We Are Not Here to Fix Each Other.

Via Kate Bartolotta
on Mar 6, 2013
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“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” ~ E.B. White

Most mornings as I wake up, a large part of my heart longs to save the world, to heal hurts, to fix people where they are broken.

Maybe I’m too sensitive. I think I was absent the day they taught how to do that whole “close your heart off” thing because I don’t seem to be able to do it.

When I was a child, I hated being in crowded places; being near so many people dealing with difficult emotions overwhelmed me. I was much happier curled up with a book or at my ballet classes.

As I got older, I found ways to deal with it, to deal with all of the emotions bouncing around from people, to deal with all of the anger, the sadness, the pain in the world. I drank. Experimented with drugs. And even used simpler things to push it away, to distance myself, to not feel all of the world’s pain. I needed to stop seeing it because the fact that I couldn’t fix it hurt so much.

As I grew up, I sought out careers instinctively that afforded me the opportunity to help others. I taught. Volunteered in an AIDS hospice. Worked with Habitat for Humanity, Oxfam, Foodshare. Used my spare time from my jobs that paid the bills to do work that made a difference. Yet, it never seemed like enough; that drive to fix things was still there like a permanent ache in my chest.

When my vocation shifted toward health and healing and I entered massage school, I realized something striking and nearly quit. As I would touch people, I’d feel where they were hurting and it took my breath away. I could feel their brokenness stuck in their elbows that wanted to hug tightly to their sides. I could feel the shame in the small of their backs. I could feel the profound sadness stuck in their shoulders, tears that needed to melt away and be shed. I didn’t think I could take it. How could I work on people day in and day out and feel their pain, yet live with the fact that I could never completely fix it?

It’s taken me years to realize this one true thing:

We are not here to fix each other.

Recently, I was giving a friend an impromptu acupressure session. I would get to a spot on each of his arms, and the deep sadness I felt there made me get choked up and want to pull away. At the same time, it made me want to solve it, fix it, tell him why life was beautiful. Tell him not to be so sad. We talked about it, and he acknowledged what I noticed. I fumbled for something to say or do that would make it go away. Seeing someone I care about experience pain ripped me up inside, and I wanted to make it better.

But I couldn’t. I can’t. And more importantly, I shouldn’t. It isn’t for me to do.

We look at the drive to save the world as something noble or heroic, and maybe it is to a certain extent. We look at the idea of Tikkun Olam, or healing the world, and set out on a quest to save the world, but I think we often get it wrong.

I’ve been getting it wrong for years.

If I look at you and see your sadness, I can’t cover it or make it go away. I cannot fix you. There is no magical Utopia where everyone is happy and whole. But that isn’t the end of the story. This is the place where cynics give up hope and decide that all is futile.

But I’m not a cynic. I believe we are hard-wired to care for each other. It’s why we are here:

If there was a place to get to where everyone was happy and whole, we’d stop making art. There would be no music. There would be nothing left to write about. It would be a flat, expressionless existence instead of the one precious life we have.

The struggle is where we find the beauty.

People aren’t problems to solve. It’s not my job to fix anyone, but to love them. The heart can stretch to hold all things—even the difficult things. When it breaks, the point is not to reach out to each other and patch it closed again, but instead to fill each other. We don’t need to pretend each other’s darkness doesn’t exist or push it away.

And so I’m done. I surrender. I’ll say to the world:

I am not a hero; I cannot fix you. I am not strong; I cannot save you. I am weak; I cannot melt the frozen, broken places in you. I am insufficient; I cannot heal your pain. But I have hope, because I can do much more than that.

I can love you.


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About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives. You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


76 Responses to “We Are Not Here to Fix Each Other.”

  1. azize says:

    Thank you for sharing, this is really beautiful and thought provoking!

  2. ….aaand a heavy weight is lifted! Thankyou for the reminder that I can't fix everyone and everything, and especially that it's not my job! Love.

  3. Edie says:

    Just a big WOW. That's an amazing and beautifully written article sharing a truth we so all need to hear and learn. Well done Kate.

  4. Simply stunning. And true.

  5. Do. Do. says:

    I feel like hugging and kissing you right now!

  6. SaraCrolick says:

    So, so good. Thank you, Kate!

