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Reader QUIT: My Obsessive Savior Complex (by Biodun Adebiyi)

2013 November 27
by Cordelia

S is for Supersexy SuperheroWhen I was a kid, I had a family member who doted on me. He worried about everything that had to do with me. Like if my teacher raised her voice at me. Or if I hadn’t eaten enough protein, or if I needed to buy red shoes so nobody laughed me because everyone else had red shoes. It was fun for a while, until I grew up. Then it became annoying, and I couldn’t wait to get away from him.

I learned to hide quarrels with friends or fights at school because he would give suggestions about how to have the upper hand in a fight or how to write better poetry. He would list a dozen reasons why someone wasn’t good enough to be my friend and argue with teachers that complained about me.

I just wanted him to let me be so I could find my own way. Sometimes he got the message and at other times he didn’t, but he never managed to stay out of it for long. It drove a wedge between us and soured what could have been a wonderful relationship.

The Apple Never Falls Far from the Tree

Fast forward a few years, and I was telling my friends what to do and how to do it. Suggesting they break up with this boyfriend, learn how to play the guitar because they were promising, or take some other course because it made more sense. I’m sure I’ve written breakup speeches for a few friends in the past.

I lost friends who felt I was trying to run their lives; I would console myself that I didn’t need them, but it still stung. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was acting just like that family member. I was in denial for a while, but finally, I was determined to stop it.

Acknowledging That I’ve Got to Quit

Turns out stopping was a lot harder than I thought.

Telling myself that I needed to quit wasn’t helping. I am older now, and my friends are in more serious circumstances than BFFs or cheating boyfriends. It’s marriages on the brink now and abusive husbands or interfering in-laws and mean bosses. But I can’t keep lying in bed worrying about other people’s problems and how to save them.

Maybe they don’t need saving, and if they do, then maybe they need to realize it first — or better still, they can save themselves.

Slowly Getting Better

It’s been hard. Really hard, but I’m mastering the art of not been a savior. I’m learning to just sit and really listen to people complaining or sharing. This way, I can actually hear the things that aren’t been said. Like when the person doesn’t really want my help, even if they’re asking for it, or when their fear comes from a deeper place and it’s something they need to work out themselves.

I understand that family member better now, and I feel quite guilty about the way I handled our relationship. I’m focusing on other things like myself, family, world peace, and taking life one day at a time.


BiodunBiodun Adebiyi just finished a novel and is moving on to the next.  She writes and shares at Membrane Books and Paper Boys. Currently, she lives with her family in Suwon, South Korea. You can follow her on Twitter @biodun_adebiyi.



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  • Erin Kurup

    Truly listening is so hard, isn’t it? I tend to find I’m either thinking of what my response will be or coming up with solutions or advice. I keep trying to remind myself that it’s often empathy people need, not to be fixed. Good luck with your quit :)

  • Bob T Panda

    Hoo boy, does this ring some bells. I too am guilty of this very thing, and am really working on not doing it any more. /and gee is it hard!
    Glad to hear I’m not the only one with this affliction. Stay strong!

  • biodun adebiyi

    Thanks Erin. Thanks Bob. I have to credit Cordelia for giving me the chance to come out about this on her blog. I even started my own to-quit list and it’s actually working!