- Doing something we really don’t want to do
- Saying yes when we mean no
- Doing something for others even though those individuals are capable and should do it on their own
- Meeting people’sneeds without being asked and before we’ve agreed to do so
- Doing more than our fair share of work after our help is requested
- Consistently giving more than we get back in a particular situation
- Thinking and/or speaking for others
- Suffering consequences for others
Does this sound like you?
I have exhibited all of these traits at one time or another. In fact, rescuing used to come so naturally to me that I didn’t figure out that I didn’t want to do some of these actions until I started to feel resentful. Then, I would figure it out.
Nowadays, I do a better job of stopping and thinking about my feelings before saying yes or jumping into the fray to “help” others. Here are some common examples of women I know who “over-help” and then get into trouble.
Charlotte is the first to stay late to attend cocktail parties and other work functions. She is single, never been married, and doesn’t have kids. She has been doing this for her colleagues for years, and now she is getting really pissed that she is the one schmoozing until midnight while other people are snuggled in their jammies. She is so upset that she’s getting drunk at the events just to tolerate the boredom. Word is getting back to her bosses, who are looking at Charlotte in a negative light. She is clueless because she thinks she is doing everybody a favor.
Candace always is the “giver” in her relationship. Her boyfriend, Jack, has had a rough life, had a really dark upbringing, and struggles with addiction. So Candace tends to make excuses for his bad attitude toward her and his unwillingness to find a job. She believes if she listens to him when he is upset and counsels him wisely, Jack will eventually step up and do right by his job and by his kids from his first marriage. Candace takes care of Jack’s kids on daddy weekends, too. Problem is, Jack just doesn’t make changes that last. Meanwhile, Candace is getting in trouble at work for missing days and being distracted mentally. In fact, she accidentally gave a patient the wrong medication last week and luckily, no one was hurt or found out.
Even little actions to be a rescuer every day can build up. So be sure and think more deeply about your decisions if you are a rescuer. Rescuing and enabling go hand in hand, and ultimately can feed the problem rather than the solution.
Cherilynn Veland, MSW, LCSW, is a counselor and coach based in Chicago. She has been helping individuals, couples, and families for more than 20 years. She is the author of Stop Giving It Away, a new book about developing healthier relationships with yourself and others. The Stop Giving It Away movement aims to halt the detrimental level of self-sacrifice in which many women live and work. For more insight, get a copy of Stop Giving It Away.