Speak up babes, in whatever way you can, we need your voices! - Jo Westwood.
Hey Jo, thanks so much for being involved in The Girl Gang! I would love it if you could introduce yourself please:
Hi Girl Gang! My name is Jo and I’m The Codependence Coach. I help women to escape from codependency, reclaim their lives with confidence and live Lovingly Fierce. I’m also the crazy dog mama of four sighthounds… Two greyhounds, a Galgo and a Borzoi!
What is your definition of codependence?
I define codependence as addiction to gaining validation outside of yourself as well as an addiction to dysfunctional and abusive relationships.
I would love for you to share your journey to discovering independence & self confidence?
My journey to discovering independence and self confidence is really my journey of discovering my codependence. Without understanding what was causing me to repeat the same exhausting, soul destroying cycle over and over again, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. The switch really flipped for me when I got married. My now ex husband is a narcissist, and it was his abusive behaviour that finally opened my eyes to the dysfunction in my own behaviour. Before my marriage ended I started attending 12 Step meetings. Taking ownership of my own patterns and actions helped me to change my life, recover from codependency and start being the badass I always really felt like I was inside!
As a life coach I am sure you work with people from all walks of life, is there something that intrinsically links them to seeking support?
All my clients find that they struggle with codependency or the symptoms of it: a fundamental lack of self worth, people pleasing, overgiving and feeling frustrated, resentful and exhausted, controlling, manipulating with kindness, the inability to ask for what they want and need, problems with setting and keeping boundaries and consistently attracting abusive or dysfunctional relationships. These traits don’t discriminate - they can affect people of any age or background. The good news is, wherever my clients are at in their life journey I can help - it’s never too late!
Do you find people generally will be on the brink of self destruction before they reach out for help?
Quite often when people reach out for help they have reached a breaking point in their life in some way. There is usually a trigger. Whether it’s the breakdown of a relationship, feeling totally exhausted and drained by work or family, or just getting utterly fed up of going round and round, repeating the same situations over and over again! AKA - getting tired of your own shit!
Why do you think women in particular struggle so much with their own self confidence?
We live in a patriarchal misogynistic society that seeks to keep womxn feeling never good enough and always striving to do better (but rarely ever achieving this mystical level of ‘good enough’), along the way competing with and putting each other down in a desperate attempt to lift ourselves up. We’re taught ever contradictory messages: Confidence is sexy, but too much confidence is intimidating, unfeminine and a turn off. Slim and toned is in, but curves are hot. Be slender and dainty, but strong and defined, with boobs and a bum. Be coy and sweet, but also be upfront and forward. Lean in, but not too much. Use your words, but only when the people around you deem it ok to. Have enough age to have wisdom, smarts and experience, but not too much that you’re old and wrinkly and irrelevant because youth, beauty and fertility are the ultimate prize in womanhood. Exhausting! How are we meant to navigate a system like this, that sets us up to fail whatever we do? The only thing we can do is tune out the external bullshit and tune in to what feels right and good for us. That is the only true source of self confidence.
What advice would you give someone struggling with self confidence?
You need to find ways to build your fundamental sense of self worth. It might start with looking at where this lack of self worth comes from, not to blame and absolve yourself of responsibility, but to be able to take ownership of your life moving forward. Too often we’re taught as children and young adults, that we are in some way not good enough or unloveable. Things that we can see as adults are simply not logically true. They were only reflections and projections of the dysfunction and pain of the adults around us. When we can start to see these ingrained beliefs for what they are: untruths, we can start to unpick their foundational hold on us. Then we can begin the proactive work of starting to love ourselves. If we try to love ourselves before we unpick and heal the reasons why we don’t, it’s like sticking a band-aid on a cancer and thinking it will be enough. Next steps are super practical: do anything and everything that makes you feel truly worthy. Cut as much crap that makes you feel unworthy as possible. Clean house - literally and figuratively! Let go of relationships, social media connections, eating, drinking and exercise habits that don’t serve you and start to fill your life up with stuff that does. Look at the big stuff too - do you love where you live? Your job? Do they make you feel worthy? It’s not easy, it will mean putting in boundaries and saying no to stuff you never have before, but I promise, it’s worth it! When you work on valuing who you are at your very core, everything else, including self confidence, will follow.
You offer a “Lovingly Fierce” programme, who is this for?
Lovingly Fierce is an online, self study codependence recovery programme that works for anyone who identifies as codependent or struggles with fixing, rescuing, setting boundaries and people pleasing.
Are there any resources you would recommend to someone struggling with codependency?
Look up Co-dependents Anonymous meetings in your area. There are also online meetings if there aren’t any near you. CoDA for short, is a 12 Step programme derived from Alcoholics Anonymous, specially developed to help people recover from codependency. It’s donation based, and your first meeting is free, so it’s very financially accessible.
There are a few books I would like to recommend also...
For people struggling with toxic, or abusive relationships - Should I Stay or Should I Go by Ramani Durvasula PhD and Sweet Relief from the Everyday Narcissist by Melissa Schenker and Tina Moody. For Codependent Recovery: Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody and ‘The Big Book’ of Co-dependents Anonymous (can be purchased from CoDA UK literature site - http://coda-uk.com/?page=coda-literature )
Lastly, what is your favourite quote of all time?
Can I have three please? “Team work makes the dream work” - cheesy I know! But I can often be heard saying it to friends, family and colleagues - I truly believe it!
Secondly “To thine own self be true”, which is the motto of 12 Step programmes around the world. I have it tattooed on the back of my right arm. It’s a simple, poetic reminder that to experience peace and happiness, we must first know ourselves and be willing to own and share our truth. And finally, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” - Anne Lamott. We must never
be afraid to share our stories. Especially as womxn we must not be silenced by a patriarchal society that tells us to be quiet and polite and ‘classy’ and ‘dignified’. These societal constructs are gaslighting techniques to keep us silent, while those who have mistreated us get to continue unchecked. So speak up babes, in whatever way you can. We need your voices!