Believe it or not, “help” and “fix it” do not mean the same thing. As a long term helper, I realized that I had trained myself to think that in order to be helpful, I had to fix the issue at hand. After many years of wearing myself out, it finally dawned on me that my “fix it” did not equate to someone else’s need.
This realization didn’t come easily. Initially, I didn’t understand why the person didn’t just go and implement my “fix.” It was a good “fix,” a thoughtful “fix,” and a “fix” that would alleviate the person’s issue. As I became more self-aware, I realized that my “fixes” did not always “fix” the other person’s problem. In fact, the “fixes” I was sharing not only didn’t help, they were actually impacting the relationships I was in. I was teaching people how NOT to think. I realized that if I “fixed” the problem and did a good job, then the person would just keep coming back. If I didn’t give a good “fix,” then I was to blame. Either way, I was not helping people learn how to think for themselves or how to take personal responsibility.
I also discovered that I was not alone in this quest to “fix” everything and everyone. As I started to look around and listen to other conversations, I realized that the world may be suffering from an entire epidemic of “fixers.” I wasn’t sure of the motivation of these fellow sufferers, but I was finally aware of the impact of the behavior.
Even after this revelation, I still often have to remind myself that helping can mean listening or empathizing rather than “fixing” the problem. And then somebody thanks me for listening or helping them process, and I remember why it’s important that we help and not fix. When we each take responsibility of ourselves and aren’t trying to assume the responsibility of those around us, we free up space in both parties to truly invest in the relationship. It lets us just be.