How to End a Pattern of Unhealthy Sacrifice
Healthy sacrifice is a different story. To be happy in a relationship, you have to be willing to sacrifice fear for love, independence for intimacy, defenses for joy and resentment for forgiveness. To be successful at work, you have to be willing to sacrifice being in control to allow for innovation and sacrifice chronic busyness for genuine success. Healthy sacrifice helps you to let go of what does not really work in order to embrace what does work.
So, how much unhealthy sacrifice are you in right now? Sometimes the habit of unhealthy sacrifice is so unconscious we are the last to recognize it in ourselves. Would you be willing to give up unhealthy sacrifice so as to shift your life and experience greater joy, love and abundance?
Before you can begin to heal a pattern of unhealthy sacrifice, we must first identify your martyr profile. Here are ten common types, plus an exercise for letting go.
I’m afraid to be true to myself, even in my closest relationships.
In our first coaching session, Claire, a 28-year-old classical pianist, told me, "I want you to help me prepare for a conversation I need to have with my parents." Claire grew up in a musical family. Her father was a well-known conductor. Her mother played first violin. "Classical music is a religion in our family," Claire said. Claire was an accomplished classical pianist. "I'm good at it, but my heart's not in it," she said. "I really want to play jazz. That's what my soul wants. But I'm afraid it's not what my parents want."
The story of sacrifice usually begins with family. The primary sacrifice is a movement away from your authentic, unconditioned self to a more adapted, pleasing self. Early on, you notice what wins smiles, applause, approval and love—and also what doesn't. Being adaptive is normal and healthy, but too much of it can cause a pattern of unhealthy sacrifice later in life. The movement away from your authentic self to a pleasing self is a fall from grace that leaves you chasing happiness outside of you. Other symptoms include feeling unworthy, being afraid of rejection, always giving your power away and ultimately feeling unloved and unsuccessful.
Letting Go Exercise: Meditate on being true to yourself. First, ask: "What does being true to myself really mean?" Second, notice how good it feels to listen to your heart, to follow your joy, to trust yourself and to be authentic. Third, look at where you could be truer to yourself. Fourth, notice any fears that arise and question: "Are these fears true, or are they just fears?" Be willing to let go of being "good," "nice" and "pleasing" so that you can be real and so that people can see who you really are. Remember this: When you are true to yourself, you cannot betray anyone else.