An Empaths Way out of Codependency and People Pleasing.
JAN 2 2022| 5 MINS
Written By Brandie Janay Sanders
One day this past summer I decided to attend a class on dream interpretation and Astro travel. She mentioned the importance of relaxation and the absence of fear when trying to Astro travel. I instantly inquired what that means for those of us who struggle with anxiety and whose minds are constantly in somewhat of a state of fear and worry. She responded by looking at me and saying… it’s not fear that fuels your anxiety it’s your empathy. She insinuated she felt my energy and my strong desire to help others, followed by saying “the people around you are literally sucking the life out of you because of your empathy… they are draining you.” I had to actually hold back my tears sitting in the very middle of this circle almost directly across from her because why the hell was I getting choked up by her accurate interpretation of my life at that current moment? She went on to say, “in order for empaths to be successful in calming their minds they need to frequently ground themselves and get in touch with reality. I had never been to any type of psychic class or had a reading of any sort before so I was quite taken back by her words and her ability to share something about me with me that I hadn’t even realized myself. I was very, very drained at that moment and in a place of defeat with myself emotionally.
I started to take a look at the relationships around me and think about why I often felt so drained. From my personal to professional interactions I often always find myself doing the most… literally. I was always putting forth all the effort to be good enough. This worked well for me in some aspects, especially when it came to my education and professional career. I was always going above and beyond for others which definitely was appeasing to my employers and helped me move up quite quickly in my executive career. However, I always struggled with my personal relationships and dealing with people when it came to this because once I felt my people-pleasing efforts were not appreciated or undervalued I was quick to become defensive and often act irrationally. There are several reasons a person may get angry when they don’t feel appreciated or feel rejected. But for me, it often came from a place of hurt and disappointment in myself, because I genuinely liked being good at things and making others happy… it’s why I chose a helping profession. However, in my first year as the big boss for a non-profit, I found this role was much less task-oriented and much more centered on the relationships I had with my team. This was challenging because the team always has concerns they needed to address with the boss and when they felt I did not handle their concerns appropriately that was where things became challenging. As a leader, I couldn’t just take that feedback and overreact to it. I couldn’t just flip on people or tell them to get the fuck away from me like I wanted because it was now my job to handle rejection and confrontation with ease.
So I had to change my approach and had to stop doing so much for others on my team, that I stopped encouraging them to be self-sufficient on their own.
I had to stop testing every challenge as a threat to my ego and a reflection of my ability to do my job. The reality is leadership is all about hard conversations and handling your team delicately but effectively.* so I had to stop allowing the members of my team to drain me, and start reminding them of what they have to pour into themselves and each other. But, my professional interactions were not my biggest worry it was personal ones. I always struggled with my relationships with others, but at this point in my life, I had lost several friends quite quickly and been quite unsuccessful in dating. I had dwelled on these things for hours and quite often but this time I started to dwell on something different. I started to look at myself and what attracted me to these people that I felt so disappointed by in the first place. In the past I had always wondered by they stayed around me, or why they did what they did to me. But it wasn’t really about them at all. I was a great person, always filled with curiosity and concern for the well-being of others. I was easy to talk to, vibrant, and loving. I mean who wouldn’t want to be around me? But even after I noticed the people around me who are giving so much of myself to, were not reciprocating that same energy I stayed… often much longer than I should have.
When you continue to pour into people and situations that are not doing the same for you, that leaves you feeling VERY drained. Once I moved past my anger and resentment for these people, I realized that I spent a lot of time feeling unappreciated and rejected when that wasn’t at all the case. In actuality I stopped paying attention to my own needs, and if I don’t pay attention to them, how could others around me?
People stayed often because it was beneficial in some way, but I stayed because I hoped that one day a one-sided relationship would start to feel mutual. And I waited and waited until that hope was gone and I was left feeling depleted after giving so much and feeling so empty walking away with nothing. When you genuinely care for others and want to help people, it’s easy to go out of your way to do so without paying attention to your own needs at the time. This can be especially dangerous when coupled with insecurity, anxiety, and attachment issues. I became so caught up in making sure I could be there for other people, It became a part of my life and in turn, made me feel needed… but never appreciated because my needs weren’t being met in return. I got comfortable in that process and attached myself to emotionally unavailable and immature individuals… THE Worst. But for the first time ever, I was aware of this and how toxic it has been on my life and mental stability.
I learned to start paying better attention to myself and how I feel after being around someone. Do they ask about my day or have a genuine concern as to my well being or do they simply enjoy talking to me about their concerns and themselves?
I’ll always be a caring person at my core. I’ll always take pride and pleasure in being able to help someone out of a difficult situation. But I will no longer ignore my own feelings or sacrifice my needs to do so. In an effort to cultivate healthy relationships and emotional maturity and stability, I will stop letting my fear of rejection make me codependent on others. I’ll always be an empath, but a people pleaser I am no more.