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Super Hero Mentality

Do you know people who want to save the world or even just save someone close to home? Maybe that person is you, but admitting that this is a negative can be especially difficult. Who doesn't want to be helpful, kind, and giving? The problem arises when we want to rescue someone who doesn't want to be saved. Or maybe we seek to help others we love, at the expense of ourselves or our family. Why do some people continue to try and save those who resist or deny the need for help? Sometimes people are purely altruistic in nature and have a strong need to help out of the goodness in their heart. In other cases, people help in an attempt to fill a void in themselves, distract from their own pain, and/or find purpose and meaning in their life. Some of us hate to see people we love in pain or failing and are compelled to assist. Believe or not, rescuing others or care taking is a form of control, since fixing others often is done in the way the fixer deems appropriate. For example, if we have a family member who is struggling financially we may be inclined to help out, but if we don't like the way they choose to spend the money that may create significant frustration and anger in us.

Let me clarify a very important point, fixing and rescuing are not the same as being supportive, compassionate, and encouraging. Fixing and rescuing usually involve intervening, directing, and sometimes micromanaging another person's life, not always with their consent. In some cases, rescuing others prevents the rescuer from rescuing themselves. The phrase I often use is, "enabling is disabling." The more we do for others the less they do for themselves. The underlying message that is conveyed when we help out too much and enable a person is, "I don't think you're capable of success without my assistance." Self-confidence will not grow from this message and remember that failure actually produces more growth than undeserved success. When parents prevent their children from failing, they are depriving them of learning the tools to mature, grow, and become resilient. So how do we avoid being the perpetual super hero?

The simple answer is to allow others to fail (when safety is not involved) without always intervening. We can help others by providing guidance, suggestions, and by brainstorming solutions with them at difficult times. It also helps to validate their feelings, be compassionate, and uplift them with positive support. We can acknowledge their strengths and encourage them to trust their own abilities. Sometimes we need to accept that we can't help everyone, especially loved ones, since they tend to be more resistance to our assistance. Of course there are times when it is appropriate to bail others out, but these times should be rare and urgent. Ideally we want our loved ones to succeed on their own, through their own abilities, and based on their individual drive and grit. When we achieve through determination and hard work, we tend to have greater self-confidence and resilience. Being a super hero may feel good, but it may be doing the person on the receiving end a disservice. Hang up your cape and allow others to succeed on their own. They will be better off and so will you.

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