I am often asked by friends and clients what the difference is between the “sacrifice” that comes with loving another and that line you can cross where it becomes codependent – Or when is the act of making a boundary not really self care at all but just plain selfishness.
I have no easy answer. I still struggle with this at times myself. I do know that the more mindful and centered I am, the better I am at self care and care for others. I have been called selfish when I was in fact just making a boundary and I have been called caring when I was in fact feeding my ego’s need for approval by helping someone (not true altruism). Bottom line for me is, if I decide to slow down and “pay attention” I can usually discern the difference, or at the very least be open to hearing feedback from trusted friends/teachers.
Sure there are days where I choose to not learn, stay overwhelmed and generally just not give a fuck. But at least I know that’s what I’m doing now. It’s not as unconscious a behavior as it has been in the past. Awareness has its benefits, even without immediate change in behavior.
Below is another Daily Dharma from Tricycle Magazine that puts caring and co-dependence into a good perspective and explains it way better than I can. See you on the Middle Way:
Supporting Right Livelihood
The most important step in building support for right livelihood is giving back more than you get. It’s not really a matter of keeping track in some kind of ledger book. It’s more a function of the attitude that you adopt in caring for yourself and those around you. People tend to mirror the way they are treated. If you show an interest in helping and sharing, those around you will start helping you and sharing more with you. If you empathize with other people’s situations, they tend to empathize more with yours. . . . The key is to be active about it. Look for opportunities to cooperate. With a proactive attitude of supporting others, you will seldom experience a shortage of support from others.
A simple caution is in order, however, when it comes to giving to others. . . . Give more than you get, but not more than you’ve got.
— Claude Whitmyer, Mindfulness and Meaningful Work
from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book