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The quest to be Codependent No More: a self-help book recommendation for people-pleasers

Updated: Jun 14

In January, I am offering Self-Help Book Recommendations, because sometimes the best advice comes from a book.

A digital copy of Codependent No More on top of a physical copy.

Sometimes – and perhaps others can relate – I will go online and discover a list of traits that perfectly encapsulates my personality, my tendencies, my habits. Sometimes it’s an enneagram pin, a Myers Briggs meme, or something generalizing about academics or boy-moms.

But none of those lists ever quite hit home the way the Top Traits of Codependents. It was like every trait was a yes. Usually a checklist is like, 5 or more. I checked seven.

And it was like, This all makes sense! My tendency to lock in on one friend and smother them. My need to people-please. My burn-out because “no one appreciates what I do for them!” Yet another thing to have in common with Khloe Kardashian – organization queen, chronic migraine sufferer, and codependent. I would say we should be friends, but clearly we are far too much alike. 

I did what I always do when I need answers, I went looking for a book. After consulting Dr. Google and a few new friends on Reddit – I discovered that the ultimate self-help book recommendation for codependents, the go-to, everyone-who’s-a-codependent-reads-it book was Codependent No More by Melody Beattie.

I couldn’t even wait to go to a bookstore; I immediately downloaded it to my book app. 

This is an older book that has been updated, but the core principles haven’t changed that much.

While most of the book centers around the families around alcoholics and others with compulsive behaviors or chemical dependencies, it can also emerge from oppressive childhoods, narcissistic relationships, and any relationship where you developed the learned behavior that another person’s actions, feelings, emotions, are somehow your responsibility and consequently allow that person’s actions, feelings, or emotions affect your own actions, feelings, or emotions. 

Codependents often:

  • Feel responsible for others

  • Feel compelled to help someone solve their problem

  • Anticipate others needs

  • Have reactionary behavior

  • Have a lack of boundaries – because they were never allowed boundaries

  • Have guilt for not doing more

  • Burn out because they give so much and “no one” appreciates it

And much much more. Codependents feel the need to control, but in the end are being controlled by others. We live our lives tip-toeing around how others might react or respond to anything we do. Codependents are hypervigilant and cannot relax for fear of what every little action of our own might trigger in others. Codependents care so much about everyone else’s feelings, needs, or comforts and feel guilty when they put themselves first. 

It’s exhausting. 

This book was incredibly helpful in showing the many ways that I exhibit co-dependent behaviors. Primarily my tendency to “help”. I once had a student write in an evaluation that they have never had a teacher who was so quick to respond to their emails. Because I worried that if I didn’t immediately respond, I would be letting them down. I did not have healthy boundaries with anyone because I had been conditioned to respond to other people’s needs first. My conditioning was that my role was to be in service to others and if I slipped up, the consequences would be chaos: loss of money, loss of family, loss of community standing, or just a loud screaming match.

And while I was a kid and none of my family’s particular brand of dysfunction was my fault, you can’t just stop behaving a certain way when you reach adulthood, even with the knowledge that you were conditioned to act a certain way. It’s already been burned into my brain. And moving away from home, marrying someone who is not an alcoholic, and seeing a therapist once a week for most of that adulthood, has not magically fixed this issue. 

But I had a name for this tendency. I can now identify when I am being codependent, (most of the time, anyway). 

And because of that, I am working hard to rewire that early life training. After reading this book, it made me recognize that my feelings of needing to be in the service of others has made it difficult for me to believe that I deserve to be a success on my own. I had always been made to feel that others were destined to be great and I was destined to hold their purse while they did it. My impulse is to ask how can I be of service?, and I am working diligently to change that impulse. 

Because I cannot both be an amazing writer if I am occupying all my time worrying about how everyone else feels. I can’t write if I am worrying my husband and children and being neglected. I can’t craft realistic, well-rounded characters if I am worried someone in my audience might be repelled by them. I can’t sell my books if I am worried my potential buyer will dislike something I made.

I highly recommend Codependent No More by Melody Beattie for anyone who thinks this might also be them. There is also a workbook for those inclined.

Read Books. Wear Boots.




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