How We Set Ourselves Up to be the Martyr

Look, I know that no one loves to claim the title "martyr", but the truth is many of us set ourselves up to be just that. If you have ever said or felt something like this:

  • "I can't trust people."
  • "I do everything for everyone but when I need support, no one shows up."
  • "Why don't I get the support I offer?"

…then you have martyr syndrome.

You aren't alone, we all can feel this way… but feelings don't make it true.

What I have found is that most of us actually set ourselves up for defeat in this area. Unconsciously, we want to be known as the one who helps, supports and even fixes things. While that might be swell, we start comparing what others are doing so we can make sure we do more… then we get upset when support doesn't just magically show up the way we would have provided it.

There are a million different ways people like being supported and probably more than a million ways they don't. Since we are all different, here are some key skills to creating more balance, offering what is needed and getting what you want.

Here is how I help my clients in Confident, Connected & Impactful (my signature coaching program):


What we can stop doing:

Over-giving until depletion.

Giving can be an addiction. Once we start sacrificing our own well-being for another, we've gone too far. In order to give in a way that feels good, we can't deplete ourselves with the expectation that someone else is going to come save us. When our cup is full we give from our hearts. When we give while we are depleted, we might as well be trying to save someone from drowning while not knowing how to swim. Chances are you are both going to drown.


Creating un-written contracts.

We crave to lock people into unwritten contracts. I do this for you (whether or not you want it) and then I have expectations that you will do the same even though I've never clarified it with you or gotten your consent. There's just so much that goes wrong. If you are going to have expectations, then clarify them. Ask for agreement. Otherwise, you are making them agree to the conditions that haven't been expressed and setting yourself up for disappointment.


What we can start doing:


Ask for what we need.

While this may seem simple, many of just expect that the other will know what we need and offer it. For givers, it can be hard to ask for what we want, yet, the best chance of getting it is to be direct and ask for it. We may not always get what we want, but at least we get an answer and we don't have to continue to guess if our needs will be met.


Ask how you can support someone before 'fixing' it.

To stop over-giving, one simple way is to be clear about what they need. Sometimes we can do 99 steps to support someone and all they really needed was to be heard. That's a lot of wasted energy doing things they didn't even want. In fact, my relationships improved when I stopped jumping in to fix everyone.


Fill your cup first.

It's a beautiful thing to want to help and support others. However, many of us use this so we don't have to fill our own cup first - cause let's face it - someone else's problems seem easier for us manage than our own. If you feel like you are always jumping up to help others, take a moment and ask yourself what it is that you need… and give it to yourself.


"What's in my cup is for me. What flows over is for everyone else."

-Iyanla Vanzant


Step out of the martyr role - they aren't giving any prizes for it and it certainly doesn’t help our relationships. It can be enabling, overbearing, and exhausting.


Fill your cup first. Give from abundance.


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