Some things are meant to be broken. You can’t save everyone.
This article was originally published for The Odyssey on October 18, 2016.
Maybe you have a superiority complex, or maybe you’re too compassionate for your own good. Us fixer-uppers think that we have an adverse effect on everything we do, and everyone we meet. It’s not necessarily thinking that we’re the center of the universe; rather, instead, it’s more like thinking we have the ability and the power to change things for the better or to fix things. As much as I hate to hear it, and have trouble realizing it myself, you can’t fix everything. You can’t save everyone. In times of tragedy, trauma and stress, you have to save yourself before you try to save the world.
Disney movies and children’s television shows have instilled this sense of empathy within us. We seem to think that someone has to be saving the world, and although this may not be possible on a large scale, changing someone’s world is a more tangible feat. If you’re like me, you have a deep empathy for those that struggle beside you. You sometimes miss the line between helping them and trying to save them. Sometimes it’s too late before you realize. Sometimes someone is lost along the way. Sometimes that someone is you.
We aren’t trying to fix everything because we have a huge ego. If only it were that easy. We’re trying to fix things because we either have a very guilty conscience or have learned to shoulder burdens that we shouldn’t. For instance, I try to fix the world sometimes because I can trace everything that is wrong with a certain situation back to myself. Well, my candidate didn’t become the nominee, and it’s because I got my absentee ballot in too late. Even though there are millions of people who vote in the primaries, I am able to connect myself directly to a problem that I am not directly at fault for. In other situations, some of us have learned to shoulder others’ responsibilities, baggage and burdens. We’ve been in toxic relationships where people literally depend on us. We’ve had to shoulder not only our issues but someone else’s as well. Maybe several other people. We’ve become an expert at it, even though we shouldn’t have. It’s kind of sad when you think about it, but taking on other people’s problems may become second nature to us.
This guilt and these burdens can be the death of us. We think we can handle it, but we can’t, no matter where the source is. Whether it’s someone else blaming you, or you’re putting the blame on yourself, the guilt is heavy. Whether it’s someone else unloading their problems on you, or you taking on too much, the guilt is heavy. It’s a lose-lose situation. The weight of the guilt and the burdens can be debilitating. It can have a negative effect on our personalities, on our health and on our relationships. Sometimes, we go so far that we are forced to make a decision. Who gets out clean here: us or them?
I’ve had to make this decision too many times. Making the decision actually contributes to the problem, because if we choose them, we’re choosing to forgo ourselves for the sake of someone else who probably doesn’t appreciate us as much as they should. Toxicity will rise. If we choose ourselves, we’re blatantly leaving someone, who wasn’t our responsibility to begin with but later became one, out to dry. Neither path is easy to choose, nor easy to endure.
I have trouble hearing it, and if you’re a repeat fixer-upper, you hate it too. You can’t save everyone. You shouldn’t try to save everyone. Other people are not your responsibility. You are your main concern. Never stop putting yourself first.
It took me a long time to read and actually process those statements above. I mean, I got it, but I didn’t really understand how I was leading myself into danger. Toxic relationships can be blinding. That’s what is terrifying about them.
You really can’t save everyone. I’ve learned this the hard way. Some people and some things are meant to be broken. Some people and some things are meant to stay broken so that they can fix themselves. Some people and some things will stay broken forever. Though we may blame ourselves for this, it is not our fault. We weren’t put on this Earth to take care of everyone else. If we were, we’d have to learn self-care first, before putting forth the best quality of love and care toward anyone else.
Be your own anchor. If you’re going to sink, make sure you’re not sinking because you won’t let go of another sinking ship. If two ships sink, no one makes it out alive. One ship has to stay afloat. You are your own ship. You are your own anchor. Take care of yourself, and put yourself first, always. No matter what, you are your first priority. It’s not selfish, and even if it was, it’s okay to be selfish sometimes. If you aren’t selfish when it comes to your own mental health and well-being, you may want to try being more selfish. Being selfless all the time is not healthy. Treat yourself. Know your limits. Practice self-love. Stop trying to save the world and the world may just end up saving you.