For the past few years, I've been on a self-motivational kick complete with vision boards, daily affirmations, and books by everyone from Joel Osteen to Steve Harvey that focus on achieving your goals and balancing your life. The one idea that everyone seems to have in common is that if you change your circle, you change your life. You may have heard this concept in the forms of, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with," or even the tried and true, “It's not what you know, it's who you know."
It's an idea that has made me look at my network for some time now. I don't think you should choose friends or even associates based on what they can do for you, but the truth is:
Success attracts Success.
If the highlights of most of your friends' lives are binging on Breaking Bad and Love & Hip Hop episodes all day and arguing in the comment sections of celebs on Instagram, they're probably not going to be the missing piece in your dream to open that gluten-free yogurt stand.
My point is that even if your friends can't score you a meeting with the fro-yo king of your hometown, they should at least motivate you. And there's a good chance they aren't doing that if you're too busy saving them from their own problems. “Savior Syndrome" happens to the best of us, and there's a chance you've had at least one relationship that had you strapping up your cape and running towards the bat signal.
Are you the always the one your friends run to when they need a loan, a co-signer, or someone to talk them off the ledge when they catch their man cheating…repeatedly? Do you always date men who are unemployed, drink or smoke too much, and have a gang of baby mama drama? Or maybe you're the “Mary Jane" of your family who is paying your niece's tuition because her mom refuses to work while making sure your mom takes her insulin throughout your work day. If so, you, my friend, might have a slight case of savior syndrome.
Savior syndrome is when a person becomes defined by helping people and saving the day. Everyone has a friend or relative that's just a tad bit needy and makes you feel like the world would fall apart if it wasn't for your divine presence in their lives. Savior syndrome is not only damaging to yourself, it's harmful to those around you.
And here are several reasons why:
1. While you're boosting your own self-esteem, you're crushing everyone else's.
Are you sure you friends are even asking for help? There was a point in my own life where I tried to be everyone's personal Olivia Pope and before they could even finish telling me about their problems, I was already fixing them. One day, a close friend told me, “You know, you don't always have to solve my problems. Sometimes I just need to vent." It was then that I realized firing up my Iron Man suit as soon as my friends faced an obstacle sent a message that I didn't think they were equipped to handle their own problems. Before you go Baywatch-running down the beach, make sure your friends actually need (and want) to be saved.
2. You may be purposely surrounding yourself by people whom you feel you're “better than."
Without over-thinking it, take a moment to consider this: Are your friends your friends because you truly celebrate who they are and enjoy their company, or do you keep them around because they make your life look better by default? It's something most women aren't willing to admit, but we all have that one friend whose life should be a part of VH1's reality show line up. It's filled with pregnancy scares and fighting in the club and probably makes your life seem like a spa retreat in comparison. The problem with purposely surrounding yourself with people whose recurring problems make it seem like you're “winning" at life is that it sets the bar low on your own goals and makes “charity cases" out of people that are supposed to be your friends.
3. You're making your circle even more dependent.
“Give a man a fish…" you know the rest. If you're constantly co-signing, paying people's bills, and cursing out their trifling men, you never give your friends an incentive to improve themselves. If this is the case, you're not really saving anyone, you're just enabling poor decision-making. If left unchecked, you may begin to build resentment or feel taken advantage of, but the truth is, no one can do anything to you that you don't allow.
4. You might be running from your own problems.
When some people feel powerless in their own lives, they may start a habit of feeling powerful in the lives of their friends and family. I learned a long time ago that you can't help anyone else unless you're on your A-game. Make sure you aren't using your mission for improvement in other's lives as a distraction for issues in your own life that you don't want to deal with.
[Tweet "You can't help anyone else unless you're on your A-game."]
Healthy relationships are about support and a true belief in the potential of those you care for. It's OK to be dependable and have moments where you feel like you have your ish together enough to uplift someone else, but savior syndrome will only leave you drained and purposeless when there is no one around who needs saving. It's important that motivation and support flow both ways in any relationship. The “S" on your chest shouldn't be the only motivating factor in your friendships. Besides, capes are soooo last season.