“Self-awareness is one of the rarest of human commodities. I don’t mean self- consciousness where you’re limiting and evaluating yourself. I mean being aware of your own patterns.” ~ Tony Robbins
So many of us spend our life trying to be the “good,” “perfect,” “always available” one, putting others’ needs before ours, doing everything we can to make them comfortable, especially at our own cost.
We endure a lot of pain that we don’t need to, let everyone violate our boundaries, and give up our dreams by always being there for others.
We don’t know anything about our own self. Yet, we spend all our time and energy in being there, fixing, and solving other people’s problems and concerns.
We love being the reliable, dependable one until one day we become this ball of resentment.
While it’s great to be the go-to person for everyone, it extracts a huge cost when it comes with the tendency to forego our own self for others or everyone around.
And at times, this urgent and intense need to be there for everyone stems from a deep-rooted desire to be the savior. In fact, we start violating others’ boundaries without even realizing—all in the name of trying to “help,” and then we are left wondering why our help wasn’t appreciated.
I realized long ago that I, too, suffered from the so-called “Savior Complex” when I often found myself giving unsolicited advice or suggestions, digging into people’s concerns, even when they didn’t want to talk about it, doing things for them without them asking, and most importantly feeling guilty and personally responsible if I wasn’t able to change their situation.
Being a therapist didn’t make it any easier.
It has taken me years to understand this aspect of myself, and I have worked on it. There are days when it creeps back in, and then I have to amuse myself with a quote that helps me to detach from others’ lives, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
So many of us get lost in our attempts to help and be there for others. We thrive on glorifying the notion that putting others before us somehow makes us great human beings, and anything short of that would just put us at the bottom of the pile.
So, we spend one half of our lives doing things for others and running around like headless chickens (I love this metaphor!) and the other half in turning things around. And that happens only when we’ve burnt ourselves to the ground, depleted our inner resources, and lost track of our own dreams and desires.
Thus, we operate from our own savior complex.
There is a difference between helping and saving people, and so many of us are unable to comprehend the difference. Helping someone is about focusing on them—their wants, needs, concerns, issues, resources, and the ways in which they can achieve their desired goals in ways that support them.
However, when we operate from the perspective of wanting to save people, it puts the focus on us. We lose sight of what’s actually beneficial for the other from their standpoint and become glued to our idea of what we think is right for them.
And that often leaves us wondering, where did all our much-deserved value and appreciation go?
Often, the need to be the savior shows up as a defense and armor for our wounded sense of self. We tend to use this as a mechanism to compensate for our own inability to save ourselves in difficult situations and a way to preserve our sense of worth by showing that we do have some value to offer.
This constant focus on others also keeps us from looking inward and focusing on our own internal insecurities. It often works as a security shield, letting us survive in a world that seems overwhelming and threatening at some level.
It’s only a matter of time when this dire need to be a savior for others takes over and erodes our sense of self completely.
Here are some signs that you may be operating from the savior complex that’s pushing you to the brink of anger, frustration, and despair:
1. Putting others’ needs first (always) while not addressing your own. In the beginning, it feels great to be able to be there for others and gives a sense of meaning; over time, it starts filling you up with anger, frustration, and disappointment.
2. You believe that helping others is the only way to feel good about yourself. In fact, this is the only determinant of your self-worth.
3. You are constantly looking for problems that you can fix or solve for someone else. You jump into others’ concerns, even when they haven’t asked you to.
4. You often feel taken for granted and wonder why no one is there for you. This is because you’ve made people get used to your availability, assistance, and presence in such a way that you needing help may not even occur to them.
5. You gravitate toward vulnerability—often trying to rescue people around you.
6. You get over-involved in others’ concerns so much that it takes a toll on you and makes you feel guilty, helpless, and responsible for changing their circumstances.
7. You often know what others need but are out of touch with your own.
8. You always want to find a solution—always.
9. You self-sabotage and invest way too much mentally, emotionally, and physically on everyone else but your own self.
10. You are unable to respect your own (and at times) others’ boundaries. You just can’t say no because what else are you supposed to say?
It’s important for us to understand that being there for someone doesn’t have to come at our own cost at all. And if we are consciously choosing to put our needs aside, then it wouldn’t cause any residue to build up.
Our sense of self-worth is not tied to our availability. In fact, the lack of it is.
And when we assume the responsibility of someone else’s life, we will end up feeling like a failure at some point because we are trying to control the uncontrollable.
It also disrupts and breaks relationships because it leaves people with uncomfortable feelings of being smothered and boundaries being encroached upon. In an attempt to “help,” “fix,” and “solve,” we become imposing and pushy.
Here’s what we can do instead:
1. Learn to listen more and talk less.
2. Offer help instead of imposing by being open and receptive. Asking if they need anything or if there is any way you can help is a great starting point, and if they do ask for help, then clarify what they would like you to do for them instead of assuming.
3. Empathy is great. However, we need to understand that no matter how much we empathize or know what’s best for the other, it’s still their choice. A genuine desire to help someone stems from a space of respect for where they are on their journey.
4. Remember, you can only offer support. You cannot change anyone or other’s circumstances unless they are willing to do so for themselves.
5. Work on yourself to break the belief that your sense of self is tied to how valuable you can be to someone else.
“Your own self-realisation is the greatest service you can render the world.” ~ Ramana Maharshi