Mini-Series: Part 2 - Martyr

Mini-Series: Part 2 - Martyr

Let's talk about the archetype Martyr. Let's be clear, this is very distinct from the brave people who have lived so true to their values that it has cost them their lives. 

We speak here only of people who allow harm or neglect to come to themselves in the service of others. The "martyr" self-sacrifices when not asked to do so by others. There are parallels in "martyr" to "victim". In both archetypes there is the ability to point to others for why you have not accomplished things or had needs met. In the victim case the person simply does not feel like they have power over their own lives. With the martyr the ability to escape is explained in their minds to be a result of them doing so much for others or for causes.

Once again, I urge us all to be honest about the fact that we all, to greater or lesser degrees, use this mindset. In fact as I wrote this I had to own up to a place that I had been using a martyr mindset, needlessly sacrificing having my own needs met well so that the needs of others could be.

For some people this martyr mindset has become a habit. The Mom who is always doing for her kids and not caring for her own legitimate needs, feeling resentful, dropping passive-aggressive hints that she does everything. The Dad who does many household chores, helps his buddies move, volunteers coaching the kids sports teams, yet feeling resentful that he has no time for his hobbies.

It's not just about giving it's about how we view our own giving - that we are going above and beyond in ways that cost us personally. Likely no one in our life started off asking us to be the martyr. We tried on the role, liked some of the results, however sub-consciously, and continued. 

Part of the irony of being a martyr is that once you have been using that way of showing up for awhile you do indeed feel like others are expecting it of you. Resentment builds.

What does this martyr way of thinking do for us?

  • It let’s us feel good about ourselves because we are "giving" so much
  • We can avoid some conflict because we just give in and do versus asking for our own needs
  • Not only can we feel good about how we self-sacrifice, but others, when they notice, may also give us kudos for all that we do for them
  • We can avoid taking a hard honest look at what we really are contributing to the relationship or situation because in our own mind we are sacrificing and doing so much

What does it cost us?

  • Once we adopt the stance we also alienate ourselves like the victim because we can become resentful and feel stuck in a role or pattern
  • Ultimately, it costs us having our needs met. This can lead to burn-out, illness, relationship crisis, etc.
  • It also costs the other person or people owning their share and whatever growth comes with that
  • The other huge cost for us here is that we are preventing others from seeing the real us - preventing them seeing and also, therefore, preventing them from truly loving us authentically

So, how do we move away from martyr?

  • Truly, you have to own it first. Where have you been minimizing your needs? 
  • Notice the relationships or situations where you have some resentment - often with it are quiet decisions we have made from the martyr perspective that others don't even know about nor did they ask us to do so
  • Find the language to approach the appropriate people and ask for their help in finding a different way forward
  • Own your own role with statements like: "I know you didn't ask me to do this but I have taken on doing X. Part of me was doing this to reduce your stress but I realize it is both unnecessary and unhealthy. Can you help me come up with a better way of moving forward?"

Until next week,


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