September 30, 2021

The Savior Complex: Why we Try to Save Everyone except Ourselves.


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This is for the ones who put on their armor every day and march into battle with one purpose in mind: saving the whole damn world.

The word “savior” might sound super cool, especially that it has a positive connotation, but in this case, it is a dragon that we must learn how to slay.

The savior complex, otherwise known as white knight syndrome, is the desperate need to save other people and fix their problems, or else, we’ll feel sh*tty about ourselves because, somehow, it feels like we did not do our best, and the dire consequences that might follow a problem we did not fix are solely our fault.

According to healthline, having this complex results with:

>> feeling good about ourselves only when we help other people

>> making helping other people our purpose and priority

>> putting so much energy in fixing other people’s problems to the point of exhaustion

Helping others is an important and positive trait, but if we take anything to an extreme, it becomes harmful for ourselves and others.

Passing through the road, seeing a homeless person freezing to death, then deciding to help them out by either donating money or bringing them food does not indicate any sign of savior complex.

But when we are attracted to vulnerability, tempted to change people and get them to do things we think are beneficial for them, always desperate to find solutions and beating ourselves up if they don’t work out, prone to making personal sacrifices to make other people happy, then we may be suffering from this complex.

How is it harmful to help others, you say?

Well, there are more than seven billion people on Earth. Each one has their own package, problems, and past. If we dedicate our entire time to helping each person we meet, then we will end up with:

>> burnout

>> unhealthy relationships (we shouldn’t treat others like broken things)

>> a developed sense of failure (in case we don’t succeed with our plan to help)

>> depression, resentment, or frustration

Point being that it is harmful to us “rescuers.” But what we rarely know is that it is also harmful to the person we are “rescuing.”

By constantly being there for others and ready to come up with solutions to their problems, they’re going to become dependent and unable to manage their own issues. Even their internal motivation recedes.

I remember once having a friend who was dealing with something that only I knew about (I wondered later why she only told me, but turned out that I was the only one who was ready to offer solutions and listen to her rants around the clock).

I was absolutely thrilled and proud to be someone who she trusted, and I felt pretty good about myself when I offered solutions that seemed to work. However, it reached a point where she would talk to me whenever a minor inconvenience happened and wait for me to tell her what to do.

I did not mean to force my help on her nor did I think it was healthy for her to rely on me so much, and it was only after talking to my best friend about it that I realized I may have unintentionally “savior complexed” my way into her life.

Thankfully, the situation was rectified, and the woman was able to deal with her struggles in a healthy way.

That’s when I learned that I must take a step back and mindfully consider the situation, other people’s feelings, and my own feelings before getting all excited about helping others.

Psychology Today offers a list of question to ask ourselves whenever we feel the urge to help others in an unhealthy way:

>> Am I helping this person by avoiding natural consequences?

>> Is this decision made to keep them “happy” or for their overall health?

>> Is my action helping them to get better or me to feel better?

>> Am I being invited to help?

>> Do I “want” to or have to do this?

>> What are your fears about not helping, and can you challenge them?

So before putting on our armor to save the world, let us consider if we are doing this for their sake, our sake, or just the sake of feeling validated.

Helping others is an amazing thing, and we need to be careful not to turn it into an unhealthy habit. We should mindfully be there for our fellow humans without smothering them with the assistance they did not ask for. Sometimes, people want you to just be there, not save them.

Maybe it’s time to stop obsessing over saving everyone and forgetting to save ourselves.

While this video is about INFJs, it can probably apply to a lot of us:

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