10 Questions to Ask Yourself to See if You Have a Savior Complex

Could you be doing good things for all the wrong reasons?

Sarah M. Baker June 12, 2016
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The savior complex is often misidentified in the adoption community. If you are asking yourself if you adopted because you think you may have a savior complex, chances are that’s not the case.

The savior complex, by definition, is a person who has a psychological need to help others in order to feel good about themselves. I have read about religious organizations encouraging people to adopt because it is their “duty” to help orphans. They place the people who do adopt these orphans on pedestals and boast about their good deeds. But, most adoptive parents I know chose adoption to fulfill their need to grow their family, to parent a child, to fill a void in their homes and hearts. While it is true that the children they adopt are in need of a forever family, these parents don’t overlook their child’s losses or take compliments from strangers lightly. They often remark back that they were the ones who were “saved” by adoption.

People with a savior complex often don’t just help people in need because it feels good, but because they are searching for love, approval, and acceptance. When people say, “She has a savior complex,” I think they are often trying to indicate that the person comes across as self-righteous for the good deeds she does. People with a savior complex often do good out of sheer need to fulfill themselves and gain approval, but are they also looking to be praised?

To see if you have a savior complex, ask yourself:

1. Do you often wonder, “If I don’t do it, who will?”

2. Do you worry about others messing up if they do it, so you often step in to help them?

3. Do you see to it that it’s your business to make sure others are always okay?

4. Do you care about others’ problems more than they care about them?

5. Do you feel like it would be chaos if you didn’t step up every time there was something that needed taken care of?

6. Do you feel like you have to always say yes?

7. Do you feel like helping others is the only way to get noticed?

8. Is “fixing” others connected to your self-worth?

9. Do you feel like you are better than those you help?

10. Do you feel annoyed when people don’t reward your good deeds?

It’s not bad to want to help people, but helping people for the wrong reasons like the need to have control over situations, the need to fix people who don’t want fixed, or the need to gain praise are likely things that lead to the savior complex mentality. If you feel drained from all the “help” you are offering, it’s not doing you any good. If helping others isn’t actually helping them, but fulfilling your own satisfaction to brag about your good deeds, then you should probably re-evaluate. It’s okay to help others, it’s good even—just be sure you are doing it out of genuine care and not to place yourself above them. It’s not your ticket to good graces and the children you adopt surely aren’t trophies of your good works.

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Sarah M. Baker

Sarah is a Staff Storyteller for Adoption.com and passionate about teaching others the power of open adoption. She is very active in the adoption community, where she spends a lot of time advocating as the founder of Heart For Open Adoption. She is the mom of two boys in addition to parenting her niece. She is a mother biologically and through domestic infant open adoption. Sarah promotes adoption education and ethical adoptions. She and her husband were featured on Season 2 of Oxygen’s “I’m Having Their Baby,” which tells the story of their first adoption match failing. Sarah hopes to bring her personal experience to you and help anyone who wants more information about adoption to find it with ease. Though it was once a taboo subject, Sarah hopes to make adoption something people are no longer afraid to talk about. You can learn more about Sarah and her family on her blog.

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