Helping others is a good thing. Volunteering, taking a stand against oppression of all sorts, and being a good citizen benefits everyone. So where is the line between simply being a good person and having a savior complex?
What Is a Savior Complex?
A savior complex is a compulsion to seek out people who you feel are in need of your help so that you can fix them. The “help” often ends up hurting both people. Here are some examples.
You can’t help but offer advice to others who seem to be struggling. If they just saw things your way, they would be fine.You have more than a few people in your life who depend upon you to “fix” them from time to time.Injustice enflames you. You can’t sit by and watch bad things happen to good people. You can sometimes forget to take care of yourself because you were too busy doing for others.Did somebody say volunteer? You’re at the front of the line!Thinking about someone struggling without you can keep you up at night. You know they can’t do it without you.
Rushing in to save the day can be very harmful to others because it sends the message, “You can’t do it. You need me.” This deprives them from having the opportunity to stand on their own two feet. It can create a sense of learned helplessness.
It’s not fabulous for you either because people with savior complexes often give so much away that they don’t have time or space to take care of their own needs. Additionally, they send the message, “I don’t need anything” so there is no one there to give them the love and attention that they need.
How to Break the Savior Complex Cycle
This may not be easy, but everyone can do it.
Being the savior may be the way that you learned to feel important and safe. It may be the way that you get your self-esteem needs met. So, it can feel like doing the following things is wrong. I suggest you give it a try and then evaluate.
Wait to be asked for help before you rush in and volunteer or take over. If you wait, you may realize that the person just wants to be heard.Tell yourself that the person you are wanting to save is capable. This will put you on an equal playing field so you can have a healthy, mutually rewarding relationship.Take a chill pill. Part of playing the savior role is about making things “right” or “perfect.” The world doesn’t have to conform to your standards. It’s okay that we all do things differently.Do you. Part of playing the savior is distracting yourself from your own emotions and needs. Nurture yourself. You’re important too.Ask for what you need. Often those who over-give do so because they grew up in environments where their caretaker’s needs took precedence over their own. So it wasn’t safe to have needs because they wouldn’t be met. Risk it.
Healthy relationships are equal. They contain give and take. You want a healthy relationship, don’t you? Then ease up on the goodie goodie act.