Do you often feel a need to keep other people happy?
It's not at all uncommon to feel driven to please others in order to earn acceptance and approval. The problem is that we can get mixed up between supporting someone and rescuing them. It could be a friend, a family member, even a colleague. Rescuing can become quite a habit.
It can make life feel pretty demanding because we end up taking on far too much responsibility for other people’s happiness, at the cost of our own.
Support or Rescue? Ceasing to rescue someone doesn’t mean abandoning them. It doesn’t make you selfish or an unkind person. It simply means you’re paying attention to your own needs as well as another person’s—it’s about finding a healthy balance.
Support or Rescue?
To support someone means empowering them whilst holding true to your own sense of worth; it means helping another person to help themselves. To rescue, on the other hand, means taking responsibility for them, regardless of your own needs - and this, in the end, doesn’t help anyone.
We all get caught up in the rescue habit sometimes. The trick is to recognise it and let it go. I know it can feel risky to stop jumping in and rescuing someone; you may worry how they will react. Even if it means a period of discomfort, you'll find that your relationship greatly improves when you start supporting them instead of constantly rescuing them.
How to Tell if You're Being a Rescuer
You can identify if you've been rescuing by looking at the following list. Do any of these ring true for you?
Here are 4 helpful tips to stop rescuing and start supporting
1. Listen to their worries, without trying to fix it for them
One of the kindest things we can do for someone is to just listen to them. Quite often people need to offload their worries; they feel much better simply for doing that. If you rush in and “fix it” for them you're taking away their opportunity to learn and grow and gain self-confidence.
2. Ask them supportive questions
This takes a little practice. Just focus on what you would ask yourself in a difficult situation. These would be open questions such as I wonder if there’s a way round that? What can you do to make that better, easier, different?
These types of questions can help a person feel truly supported, yet able to think for themselves.
3. Offer them lots of validation and encouragement
You’re doing well, I have every faith in you, I’m so impressed by how you did that. These types of statements put you into the supportive role immediately, because they are focusing on the other person – not on you doing it for them
Remember that by encouraging someone to help themselves, you’re increasing their confidence in dealing with more than the current issue; you’re helping them to feel confident about managing their future challenges too.
4. Take time
It’s so easy to rush in to help someone because it seems to save time. But a little patience now will pay dividends of time in the future as this person learns to be more independent of you.
If you recognise yourself as a rescuer, don’t worry – it’s a common habit. Just follow the steps above and you’ll find that your relationships will become easier and happier.
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