For the People Pleasers who Compulsively Fix People’s Problems

This is a love letter to the saviors, the fixers, the let-me-handle-that-ers, the chronic “yes” people… the people pleasers.

I bet you’re exhausted. I know I was.

The other day, a client of mine (also my bestie, so we talk about a lot of things besides work) sent me a screenshot of their calendar showing a meeting with me for 5:00pm Eastern. The problem was, this person was now in the Pacific time zone and was missing the meetings because their calendar alerts didn’t go off until 5:00pm Pacific.

And I said, “Make sure you check your Google calendar settings to set your time zone” and moved on.

After a few hours, I realized how hugely different this response was from one I would have made even a year ago.

I would have offered to do a screen-share video call to help them walk through the settings, I would have looked up articles on how to set your time zone on Google calendar, I would have given extremely detailed instructions.

Because I want to be helpful.

Because I want to be useful.

Because I want to be valued.

I learned to jump in and be the most helpful I could possibly be in order to stay safe in abusive relationships. They can’t be mad at me if I’m solving all of the problems!

But this coping mechanism actually degrades healthy relationships. In the over-extending of ourselves to meet every possible need from every possible angle, we do ourselves — and the people we strive to help — an incredible disservice.

There are several outcomes from swooping in to be a fixer of all problems:

  1. It takes up your valuable time and energy. You are not obligated to drop everything and research how to update a Google calendar time zone. You have shit to do, and allowing yourself to run and save someone is actually self sabotage.
  2. It reinforces an unconscious belief in your mind that you have to maximize your helpfulness in order to be a good person. Or the best version of yourself. This is untrue. The best version of yourself has rad boundaries.
  3. It contributes to learned helplessness. If you always provide every single step of someone’s solution, they aren’t going through the learning process themselves. It’s possible to help and offer advice or resources without doing all of the work.
  4. It reinforces a belief (in their mind and yours) that they need to be saved. This erodes trust, because you both operate under the assumption that they aren’t competent enough to learn and solve things on their own. Honestly, a bit rude.
  5. It contributes to burnout. I think this one’s self explanatory.

I am still someone who wants to fix things. I hate when people are suffering and I want to do everything I can to help, to fix it. But I also know my own limits.

When you believe that you need to fix everyone else’s issues, big or small, you are focusing on living everyone else’s life.

You need to live your life.

You need to learn and solve your problems.

Offer advice if applicable — “You should check your time zone setting” — but don’t solve entire problems.

And make sure your advice is consensual.

We think of consent as a purely sexual thing, but it’s an important part of our daily lives. Check with your roommate before you eat their leftovers. Ask someone if they can listen to you vent. If you know something is a sensitive topic, ask if it’s ok to discuss first. Even in business, make sure people opt-in to your mailing list, your offer, etc. before selling to them.

Before jumping in to fix someone’s problem, ask yourself (or them):

  1. Do they need me to fix this?
  2. Do they want or need my advice?
  3. Is fixing this problem within my realm of expertise and ability?
  4. Are they capable of solving this problem on their own?
  5. How can I be supportive without being a savior?

Notice when you act from an unconscious thought or belief about someone’s competence, or your impulse to problem solve without being asked. What belief drives that action? Do you want it to?

Prioritize Your Passion With boundaries

Free training coming up! I’m teaching an online class about balancing your passion with your life’s responsibilities. Creating healthy boundaries for yourself and others around your passions, hobbies, and daily work is crucial for developing balance and reminding yourself that you can’t just drop everything to go fix other people’s problems! Sign up here!

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