We all know that person, the “yes man” who offers to stay late, arrive early, pick up supplies, and take care of all other to-dos, only to complain about it and demand praise afterwards. Meet the modern day martyr.
When we hear the word martyr, we typically think of historical figures like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela or Joan of Arc, who fought for causes larger than themselves. By today’s standards, however, the label “martyr” is less desirable, reserved for those who prioritize others’ needs over their own in hopes of feeling validation, selflessness and control. In other words, Real Simple describes martyrs as those who “equate sacrifice with goodness.”
What makes you vulnerable to martyrdom?
- Low Self-worth: Typically, martyrs don’t know how to validate or love themselves effectively. Martyrs feel that their value is in serving others, such that they can feel worthless when not actively supporting teammates, family members, or others in their network.
- Need for Control: Martyrs can mask a need for control with self-pity, thinking, “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done”
- Seeking Validation: Even in the midst of overwhelming praise, martyrs typically feel under appreciated. They tend to require a lot of praise and validation, which can sound a lot like complaining to everyone else.
Are you a martyr? Here’s how to break the cycle:
- Delegate: The end result may not end up exactly like you imagined, but delegating tasks to responsible parties will make you a better team player. Spreading out the work will likely yield better results, too.
- Assess: Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? If I take it on, what do I have to give up? Would I still want to do this even if no one ever knew about it?”
- Acts of Selfishness: If you know you’re a martyr, make a conscious choice to put yourself first sometimes. Take advantage of vacation days or lunch breaks. Set goals for yourself, and use your precious “No, thank yous” when something falls outside of that scope.