Codependency and Self-Worth

October 29, 2020 Heidi Green, Psy.D.

Intimate relationships often hold a mirror to us so that we may see the unhealthiest parts of ourselves. I have recently made an important connection between my codependent behaviors and my self-worth, thus unearthing a new phase in my personal wellness journey.

As a therapist, it can be difficult to share my mental health and relational struggles, but I think it's important to remember that therapists are people trying to navigate our lives the best we can, just like everyone else. Here is what I've been learning about the connection between codependency and self-worth, from my personal struggle with both.

Codependent Behaviors Might Hide a Poor Sense of Self-Worth

Until recently, I would not have described myself as codependent. I am quite independent in many ways. I'm highly educated, run a successful private practice, and enjoy many hobbies and wellness practices independently. I have always been able to take care of myself. In fact, I am often the person others come to when they need help. I created a reputation in my immediate family for being a "fixer," and I love to play the hero role, swooping in to help my inner circle in whatever way they need, at a moment's notice.

It wasn't until a recent revelation that I understood my hero role was actually a form of codependency. I realized that I have been helping others to my own detriment, giving too much of myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and even financially. When I recognized my helping behavior was hurting me, I knew I had a problem.

Codependency Reflects Poor Self-Worth

How did I come to this conclusion? I am, by all accounts, a successful person. Most people in my life would describe me as confident and strong-willed. As I reflected on the way I abandon myself to care for others, I realized what drives my unhealthy behavior. I want to be loved, but I'm afraid I'm not lovable, so I do everything humanly possible to help those I love so they will love me back. I'm afraid to disappoint, to not have the solution, to be unable to fix everyone's problems because somewhere deep down, I think it's the only thing that makes me valuable to the people I love most.

This fear of becoming unuseful and thus disposable to my loved ones keeps me trapped in behaviors that do not honor me or serve me well. Each time I take on the hero role, I reinforce the belief that I am only as lovable as my latest helpful deed. To amend this faulty belief, I am working on setting boundaries with myself and others and opening up to my loved ones about my fears so we can have an open dialogue about my feelings. Now, each time I choose not to engage in my codependent fixing behaviors, I reinforce that I am still loved and valued outside of what I can do for others.

Have you struggled with codependency or low self-worth? What skills have helped you overcome your negative beliefs?

APA Reference
Green, H. (2020, October 29). Codependency and Self-Worth, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Heidi Green, Psy.D.

Heidi Green is a clinical psychologist and self-love aficionado. She lives her blissful life in Arizona where she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and snuggling her rescue pups. Find Heidi on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and her blog.

Please note: Dr. Green shares her personal opinions and experiences and nothing written by her should be considered professional or personal services or advice.

Not sayin
January, 22 2024 at 6:25 pm

True co-dependency from my perspective means you actually cannot take care of yourself, or any responsibilities that are needed to shelter yourself, feed yourself, or function alone. Or, you believe that is the case. This is the place I have learned about being in, but still do not have a way out.
I have the NPD type of person who has taken chunk after chunk of my self worth until I have no worth. Through projections and gaslighting me this person has made their fears of me being worthless come true. Everyday my ability to make my own choices gets overridden, by manipulative coercing and controlling behavior that I cannot communicate about. It only enrages this person and leads to a reminder of one kind or another that I cannot actually eat, or shelter myself and what few dear possessions that mean something to me that I have left. 30 years of this and I barely find the strength to wake up, and continue carrying on. There is no hope for me, or my future, I will be stuck like this until the end of my days. THAT is to me what ties true and actual co-dependency and self worth.

Lizanne Corbit
November, 3 2020 at 6:06 pm

This is such a powerful read on so many levels. First, yes! Therapists are human too and I applaud you for openly stating that "simple" fact. The concept of "hero" is one that comes up in a variety of ways and this construct of codependency and self-worth is so beautifully recognized. I think this is something quite a few people may actually read and take pause. Thank you for sharing.

November, 6 2020 at 8:14 pm

Lizanne I appreciate this comment so much! I hope this article helps the other "fixers" and "heroes" out there take pause and explore the underlying self-worth issues that may be driving their behavior.

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