Dating back to ancient times, martyrs were regarded as brave, virtuous, and strong.” The critical difference is that historical martyrs, like Joan of Arc—as well as more modern martyrs, like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela—had higher goals. “Real martyrs stood for something,” says behavioral science expert David Emerald, cofounder of the Bainbridge Leadership Center. “For them, the suffering was not the point—it was secondary to their fight, and that’s been misplaced in current culture.”
We regularly see many influential people talk about self sacrifice, from religious and spiritual leaders to parents, partners and friends, self sacrifice is now equated with goodness.
The more long suffering you're, the more pain you hold onto, the more distress you feel, the more intense your reactions are, the more outrage you have, the more martyrs seeing themselves as good people. Even getting silent meaning and purpose from their activities, not getting upfront praise or recognition, can serve up subsequent feelings of guilt and shame.
I see it all the time, it's prevalent in spiritual/religious circles as well as activist/change maker circles, where the expectations are jacked up to sky high levels of martyrdom, whenever I spot this, I know someone is heading for a fall, I noticed they already have unsatisfactory lives in the now, like I once did.
They have set an impossible task for themselves, finding they often let themselves down, feeling disappointed with their perceived lack of goodness. Everyone who has a MC will reach a bottleneck where they have to re-evaluate their behaviours, address how they're never getting their needs met.
This habit is enabled by so many, I also frequently see two parties with MCs enable each other, when one pulls away, the relationship falls apart, so they experience great lost in the meantime, they can lose all their friends at one go. Boundaries help them avoid getting seduced back into the complex again.
I witness how they face a large amount of projected judgement, including guilt tripping, shaming and accusations when they start to draw boundaries, finding many make everything about morality instead of what's realistic, what's healthy, what serves you best, what's functional.
I know I faced it all when I started quitting 4 years ago, I'm now sharing 5 tried and tested ways that work. Conquering the MC is a life changer, as with anything it's a process, healing isn't a singular event.
Give yourself time.
1. Accept that the world isn't going to fall apart without you. There is value in your existence, your being is intrinsically worthy. By not overwhelming yourself with things others can and should do, they can now choose to strike a better balance in their own lives.
If they do fall apart, by giving them a chance to experience the consequences, you're helping them as well, they start to introspect. Be careful that they aren't manipulating you, martyrs are eager to offer help, sometimes we end up being exploited. Teaching myself how to spot manipulators help me drop soul sucking narcissists who have no regard for my wellbeing. The hardest was when they played the victim, it tickled my martyr's fancy, off to the rescue I went!
2. If no one is doing it, there's a reason why. Martyrs often complain the world is selfish and I have done so too, if you reflect on it, you're constantly doing much more for others than they're doing for you, you go above and beyond, feeling frustrated with those who do nothing or judging how low standards can get recognition, the reason is they could diligently work up to having a reputation because it's realistic, they don't spend as much time on one task, whereas you spend much more time on one task.
If no one is putting in that amount of effort, loving you the way you love them, you find it hard to find people who're equally self sacrificial, it's undoable. Our basic needs of financial freedom, empathy, self care, food, lodging and shelter are the same for everyone. You can adjust to doable levels of consistent contributions, when people expect unrealistic amounts of sacrifices, they're draining you, you need to lose them, not neglect your wellbeing. It's better to be consistent rather than fluctuate between too much, ending up with distress, or too little, ending up unmotivated.
3. Commit to quitting. Stop expecting others to live up to your standards, understand you're pressuring others in a way no one is doing, healthy people will run away from you. I know I refused to have relationships with any martyrs for the last 4 years, I stood firm, continued to have boundaries, it became easier as I formed a habit of not jumping in to rescue and found my life far more balanced. People who want to be rescued disliked me, they want to enmesh and my refusal to engage frustrates them, I know I'm helping them too, even if they don't like it, they end up quitting enmeshment as well, because it was impossible for them too. It is their duties to save themselves first and foremost, I offer the amount of support I can, in the way I can, the rest is up to them.
4. Understand suffering is unnatural. Suffering is the result of trauma, dysfunction and wounds, it is unnatural to our divine God self which only knows peace, joy, love, light and play. Restoration is only possible when there're boundaries first, without boundaries all new healing methods cannot be implemented successfully, you don't have enough bandwidth to do it well.
We deserve the beauty of our sacredness.
We can only preserve our light when we achieve guilt free and shameless balance in our lives.
Suffering isn't a reflection of how good you're, it's a reflection of how hung up on the ego you're, how much inner work remains to be done, martyrdom is about control, you want to control others to see you as a good person. I ask you, do you not see others as good people even if they don't do anything for you? Martyrs often understand people are inherently good, can see their goodness because martyrs do feel motivated to make an effort to help others, we're already good.
You deserve people like you.
Putting yourself in a chronically overwhelmed state will result in clinical depression and chronic anxiety in the long run. If this goes on, you will find yourself prone to all in or all out black and white thinking, bitting off too much at once or feeling too deflated to go beyond your comfort zone. You don't even want to contribute anything after being disillusioned one too many times, it's too stressful. You can't tell if people genuinely love you for you or love you because you please them.
5. Self validation to increase self love. Martyrs want to earn love through self sacrifice, you will find you have to busy yourself fending off the distrustful people on one side, those who doubt your goodness no matter how much you do for them, trapping yourself in the middle with the clinging neediness of wanting constant validation from those who do trust you on the other side, driving those who trust you away, ending up with only distrustful people who you can't tolerate as well, it's a lonely place to be.
When you get too little from either side, which you will as a martyr, the amount of effort you put in always outweighs the praise you get, you start becoming resentful over time, chronic anger issues also develop, you start complaining, caught in negativity.
Martyrs are typically invisible workhorses with strong work ethics, afraid of exposing their goodness because it means they risk no longer seeing themselves as good people, constant sacrifice without credit = good person in their heads, when it is the people who give you credit that see you as a good person. Afraid of asking for needs to be met as well, they don't have realistic feedback from the people around them, so gauging the return of investment becomes a tall task.
It's OK to invite people to contribute to your life, it's OK to ask for help.
Look around, people praise the ones who strike a balance as much as the ones who don't, the difference is you get a higher level of personal satisfaction from self validation as part of self love, instead of hinging your bets on someone else to do it for you.
You are capable of doing this independently, without anyone else.
External validation is a disempowered stance where you're giving power away to others, letting them determine how good you're instead of increasing self love, feeling safe and secure by knowing, living in peaceful conviction how good you're.
Even after you quit the martyr complex, you still suffer, you however start to think this suffering is manageable, you no longer stretch yourself too thin. You also have more space to reflect, work towards your own goals instead of being caught up in other people's drama, your satisfaction quota goes way up, you're inspired and healthy again.
The problem is you're doing too much, not too little, by recognising the subconscious psychological needs that drive you to over do, you have more awareness when it happens, you're better at accepting the existence of selfish people, you know who're the empowered balanced ones, you draw better people, you make better relationship choices.
If you find it tough to quit, consider you might be a codependent or you have deep seeded childhood wounds to heal from.
Affirm yourself - you're worthy, good and kind, you do not need to prove it to anyone.
Love Light Peace
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Hermann Anton, Joan of Arc’s death at the stake