  7. Josh says:

    I disagree with the initial premise, that we are not here to fix each-other. I would say we are here to fix those who seek the assistance.

  8. Carolyn Riker says:

    Amazing! Sending you some love too for all the healing in your heart.

  9. Well, I've honestly come to believe that a big part of that notion is rooted in ego, if not arrogance. If I really love someone, or more generally, love people, why not just love them as they are? Why do I think I should be able to do anything beyond just sharing my love with them to improve things? A friend suggested (and I like this idea) that what we can do is help create favorable conditions for the world to save itself.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  10. […] learnt a long time ago that pretending that everything was perfect when it wasn’t wouldn’t serve […]

  11. We heal the world, by healing ourselves.
    (My Opinion 😉

    If we are alive today, it is because we did not learn this lesson the last time we were here;

    We didn't love ourselves completely and became consumed by the suffering of the world.

    The pain and brokenness we feel from another, is our own. This is our work, to recognize this
    and turn to our own hearts.

    As I believe, we are only able to love another as much as we love ourselves.

    We come back to this life, to try again: to love ourselves completely, is to repair the world.
    When we love ourselves completely, we heal into peace.

    We are here to heal the world through our self love.
    No fixing, just loving.
    Loving is Healing—Transformation or as it is called,

    Tikkun Olam.

    Beautiful Kate.
    Love, Rebecca

  12. Michelle Marchildon says:

    I often think that yoga has ruined my life because in many ways it's made me too senstive to cope. Thank you.

  13. mdr71 says:

    we should not sacrifice ourselves to help those who cannot be helped, but when we love someone and they truly love us we should do all in our power to respect and preserve this love as much as possible.

  14. Every day I think about how I'd love to make changes to the world. I guess the small things can make a difference.

  15. […] We Are Not Here to Fix Each Other. (elephantjournal.com) […]

  16. Beautifully stated. My friends and I have spoken about this many times. We agree that we are not here to fix anyone; we can, however, hold space (a space/place of love) for people to transition through pain and hurt and growth.

  17. […] it becomes more effortless to honestly examine our actions, words and thoughts, as well as our relationships with ourselves and others. By shedding the light of awareness on our conscious or unconscious intentions, allowing ourselves […]

  18. Mariana Wirth says:

    Dear Kate, thank you so much for your beautiful words. I recently lost my dad, and my mom is ill and very sad. I said to her several times: I'm not super, I cannot do magic, but I'm here, I am with you, by your side. Thank you for put into words what I'm feeling these days.

  19. Beautiful, Rebecca. Thank you!

  20. So, so sorry for your losses! Much love and peace to your family.

  21. Jodeen says:

    Beautiful post! I am a yoga teacher and thai massage therapist and the most important thing for me to remember each and every day is that I am only there to hold space, so that people can do their own healing. It is not my job to try and fix anything.
    But I can love like nobody's business. and I do. Blessings to you tender one.

  22. Dara says:

    Wow, Kate! Triple axel! Perfect 10! Out of the ballpark! You are a High Priestess of Love. I bow to you. TY:):):)

  23. Sita says:

    It’s good to see this written, though I believe that we practice Tikkun Olam with every compassionate action we take. I was taught that it is Not Me but Spirit which is doing the Healing, and that I must “Get Out of the Way.” I must be very diligent in Not Taking On the pain of those I touch – which can transfer immediately if one is Sensitive. I was told to be like “a hollow bone” in letting this energy Pass Through. Otherwise, it’s like breaking the circuit – touching a Live Wire. I help clients to “Breathe it Out, Let it Go, Give it to the Earth” – because it is energy we can’t use, but can Gift/re-direct to the Earth – which holds no connotations re ‘types’ of energy – i.e. pain or negativity. If I gently but clearly tell clients, “Don’t Give it to ME” – they become Conscious of not directing it Into Me, and learn How to direct it or ‘let it go’ – and can then do so even when I’m not there to help. This took 30 years to learn. Perhaps it will be helpful to you. Clearly your clients are Blessed by your Care and Compassion! ~

  24. Edith says:

    Attachment and thinking we have control of others is always a slippery slope. I love this. Thank you.

  25. robin says:

    I love your writing and way of describing that which is heartfelt and real.

