Inner Work

Drained from Sacrificing for Others?

March 24, 2022
Li Xuan
Contents

These days, I have been reflecting on the topics of sacrifice, victimisation and being a hero. Some people call this a martyr syndrome.

The Symptoms

  • Giving a lot of your time and energy to others to the point of sacrificing your own needs.
  • Feeling drained and tired, no time for yourself and for doing things what makes you happy and recharged.
  • Feeling unappreciated and unsupported by the receivers of your love and sacrifice.  After a long time, feeling bitter and frustrated at life and people

Maybe you have felt like you need to give a lot to others, such as your loved ones and your work, and you keep sacrificing your own needs to do so. You don’t sleep, you work overtime for everyone, and you have close to no personal time for yourself, for friends, for exercise and whatever else gives you joy in life. It comes to a point where you feel so drained and tired, and unappreciated for your efforts. When this happens repeatedly, bitterness, frustration and anger sets in.

Or maybe, you know someone like that. It could be someone close to you whom you love.

Becoming a Victim

The one who has sacrificed a lot and gotten ‘nothing’ in return tends to feel like a victim as well. A victim of a lack of appreciation, of bad circumstances, and unsupportive family and peers.

Being a Responsible Hero

Yet, he or she may also feel an immense sense of responsibility. It is almost as if he or she has to be in charge of everything. Without him or her, the situation might go very badly and thus, stepping up is necessary and done out of ‘no choice’. This person needs to be the “hero” to save the day. He/she keeps giving and continues to sacrifice for as long as possible.

Vicious Cycle

The cycle repeats.

Feel responsible > Give a lot > Sacrifice > Tired and drained > Less than proportionate returns (appreciation, recognition) > More tired and drained > You get the idea.

Long Term Consequences

When this goes on for a long time, it can bring out the dark sides in a person. One might become deeply angry, bitter and maybe even harbour hatred and regret towards life and people. The need for recognition and repeated lack of recognition and appreciation is difficult. Gaining so little in exchange for all the sacrifices really eats at the soul.

Letting Go?

I sometimes wonder if this is an ego. When you feel that you need to be the one taking up all this responsibility and sacrifice yourself, when you feel like the situation or people cannot do without you. Are you really that important?

What happens if we let go of some of our perceived responsibilities? Even temporarily. Take the time out for yourself and to feed your heart and soul. Let the responsibilities fall for a bit.

Often times, we find that the situation doesn’t fall to pieces as badly as we thought it would. Life has a way of re-arranging things and life still goes on without you.

Suggested Steps

  • Take time out for yourself. Recharge your heart and soul.
  • Share the responsibilities.
  • Let go of trying to control outcomes.
  • Observe what happens when you are not around for a while.

Writer's Notes

I sometimes find myself in this cycle too. Thus far, when I decide to take time out for myself and to be away from my team or family, life gives me a reality check on how “important” I really am. It frees me up to know that I can take that break that I need, and I need not keep sacrificing myself. (And with the tinge of disappointment from my ego that I’m not as important as I made myself out to be!)

I hope sincerely that this little piece of writing helps those who might be facing something similar, for those who have been working so hard and sacrificing your own well-being. Take that time out for yourself, and you might find the space and healing that your heart and soul has been craving for.

Take care!

Article By
Li Xuan
Co-founder, Emotional Wellness & Associate ICF-certified Coach @ Inner Friend.