We all have that one person in our family or in our lives who shows up for everybody and seems to shoulder everybody’s financial challenges That one person we know we can call on when we have a financial situation.

Are you that person in your family?

 

On the surface…

Like a hero in a cape, you go out of your way, overextending yourself for others, going above and beyond the call of duty. If there is a financial situation at home to be taken care of or a friend to be helped, you are always there. If money is needed, you will provide it, sacrificing your own needs to help and support someone else. Sometimes, all it takes is a phone call from the person telling you what their problem is, but even before they come out and ask you for help directly, you offer to sort the problem out.

You will take out a loan for them, open clothing store accounts for them, wipe out your savings for them, skip your own bills for them. You are that sibling who is paying for your little sister’s school fees at a school that you can’t afford because you feel like you had no choice but to do so. You are caring for the household needs at home even after you have moved out of home. You have taken a loan to renovate Mum’s kitchen even though you can’t really afford it. You keep putting your own goals in the backbench because “They need you to do this and if you don’t do it, one else will”.

In your relationships you allow your partner get away with not owning up to their responsibilities while you work yourself to the ground trying to carry their load. On the other hand cannot even bring yourself to do something for yourself. If for a change you do something for yourself, you will persecute yourself with guilt for putting your own needs first. Sound Familiar?

Beneath the surface….

But all this giving and sacrifice comes with strings attached, always with the expectation that you will get something out of it or that your giving will be reciprocated in some way. And if it is not reciprocated, resentment is sown. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface, there resides a huge iceberg of resentment. You are resentful of everyone for expecting so much from you. You are angry with the fact that nobody cares about your needs and frustrated that even after you have sacrificed so much for everyone, no one is willing to reciprocate the sacrifice. No one cares to ask what you need.

You are obsessed with being in control and like to micromanage everything, even other people’s decisions. So even if people do try to help you, you obsess over getting things done perfectly and, in your way. It is either your way or the highway. Often, you end up not accepting the help because of your perfectionism. You have high standards and expectations of the people around you.

However, beyond the “strong and independent” front is a very needy child. You secretly wish that someone would be there for you and take care of your needs.  So, you often bounce back between these two characters, the have it all together fixer, and the very needy, emotional, and moody child. Sound like you?

 

This is the classic behavior of a Rescuer or Martyr money personality type. I have been in conversation with a more rescuers in my work, than any other personality type. So much so that I was inspired to write about this personality type. It also resonates with me because I too, am a recovering rescuer.

 

As the rescuer, your life is marked by the sacrifices you make for others. And even though you may be tired of carrying everyone’s load you just cannot help but show up for others. You often begrudgingly answer the call of duty, not because you want to but because you feel obliged to do so. If you don’t, you are plagued by guilt. What if they don’t like me anymore? What if I ruin our relationship? What if they don’t need me anymore? But financially, you are weighed down by all the people you are carrying and responsibilities you are shouldering.

Overcoming this challenging pattern

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against helping your family and friends. But I believe you should give from what you have, not what you don’t have. Secondly, I believe you should give with a joyful spirit, a happy and open heart. Not with sighing and complaining, not begrudgingly or out of obligation. Third, I believe you should give without any expectation whatsoever of the person you are giving to. And it is all good and well if you are giving and sacrificing under these conditions. But as we have noted above, this is not often the case with the Rescuer. Instead of happily embracing this role, they are resentful of it. Which makes for an unpleasant life experience.

1. Understand the root cause

Most of our money behavior is established from our early childhood experiences. And most people who are rescuers have either been abandoned by people who were meant to take care of them. So, you could be overextending yourself for others in fear that they will abandon you (if they like me, they won’t leave me type of situation). Or they found themselves having to rescue a parent from a destructive habit or situation, such as rescuing a parent from alcoholism or an abusive partner. Perhaps you had to neglect your own needs as a child to care for your parent. And so, from this situation the rescuer was born. You need to look back into your past to see where this pattern was born.

When did you first realize that you were on your own and had to fend for yourself?

When did you first have to step up to save someone from an undesirable circumstance?

When did you first experience rejection or abandonment?

Reflecting on such questions may give you insight into how this pattern came about for you. And that awareness will provide a basis for you to work from

 

2. Focus on your own needs

Rescuers are self sacrificing, they take care of everyone else’s needs while neglecting their own. They find it easier to tend to someone else than to tend to themselves. So you may be overextending yourself for others to avoid confronting and dealing with your own needs. Being busy saving everyone else helps you to avoid doing what you need to do for yourself, which is healing your own wounds. And so, a next step would be to focus on yourself and on your needs. What parts of you need healing? What needs of your own are you trying to fulfill by helping others? What needs of yours are you neglecting?

One thing I have noticed is that instead of asking for what they need, they do for other people what they would like done for them, in hopes that the other person will read between the lines and reciprocate. And if they don’t reciprocate, the rescuer will become passive aggressive. So you also need to learn to communicate your needs.

 

 

3. Realize that people don’t need you to save them.

It is not your business to be saving people. The only reason you have made it your business is likely to feed is to your own ego. Rescuers thrive on being needed.. Being needed makes them feel wanted. It validates their worth. So, they will keep up this behavior to prove their worth.

What your family and friends need for you is to love them enough to allow them to become independent. And that love can look like saying “no” to their requests so that they are left with no choice but to learn to rescue themselves. So they learn to become their own creative problem solvers. And in so doing, you empower them to take ownership of their own lives. That love can also look like you are being there to listen and brainstorm solutions rather than to show up with a money fix.

This is the difference between love and service instead of people pleasing. When you are people pleasing you will give someone money to rescue them out of a financial situation because you are afraid they will resent you if you don’t. That doesn’t do them any good though because the person will go on to create another financial situation and will come back to you for help. Whereas serving them and loving them would be to help them change the underlying behavior or habit causing their financial situation. Service would be to empower them rather than to enable them.

Baby Steps

It will not be as easy to make the needed changes. The rescuer in you will not back down easy as this is a role you have likely played for a big part of your life. Plus it’s not always easy to figure out where to step in to help and where to draw the line and allow the person to figure things out for themselves. In light of this, I want to leave you with something you can practice that may help you in overcoming this behavior.

When someone comes to you with a financial request don’t agree to help them right away nor should you volunteer to help immediately. Slow down. Ask them if you can give it some thought. Assess how you are feeling about the request.

Does it leave you with negative feelings or positive feelings?

If you are feeling negative about it, assess why that is? You always want to be giving from an open and happy heart not begrudgingly.

And if you are eager to help, is it coming from a place of service or ego? Are you doing it for them or to feed your own ego and make yourself feel good about yourself? Are you expecting anything in return?

Checking in with your feelings will at the very least help you ensure that whenever you are stepping up to help someone it is with the right motives and from a good heart space.

Let me know if this article was helpful to you at all. I would love to hear your thoughts.