I am a fixer. One of those people who like to fix. Maybe its one of the reasons I do community work. When something goes wrong I try to fix it. You might say this is what everyone does. It may be the case but I don't just like to or want to fix, I feel compelled to. I feel a responsibility to. I feel guilty if I don't.
If someone has a problem and if I don't fix it then it is my fault that they have a problem. I feel responsible for the problem continuing to be a problem. I should have fixed it.
This I discussed with another fixer, this fixing behaviour, where it comes from and what to do about it when it becomes such a compulsion that, amongst many other things:
- it makes you say yes when you should say no.
- it makes you misidentify your priorities
- it makes you feel forever less than you feel you should be
- it makes you take on burdens of work which are detrimental to your health
- it makes you get in out of your depth
- it makes you work to impossible standards
- it makes you seek control to ridiculous degrees
- it makes you feel constantly guilty
- it makes you build up equal levels of stress and resentment
- it makes you enter a never ending spiral of self improvement and learning to fix yourself to be better able to fix everything else
I thought of the vulnerabilities that are at the root of this behaviour and all the vulnerabilities which grow from this behaviour and talking with another fixer was prompted to watch a TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown.
It confirmed for me what I'd been getting to in a roundabout way. I knew myself to have this vulnerability. My fix was fixing. And I knew that much like many addictions, the first step is recognizing it. Then comes managing it, and not as Brene suggests we end up doing - numbing it.
I realised this is what I have done in the past - numbed my feelings of low-self-esteem and vulnerability with everything from chocolate to sleep to TV to hard work and in the process numbed also some of the joy in life. As Brene says 'You can't selectively numb emotion.' And in the process of my numbing of my feelings of vulnerability, I progressed to becoming the fixer which then meant another cycle of vulnerability from inappropriate priorities to control issues to stress, guilt and resentment. Brene explains 'how blame is described in research' as '[a] way to discharge pain and discomfort' - that was what I was doing with guilt and resentment,, blaming myself or others.
Now I embrace my vulnerabilities. I do my best and I can't always get it right no matter how hard I try or how much I care or how hard I work. And mistakes are to be learned from or can be just different paths and my blog posts on mistakes show my progress. If I stop blaming - myself or others and let go of resentment, forgiving myself and others - who knows the joy can follow and if I don't ...who knows.
So here are my '11 Reasons Not to Fix Stuff'
- It's not broken
- It is better that way
- It's not your responsibility
- Your time would be better served elsewhere
- It is not a priority
- It needs changing not fixing
- You can't fix everything
- You don't have the skill to fix it
- You don't have the tools to fix it
- Fixing it won't matter
- Fixing is for stuff and not people