  26. Karlena says:

    From one sensitive spirit to another, thank youuuuu <3 This evoked so much emotion, clenched my heart and tugged at my emotions until I finally reached the last statement, and felt such beautiful release. Beautiful & heartfelt, and so comforting to know there are other sensitive hearts out there just like mine. Sometimes I think I'm too sensitive, which makes me feel vulnerable, but you can't help others with hardness. It takes a soft, accessible heart to truly make a difference. You are beautiful, inspiring, & I encourage you to keep that softness, keep that willingness to lover others, especially those that need it the most – because that's what this world needs. People like you 🙂 xo

  27. Tara Rose Crist says:

    Kate, you are such a kindred spirit. Just love this!!

  28. MatBoy says:

    Years ago during a very stressful phase of life while living in Shanghai, my doctor recommended I go for counseling to get a handle on my depression. There was only one therapist in town who worked with expatriates and I made an appointment. Roya spoke with a heavy Spanish accent, she was a bit overweight and had big hair but she put me at ease immediately. About 15 minutes into our first hour together we started getting into the heart of my issues and I notices tears were already streaming down Royas cheeks. This happened every session we had together. She said it happened to her with all of her patients, she felt so sad for her patients and all the suffering they had to go through.

    Her crying for her patients somehow made it easier for us to get in touch with and talk about our own pain and frustration. She never really told me what to do but instead just got me in touch with that soft, painful part, made me aware of it and suggested some exercises I could do to shield myself from being overwhelmed by these feelings. How I came to terms with them was up to me. Somehow, watching her cry each time we were together made me realize that the pain was not something to run away from because her life's work was about approaching that painful area and taking her patients to look at it and to just let it be. She felt frustrated that she could not help more people, especially people from the more emotionally repressive asian cultures.

    I would say that Roya helped me. She helped me by being there and creating the space for me to be with my pain and emotion and to have the feelings of heaviness come out. These feelings became normal, a part of myself that I share with humanity. In me, it also acted as a call to action to better deal with suffering. Now I stay in touch with it, noting its intensity and being with it, no longer running away. I'm also less afraid of these feelings in others. I don't try to help others, but I have more empathy for their suffering and I can 'hang' with it. I don't usually cry but I feel good when others can cry in front of me.

  29. […] from depression) sent me. Very insightful, and really helped me feel at ease with being with her. We Are Not Here to Fix Each Other. | elephant journal Also the reason why we divided to back things up to FWB: I can't see myself being with her for the […]

  30. […] FWB (formerly "my woman") shared this with me. Thought its be worth posting here. We Are Not Here to Fix Each Other. | elephant journal A good quote from the article: "I am not a hero; I cannot fix you. I am not strong; I cannot […]

  31. anna says:

    Thanks for such a touching post!

  32. Karla says:

    one of the most beautiful things I've ever read!

  33. jenniferfromny says:

    Moreso we can direct them to how they can help themselves. That is not necessarily us fixing them but them providing them tools or therapies so that they can heal or improve skills for living.

  34. Kiki says:

    Perfect timing for me as I struggle to understand the whys that I cannot after a soul-crushing breakup.
    If a partner needs fixing, but wants to fix you and gives up, it is not sadness that should prevail.
    It just means that more love was needed.
    Love more.
    We don't need to fix.
    All I gave back was love.
    All he wanted to do was fix through criticisms and withholding love.
    But love, gentle, true, sweet, unconditional love was the only necessity.
    If it got obscured in the "fixing", I cannot keep trying to understand why.
    And there is some small comfort tonight after reading your wise words, Kate.
    So many thanks.

  35. laydipahukumaa says:

    Thank you! This is such an important lesson to be learned in life. My friend helped me realize this when he experienced his first breakup. At first I was going out of my mind trying to keep him from sadness, then I realized in that moment that all of our emotions are very important. We cannot be happy if we don't experience sadness. We were out at a sandwich shop and I remember being happy despite his sadness. (When usually it tore me up inside to see anyone unhappy) And he asked what I was smiling about. I told him that I was just so happy to sit with his sadness. To be with him during such a vulnerable moment. That it allowed us to grow closer together and that made me happy. That we were growing together.

