One way that people like to make themselves feel bad is to use the word “selfish”. When I see people use this word, I see them lower their heads and cross their arms in disgust. People do not like the idea of doing things for themselves.
The truth is that it is good to be selfish. When you are selfish you are putting your needs first. I understand how that can look like a bad thing. Look at it closely; if you are out of shape can you help someone push themselves in a good run? If you are sick can you take care of another person? Taking care of yourself is what allows you to support your loved ones.
Many people like to create a martyr mentality where they believe they can help people or be a good person by hurting themselves. Martyrs are only good when their sacrifices are written in song. Generally this is done by religion. In real life martyrs are annoying and draining to the people they are around. Have you been with a person who refused to be selfish? Have you noticed how you really want them to do something nice for themselves? Have you noticed how you aren’t taking your advice on this one?
The person who lives a life of anti-selfishness is living from a lack mentality. Somewhere in their brain they believe if they spend time for themselves then they will not have time for other people. When people are in lack mentalities they create the lack in their lives. They believe if they only sacrificed themselves more then their children would never feel bad or their significant other wouldn’t have left. I feel Abraham said it best when she said, “You cannot get yourself sick enough to make someone else better, you cannot lower yourself enough to make someone feel more empowered, you cannot make yourself poor enough to make someone else rich.” Only in extreme situations, such as jumping in front of a bullet, does martyrdom help a situation.
Another problem with being a martyr is that you will never feel appreciated enough for your sacrifices. Since none of the martyr’s sacrifices are good enough for themselves, they will reflect their beliefs of lack of appreciation of themselves on the people in their lives. Since a martyr can never sacrifice themselves enough to fix everything, they believe that everyone thinks the same about them. Even if those that the martyr has helped say they appreciate what the martyr does for them, the martyr will never believe them. Also, martyrs will grow to resent the person because they have to sacrifice so much of their lives for them. The martyr puts their life on hold. The martyr also may turn to emotional manipulation to get the love they seek if their sacrifices do not work.
Martyrdom does not allow people to live up to their full potential and is not a way to show love. It is more of a type of manipulation. True love is the love people attribute to dogs. They give love while wanting nothing in return. Mother Teresa had an excellent quote, “The greatest paradox is that if I love until it hurts, there is no hurt.” Sacrificing for love is not a way to get love. In fact it is not even a form of loving. The martyr has fooled themselves in believing they are being loving.
Sacrificing in itself is not a bad thing. Sacrificing your life to get love is though. Many great people sacrifice their lives because it is their purpose. Mothers and fathers who sacrifice their lives for their children are an example. What makes these people not martyrs is they do not want in return and will accept the gifts that people give them. Plus they also make sure to take care of themselves.
The classic example is the oxygen mask on the plane. First the parent puts the oxygen mask on and then they put it on their child. You are no good if while putting the oxygen mask on your child, you pass out yourself. Being the martyr is metaphorically passing out while putting the mask on the child and then yelling at the child for not thanking them for the great sacrifice they have made. Many martyr’s actually try to jump in front of bullet.
The question to ask yourself is where in your life you are sacrificing for someone else to get something in return that you will never get. Are you sleeping with a man so he will fall in love with you? Are you helping a woman move so she will sleep with you? Are you refusing praise for some help you did? Where are you trying to get sick so someone else can feel well?
Awareness is an amazing first step for change.
Homework of the week:
Even if you are not a martyr in any aspect of your life or any relationships, do something nice for yourself, just for yourself. Additional homework, if anyone gives you a compliment, thank them.