No More Capes! Giving Up The Impulse To Try & Save Everybody
There is a beautiful and powerful scene in the movie The Incredibles, in which the superhero costume designer, Edna, refuses to create an outfit that includes a cape. In her examples, she mentions how superheroes got snagged on missiles, caught in jet turbines and express elevators, all because they were wearing capes.
You can understand why she is wholeheartedly against capes (also – they are so 15 years ago) and I want to tell you why I am too.
We might believe that there is no chance that we will get caught on a missile, or be sucked into the engines of a plane, and yes, we might be right. However, there are a lot of other things our capes can get us hung up on.
We constantly transform into superheroes in our daily lives; trying to help and fix other people. We invest everything we have; working ourselves to the bone – physically and emotionally – until there is nothing left of us.
Whenever somebody needs us, and even if we just have the feeling that somebody needs our help/advice/support, we grab our capes and hurry to the rescue.
And in the attempt to help, we start strangling ourselves.
We get caught up in other people’s drama. Other people’s lives. Other people’s everything.
And from my personal experience: Most of the time when I donned my cape, nobody had actually called for a superhero. I had imposed myself without asking. Offering advice and support that nobody wanted.
Or, I would end up being used. People actively used me, constantly requesting help and advice – over and over again. The problem was not that they needed me, but that they never actually wanted to hear or implement my advice. Instead, they played their drama and problems like broken records, and forced me to listen.
I invested a lot of energy in these types of people and lost a lot of myself. I got consumed by their lives and their problems. I would feel aggressive when they were not ‘doing’ what we had discussed, and I lost my empathy. I could no longer feel bad for somebody who kept running to me looking for help, but never wanted to actually ‘do’ anything else but cry and moan about her situation.
On a more serious note, people who live with family members and friends who are mentally ill, or suffer from abuse, deeply struggle with this notion of ‘hanging up the cape’. We feel that if we just do this one more thing. If we had only reacted differently, been more understanding, known better, acted better etc. – THEN we could have saved the other person.
We truly believe that we can and need to fix every person that needs help. This is such a beautiful thought in itself, but it leads to self-destruction.
It is not possible to save everybody and we need to let go of the egoistic thought that we even have the capabilities to do it.
I know this sounds harsh, but it is the truth. We are completely delusional; if we believe that one of our actions could have changed the entire process another person went through, or that we have the power to actually change how another person goes through life. That if we had just done this one thing, they wouldn’t have messed up; they wouldn’t have developed a mental illness; they wouldn’t have turned criminal; they wouldn’t have ended up in a dysfunctional relationship etc. etc.
We literally strangle ourselves with this belief that we need to invest everything we have into every person who we think could benefit from our help.
As a relationship and self-love coach, I have had to learn this the hard way. You would be shocked by the amount of women I meet and know that would truly benefit from what I have learnt and know. As a result of noticing this, I started giving my stuff out for free to whoever I could reach. I literally assessed these women and forced my help onto them. Many were grateful, many weren’t.
What I truly realised though, is that I cannot go around this world trying to fix every single woman I meet, even though I might be able to point her in the right direction. It is not possible and I do not have that power. It was also very selfish of me to just assume that they needed or wanted my help.
In addition, not only can we not save everybody, many people don’t actually want to be saved.
As I mentioned before, there a lot of people who will be happy to use you and drain the energy you have, without ever giving anything in return. They will not listen to you, or apply your advice. Nothing will have changed, other than that you completely lost yourself in somebody else. You got caught in your very own jet turbines.
I have decided long ago that I no longer want to be a superhero, and that I definitely want to give up wearing my cape. Of course I still help people and am happy to offer my knowledge, services and insights.
However, I have two rules in doing this that you might find useful
- Never give advice, or offer help, without being asked explicitly. (Of course there are exceptions, but more often than not – this rule is the way to go)
- I only ‘save’ those who show up and are deeply invested in saving themselves.
I no longer run after people, trying to help them help themselves. Instead, I keep myself together and selectively add my value to the experience of people who truly want and appreciate my help. Instead of relying on me to know and do everything for them, or to be their ‘moaning and complaint’ service, they are focused on being interdependent.
Sometimes people are just not able or willing to be saved. They are not capable of showing up, or taking the necessary steps. We are not the people who will be able to change this.
We need to hang up our capes and let them go. It is time to retire our superhero ‘fixing impulses’.
This is a really deep topic and I know I have only covered a minimal part of it, thus I would truly appreacite any additional perspectives from you! How do you feel about hanging up the cape? Do you aggree?
Let me know and speak your truth in the comment section!
I truly value you! Take care,
Illustration: Cat De Pillar
The Good Enough Creative
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