting on my hands and knees and giving it to Him. Thank you God for taking this off my plate.
  9. I ask myself, Where could I put my mind that’s not on this?
  10. In this instance, I go to bed, read for a few minutes, and turn out the light.
  11. I thank God. Thank you God for taking care of me.



Now if I call the person back and then they react negatively to my not being there for them originally, a slightly modified Process Four (that I developed for my teaching life) helps me out: not in TOC


  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Don’t react.
  • Stick to business and take care of yourself.
  • Think before you speak.
  • This too shall pass.
  • Let it go.



Working the Principles to Overcome Selfishness


I think one of the biggest things that has helped me overcome all of my defects, but especially my selfishness, is working the 12 Spiritual Principles and their corresponding steps.


Honesty: I become honest with myself and admit that I’m powerless over whatever the situation is, or even over my selfishness. I also have to be honest with myself about how I feel, what my needs are, and how I’m going to make sure they are met.

Faith: I have faith that God is there, that He is all powerful, and that He cares for me. I also have faith that He knows how I feel and He can help me with the situation.

Surrender: I give my life, my will, the situation, and my selfishness over to Him.

Soul searching: I do an inventory of how I’m feeling, what I’ve done in the situation, and why. If I’m being selfish in the situation, I need to recognize that. If I’m feeling depleted and need to take care of myself, I need to recognize that too.

Integrity: I tell God and my sponsor how I’m feeling, what I’ve done and why.

Acceptance: I accept myself, what I’ve done and my selfishness, if it is an active factor in said situation, as it is. If I am just taking care of myself and am justified in doing so, then I may still feel selfish because that is my habit, my training, especially if the person is opposed to me taking care of myself over them. Either way, just accepting how I feel and what’s going on is such a huge relief. Suddenly the pressure is off. I just feel better about myself, my world, and my place in it. It’s okay. I’m dealing with what is. This is me.

Humility: This is the principle that helps the most with my selfishness. There is a God, it is not me. I am not in charge. I am here to do God’s will, not my own. Then I humbly ask God to show me if I’m being selfish or just taking care of myself. I ask Him to show me what He wants me to do about it.

Willingness: I am willing to admit I’ve made mistakes, hurt people if that is the case here. I am willing to make plans to make amends, even if those amends are a change in my behavior. That counts as an amends.

Forgiveness: Then I forgive myself and others for everything that has occurred in the situation at hand. I forgive myself for whatever actions my selfishness has had on others. I forgive them for whatever it is I think they’ve done to me.

Perseverance: I keep working my program, working on myself, and do a daily inventory of my behaviors during the day. When I’m wrong, I admit it. This still is not easy for me, but I do it.

Making contact (spirituality): Worship through prayer, meditation, bible study, and a constant contact with God all help me get rid of my selfishness because I’ve placed God at the center of my life.
Service: Nothing like service work to remind me that it’s not all about me. It’s all about God and what he wants. It’s about reaching out to others in need and sharing my recovery. That is me getting out of my selfishness and into a place of compassion and care.

Simplicity: I keep my life simple, with God at the center of my world. I live my life with clarity of purpose focused on God and what He wants, not what I want.


The principles are vital to my recovery from my selfishness. I will continue to work them and apply them to my life. Thanks be to God, I am grateful.


[1] Adapted from the Family of Origin packet materials provided by the Sequoia Recovery Center.

[2] Ibid.

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