I often think about this quote from the late and great Robin Williams
“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.”
Being appreciated is a way to feel that we're important to others; we make a difference in their lives. We are valued — and even cherished. It is validating and meaningful to hear that what we've done is something good or that who we are is appreciated.
I've been mending fences, cradling others and trying to make everyone around me happy for as long as I can remember. So much so that I attached it my identity to being the fixer.
Fixers believe deep down that they will only be loved for what they do, not for the person they are.
I can’t really remember how young I was when I learned how to be the fixer. I felt great pride hearing that I was such a big help growing up. I was needed. I was valuable. I wonder if I was born with that feeling of responsibility, or if it was formed out of the unsettling circumstances, or maybe it was something I learned to do as I was in the midst of it. Regardless, I knew at such an early age that it was my job to make the people around me happy. It was my duty to lessen their frustration and pain. I knew in my bones that I was the glue.
I thought that if I loved hard enough or strong enough that I could prevent other people from experiencing pain or discomfort. That I could force change just by pure will power. Being the glue gave people a reason to love me and keep me around. It also gave me something to focus on, and distract myself from my own pain. I always took it upon myself to step in.
In hindsight, being a fixer offered me a sense of control that I didn’t have otherwise. It was an illusion, but it brought me a sense of purpose.
As a fixer, it was - and is - difficult to say no or even recognize your own needs. You end up emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted trying to save the world. And I've had my fair share of spiraling out of control for sure.
I had to learn how to put boundaries in place and keep them there, regardless of the guilt I experienced from abandoning my job as a fixer. I continue to want the best for the people I love, but I have had to constantly remind myself that I need to be the one who appreciates and values myself, not try to fix others to feel appreciated.
There is freedom in acknowledging that you can’t fix anything anyway. You can still be helpful and supportive. You can be compassionate, kind and empathetic.
Healthy caregivers take care of themselves first, so they have the energy to be there for others. Self-care looks different for everyone, but it is worth it to find out what works for you.
There is hope for the fixer, but it is a challenging adjustment. It is difficult to undo deeply rooted patterns. And it is hard work to step out of a role you have played your entire life.
It's a daily effort to create new routines.