Understanding + Overcoming the Fixer Mentality

overcome fixer mentality

Can you relate to the urge to “fix” everything, for everyone, all the time? To make sure the people you love are okay and working tirelessly to ensure all is running smoothly? These are signs you may have a fixer mentality.

The fixer personality type is a ever-present need to “fix” situations or others. The drive to fix typically comes from a good place, and it’s impacts are positive in the short term. In fact, this quality has probably lead to a lot of positive successes in your life, career, and relationships.

However, in the long-term, staying in this role can harm the mental health of the fixer and can strain relationships in unexpected ways.

I’m going to break down where this characteristic comes from, how it may be holding you back, and how you can learn to rely on others a bit more (i.e. how to fix a fixer personality).

Where the Fixer Mentality Comes from

On the surface, the fixer mentality relates to having deep compassion for the people around you. You care genuinely for the people in your life, and you do not want them to experience pain, discomfort, or even inconvenience.

Plus, you are good at fixing things- you know how to step in and get things done. It’s easier for you to do just that. And if you didn’t, who would?

As an attachment therapist, I take a brief peak into history to understand how childhood experiences can play into personality and relationship tendencies as adults.

Here are some ways that childhood lessons may impact someone’s habitual need to fix as an adult:

  • Emotionally Immature Parents: If a child had caregivers that put their own needs first, they may receive messages that they are not worthy of love unless the needs of their parents are met.
  • Conditional Love: Similarly, if a child only received messages of love and validation when they were “performing” well, they may learn that they need to fix in order to earn the love of others.
  • Lack of Security: In a home with chaos, high conflict, or substance abuse, a child may learn to take control over matters than can to create stability. They learn that when they are in control is when they are safe.

There are a myriad of ways early experiences in a family system, school, or early peer relationships can combine to create psychological and emotional components of the fixer syndrome.

Underneath all the fixing behaviors on the surface tends to remain a sense of inadequacy, a desire to be accepted, and a longing to feel safe and secure.

fixer personality

Potential Downfalls of Fixer Mentality

The same strategies that may have allowed a child to feel safe, good enough, and loved can actually prevent the adult to get their needs met over time. Here are some of the potential downfalls of continuing to employ a fixer mentality over time.

I’ll start with the most obvious. Over time, when one person carries the responsibility for everything, burnout is almost inevitable. The truth is, we cannot control or anticipate every challenge life throws our way.

The idea of thinking that you need to creates an unrealistic expectation you’ll never be able to maintain over time. You may even feel unappreciated or misunderstood for all the efforts your constantly make to fix everything. If your finite time and energy goes into fixing things around you, self-care is likely going to be one of the first things you sacrifice.

One of the hardest parts about overcoming the fixer mentality is that fixers tend to subconsciously believe that their worth comes from those actions themselves. When you can’t fix something or someone, you might feel like a failure.

When that happens, you might reconnect to those childhood feelings of inadequacy, self-blame, and lack of safety, which will impact your own idea self-worth.

Close relationships are bidirectional, meaning that patterns that reinforce each other are creating based on both person’s input.

If you are in a relationship where you are a fixer, you might end up contributing to a pattern where the other person:

  • Doesn’t get to participate and have their voice heard
  • Begins to feel inadequate or under-valued
  • Helps you even less because they feel incompetent, reinforcing the burden all on you

Instead of a secure, inter-dependent relationship, together you create a pattern where you cannot trust and rely on one another.

One fixer in a relationship can lead to a dynamic where partners and family members may feel controlled rather than cared for, resulting in resentment and dependency. If you focus on fixing people, they may have a sense that they are being judged or criticized and become closed off and resentful over time.

Further, the fixer may resent the fact that they always have to be the one stepping in and helping. They may not understand why no one else is able to help in ways that they can.

Underneath the need to fix is a deep discomfort with things not being perfect, settled, or adequate in their eyes.

However, mental health and stability does not mean the avoidance of difficult situations by trying to fix them right away. Instead, mental health is the development of skills to tolerate uncomfortable emotions, held and supported by those you love and trust.

If someone you love is upset about a loss they are facing, and you try to step in and “fix” their situation because you are uncomfortable seeing them sad, you actually invalidate their pain. By trying to fix the situation, you stunt their own emotional processing and leave them alone in their hurt.

fixer mentality

Overcoming the Fixer Mentality – Practical Tips

Here are some practical strategies to support you in how to stop being a fixer in a relationship and overcoming the need to fix.

The first step to changing any behavior is to notice that it’s happening. See if you can get really honest with yourself and look at the ways you respond to a lack of control or comfort in situations or relationships.

Do you tend to want to step in and help or fix right away? Is it stressful for you to watch your loved ones in a temporary struggle? Have I felt better about myself from fixing people?

Finally, explore how I feel when I fix something.

Having compassion for yourself is another critical element in changing behaviors, especially a pattern as deep-rooted as a fixer personality.

Blaming yourself further for your role as a fixer and the way you’ve tried to help others will keep you stuck in a shame cycle. Eventually want to validate your worth through fixing again and land right where you started.

Instead, have tons of relentless compassion for yourself. Do the exploratory work so that you can truly understand where these patterns were born. Then, validate the parts of you that want to fix everything.

Setting and maintaining boundaries is a complex, nuanced skill that you have to practice over time. With the fixer personality type, it is important to differentiate yourself from the ones you love so that you do not take on all their emotions as your own and feel the urge to fix things for them.

Recognize how you will know when you are taking on too much and how you will pull yourself back. When you feel yourself pulled to fix something or someone, ask yourself where this urge is coming from. Can you empower the other person to help themselves rather than stepping in?

To maintain healthy boundaries over time, you need to buy into the idea that your worth does not come from your ability to fix someone or a situation.

Practice self compassion and validate your own self worth. Remember, these are not one-and-done tasks, but rather life-long maintenance exercises. Remind yourself that you are worthy of love and safety in the world just because you are you, not because of all you are capable of. Find ways that you are able to connect with your true self.

These four steps are straight-forward concepts, yet they can be complicated to unravel in your actual life where the dynamics you have been exposed to are complex. And the truth is, we often need someone else to really see us and our worth before we believe it enough to practice ourselves.

An anxiety therapist trained in family systems will be well-suited to guide you on the journey of healing your childhood wounds, identifying your thought patterns, releasing your fixer-mentality, and creating the balanced life you’ve always deserved.

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