Feeling the Need to Always "Save" People
Are you the person everyone calls when they need something? Do you often find yourself in situations where you’re always helping others in crisis? Do you volunteer to help others even when you don’t have the time or energy? Or even if you’re not the best person to help them?
Many of us struggle with always wanting to save others and “fight their fires,” whether they’re co-workers, family members, a partner, or complete strangers. While wanting to help others is certainly not a bad thing, when we are constantly putting our energy towards others rather than ourselves, it can begin to impact our lives negatively. This can show up in many ways, such as burnout, exhaustion, being overcommitted, lack of fulfillment, and lack of self-care.
Those of us who tend to rush to the rescue likely notice this pattern in our lives. But where does it come from? Why do we do this? The answer is different for everyone.
Sometimes those of us who are empathetic might feel the urge to help others to save them from suffering - or to relieve our own discomfort with their suffering. For example, maybe we are quick to jump to someone’s side because we can tell or feel how much a problem is impacting them.
This causes us to want to help relieve their situation because, in a way, we are feeling the problem ourselves. This inspiration can either be compassion-based (where we genuinely feel bad for the person and want to help them) or discomfort-based (where we want to help someone’s problems to be resolved so that we no longer have to be aware of or worry about them).
Wanting to be the hero or to be recognized
For some of us, the hero pattern in our life is due to a desire to be recognized in some way. We want to feel helpful and be appreciated by others, and a great way to accomplish this is through helping people when they most need it.
This is not to say that all of these acts are selfish. This desire to be the hero often stems from having routinely received recognition for fixing things, problem-solving, always being available to help, and going above and beyond. Sometimes, this is the only area in which we receive acknowledgment.
Seeking out opportunities to help and be the hero, even if just for a day, is likely a way to soothe a wound from the past.
Not being ready to deal with personal problems
Oftentimes, when our own problems feel too intimidating or overwhelming to address, we begin to take on the problems of those around us in order to feel useful - or like we are still making progress in a way. It becomes a way to deflect having to deal with our own dissatisfaction or issues in life.
For many of us, it takes a long time to get comfortable with ourselves, acknowledge the issues we face, and find the best ways to deal with them. This process is often much easier from an outsider’s perspective, and thus, we might find relief in solving others’ problems.
Constantly coming to the rescue of others is not healthy, no matter how virtuous it might feel. When we are putting energy towards solving others’ problems, we often don’t have enough energy left over to take care of ourselves or to put towards our own lives, interests, and problems.
In addition, while we might often feel like we are being helpful, this is not always the case. If we are constantly solving the problems of those around us, we take away the opportunity for them to come to their own solutions. It stops them for having to take responsibility for their own actions. While not always the case, sometimes people need to save themselves in order to learn something important.
But for many of us, this pattern is deeply ingrained. How can we begin to break it?
- Becoming aware of the aspects of our individual “hero patterns” is a great first step. Start getting curious about it. For example, do you tend to help people out of compassion - or because it’s a pattern/compulsion that has a deeper meaning behind it? Do you find it truly fulfilling? Or does it just seem like a coping mechanism - a way to avoid discomfort?
- Identify which areas of your life are impacted the most by this pattern. Where and when are you most often stepping in to save others or be the hero? At work, at home, in partnerships, in friendships? Figure out what might be triggering you to do this in certain environments or with certain people, and see if there are any adjustments you can make or boundaries you can set to better protect your energy.
- Begin taking note of the times that you find yourself in the hero role and what led up to you getting there. Is it a specific type of situation you end up helping people with? Do people ask you for a specific type of advice? If so, remember this for future reference so that next time someone asks for help or you’re helping someone in this area - you’re aware that this is the type of situation that often depletes you of your time and energy.
- Come up with ways to help less, as in, make things easier for yourself. It’s not possible for most of us to just stop helping people. However, we can change the way that we engage with helping others. For example, instead of taking on someone’s problem for yourself, brainstorm ideas with them for how to help the situation - or refer them to someone who you think would be more helpful. You can be helpful without draining yourself.
Remember, it’s okay to not come to people’s rescue all of the time. Conserve your time and energy so that you can be present for yourself and others when it really counts. Fill your days with actions that are fulfilling and spurred by passion and compassion, not compulsion.