  36. Sarah says:


  37. LiliBienvenue says:

    Thank you for this post! Truly beautiful! 🙂

  38. juliebooth says:


  39. Gretchen says:

    I loved this post. It resonates deeply with me as i grew up and lived most of my life so far being too sensitive for my own happiness – although now at 59, I wouldn't trade any of who I am for the world. Like you, I have learned that powerful lesson: it is not our job to fix another. As you so eloquently said, we can love and honor those who suffer which is an amazing gift…we can support them on their path, and they can love, honor, and support us when we suffer. Anyone who has ever been in great emotional pain and experienced being told how to deal with it, "fix it", even from the most well-intended heart, will also know the disempowerment that such 'intervention' engenders. We must all let go of attachment to a certain outcome in order to love purely and unconditionally. Thank you for your lovely writing and for sharing your epiphany in such a beautiful way!

  40. Ireni Stamou says:

    Wonderful thank you!

  41. claudiadahinden says:

    Loved this – so deep and true, although I do think you and lot's of us artists DO take a part in healing, or showing people the truth about themselves and other things. I think to be sensitive like this is a gift lo's of artists recieve, and we have to learn to protect us – but also it s kind of a vocation. I would agree to say this: we cannot solve the problems, but perhaps we can help People bear their pain. I'm deeply touched by your site, intention and writing! I just discovered this and don't know about your personal beliefs. So I hope I don't offend you by saying I believe that we are gifted from God to take our places to help others, to love them, but we should know that it is never our goal to save them – beause only God can do this. This takes pressure from us and doesn't take the focus from our main mission that you described so beautifully: to love. and make God's love visible and touchable. Thanks for this inspirational and personal piece! (and sorry for typos or anything; my english is not perfect as I am Swiss 🙂 ).

  42. Freya Watson says:

    Kate, absolutely! As someone who has done a journey of shamanic work, I've had to find a way of reconciling the 'everything is fine as it is' with the 'I'm here to help'. It has led me into deep parts of my own soul, and to exploring what has been motivating me to want to support others on their journey. Some of that motivation was from my own need to heal, but large measure of it was that genuine love of watching another being uplifted. The difficult thing was accepting that you can really only 'help' another when they want to be helped – and some people aren't ready when we might want them to be. It's the old 'you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink'. Everyone has their own unique path to walk in life and my own firm belief at this stage is that the best any of us can do to help others is to do what we love ourselves, to find our own inner light and happiness, and to allow that to radiate outwards as inspiration and even practical help (if that's our calling). As you say, we can love each-other!

  43. Olivier Renaud says:

    thank you for this. I usually don't comment on post. But I've been seeing someone to help with this sadness i have inside of me. A sadness of which I would love to know the origin. To fix it maybe. But I consider myself an artist…and you are right; the same world that brings me such ups and downs is the same that inspires what I want to share with it.

  44. Consuelo says:

    Los articulos me gustaron algo mas todo hay que decirlo Animo!

  45. Gwendolyn says:

    Planting dandelions? The love child of a pirate and a roller derby queen? You are the coolest person I have never met. I'm your belly dancing mermaid massage therapist sister living on a boat in Bermuda that you can't wait to meet! And this was the message I needed to hear after all these years as a therapist. And nothing feels as good as letting go of the responsibility to fix everyone. Wow, I am so free right now.

  46. Rick says:

    Simply wonderful. Thank you.

  47. karenleemacg says:

    Great article, Kate. Can relate. I think the trick is learning to take better care of yourself so that you have the energy for others. We may not be here to fix others, but we are here to help others, I think. Warmly.

  48. c says:

    Beautiful and wise piece!

  49. Michelle says:

    I cannot tell you how deeply this resonated with me. I have found only one other person who does massage therapy who has experience wHat you described other than myself.

    I am now a marriage and family therapist and the same lesson holds true there. I am NOT here to fix others even though that is often what people seeK when they come in the door. I may guide and I may shine a flashlight in dark places and the light places that have been hidden. I see my job as filling the room with my empathy and letting the person take what they need. One does need to learn how to protect oneself to avoid getting drained and take on the emotions of the other.

    Valuable life lessons that you speak of for those of us you are very in touch with our empathy. I appreciate it so much!