Are You Suffering from Savior Syndrome?

savior syndrome

by Nneka Kelly

When I worked for IBM, I was the go to fix it girl. A client would call to say that they installed everything correctly, but the software just isn’t working. My managers put me on a plane with strict instructions to stay on site until the problem is fixed. Over and over, I would save the day. It was a constant high.

Like any high, there was also a serious crash. I’d get back home exhausted. I got the at-a-girl, but after a while it wasn’t enough. It was empty. I fixed bigger and bigger things to feel the rush. The praise felt smaller and smaller. The overall satisfaction was diminishing.

The cycle continued until I burned out and quit abruptly.

Employers, family, and friends can spot someone with savior syndrome a mile away. Here’s what they say, “Find the busiest person and give it to them. They’ll get it done.”

And you will. Your reputation is riding on it. Your perception of yourself is riding on it. If you don’t do it, who will?

Don’t confuse savior syndrome for generosity and compassion!

We all want to be generous, kind, and compassionate. It’s who we are. Sometimes, it might require jumping in and taking the bull by the horns. Most times, most times it calls for empowerment.

We want to do a great job. However, doing a great job might look like teaching the client how to fix the problem and walking them through it, rather than pounding out the fix yourself.

We all want to help our families. However, helping our families could look like showing your brother how to budget, rather than sending a check every time a need arises.

Savior syndrome leads to martyrdom.

It feels really good to come in and save the day. The personal satisfaction of fixing something and helping someone is awesome. We feed off the accolades. We begin to feel worthy of the good life. We start feeling entitled. When we don’t get what we feel we deserve we start to feel resentful, angry, frustrated, and discouraged. Then we ge to whoa is me…

Savior syndrome jeopardizes your intrinsic value.

When you have savior syndrome you are constantly looking to the outer world to validate that you did a good job. You want people to recognize that you saved the day. You begin to think that they are the Source of your good. If they don’t recognize all the good you’ve done when you bent over backwards, who will? It starts toying with your sense of worthiness.

Savior syndrome robs other people of the opportunity to shine.

When you repeatedly come to someone’s rescue, you deny them the opportunity to grow. They never learn how to rescue themselves. They think that you are the Source of their good. They don’t look within to summon their own resources.

What’s the antidote for savior syndrome?

Ever heard the saying: Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for life?

I enjoy teaching! I like finding more effective ways to teach. I like having more opportunities to teach. The best part is that I don’t have teach in a traditional sense. Sometimes, teaching involves letting a person fail and having them figure out how to fix it the problem on their own.

Everyone is capable of managing their life. They are competent. They have the same access to Knowledge, Love, Abundance, and Joy that you do. You are not the Source of anyone’s Well-Being.

I’m recovering from savior syndrome myself. I’m still inclined to jump in and fix a problem, rather than showing someone how to fix it themselves. I tell myself that it takes less time, and that if I do it myself then I know it’s done right. I’m robbing myself of my own resources and I’m not helping the other person to tap into theirs. It’s a work in progress.

Are you suffering from savior syndrome? What are you doing to empower the people around you?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Mamie January 4, 2011 at 8:58 am

Would you please quit writing daily “just for me”??!!

My savior syndrome goes into full swing when my adult daughters come home. I want to make everything easy for them, pave the way for the best life possible with no hurt, sadness, anger, etc etc. Over and over this holiday I had to remind myself of this statement from your post: Everyone is capable of managing their life. They are competent. They have the same access to Knowledge, Love, Abundance, and Joy that you do. You are not the Source of anyone’s Well-Being.

Maybe we should start a support group: “Hi. My name is Mamie and I am addicted to saving people.”

Reply

Mystic Kelly January 4, 2011 at 10:11 am

LOL!!! But what would I do with myself if I didn’t :-)

Seriously though, everyone can take care of themselves. We make mistakes. We stumble. We dust ourselves off and head in a different direction. We figure it out eventually.

You know the Universe has your back. It’s working for your daughters too.

Reply

Cindi January 4, 2011 at 9:07 am

I think you were writing about me. I tend to jump in and fix everything at work…..
I’ve even been told that the staff thinks I’m Cinderella. I think that means that if they ask me, I will make it happen. I just want things accomplished. Just do it!!

Reply

Mystic Kelly January 4, 2011 at 10:13 am

Hi Cindi, I’m waving frantically:-)

I know that feeling. If I want it done right (or at all), I have to do it myself. Utterly exhausting though! Give someone else a chance to shine.

You’re so wonderful!

Reply

Mamie January 4, 2011 at 9:57 am

I think the post was for me. Cindi thinks it was for her. Is this a common trait of Saviors?

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Mystic Kelly January 4, 2011 at 10:12 am

Not trying to save either one of you! So nice to chat with both of you. I miss my UCT family:-)

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Cindi January 4, 2011 at 6:02 pm

We miss you too! I’m waving frantically too! Kisses!

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Elene June 20, 2013 at 8:35 pm

I understand how great it feels to be concidered the “hero”. I do the best job I can working with my pts. Often pts and their family express thier gratitude. I have to be real careful not to let it go to my head; but I also have to be careful to not be too critical when I can’t create a mirical. 12step work in Al-anon helps with the balance.

Reply

Nneka Kelly June 23, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Hi Elene, thanks for leaving a comment:-) Just make sure you’re fueled up first.

Reply

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