Continuing on the path of healing, I want to share a little epiphany I had. A key trait of martyrdom is self-sacrifice and the “nobility” in putting your needs last. I remember always hearing about the struggles and the things my mother gave up throughout her life, some a necessary part of life, some a trauma response, but some completely unnecessary and merely out of habit. After having that level of sacrifice engrained for so long, it became a habit for me to feel immense guiltitude (guilt and gratitude) over everything my mother did for me whether it was making my lunch as a kid or support in any form. I felt everything I needed from her was taking away from her somehow. So I over compensated on the gratitude and went even further to make sure I did as much as I could on my own.
I’ve realized how twisted much of that behavior was. I felt guilty for asking for things I needed but my mother would get me things I never asked for. Believe me, I genuinely appreciated all of it, and I didn’t lack for much. But what I did get wasn’t always exactly what I needed. So much of my life was spent getting what she THOUGHT I needed. I mean, I remember there was a time we made some bad financial choices and we were down on our luck. We needed a place to stay and my parents opened their doors to us. And we appreciated it so much and tried to give back as much as we could through paying some rent and buying food and cleaning—normal stuff. But my mom took it upon herself to start cooking meals for us every night regardless of the hours we worked and then got mad if we didn’t eat what she prepared.
That type of behavior is a specific kind of martyrdom and gaslighting. It’s not like we didn’t need help—we just needed a different kind of help. What happens when you need a pain reliever and someone gives you an antacid? Not a bit of relief. The same can be said for any scenario like this. It isn’t like you don’t need help and yes, you need to be grateful for the help you get, but if it isn’t helping fix the need, then what good is it? It’s wasted energy. That isn’t to discredit what people can do but that is something to be said about people who want to act in a way that doesn’t fully support the need and demand appreciation for either exacerbating the problem or not fixing it. This isn’t about ego and proving what you did, it’s about putting that aside and recognizing what someone needs.
When you are trained to accept what someone believes you need, it’s easy to lose sight of what your instincts are telling you. It’s easy to accept what someone tells you is enough. It’s easy to believe that there are limits on what you’re capable of. Do not let someone try running in your shoes because they will never understand what you need and you can never make them understand something they haven’t experienced. Even if they have experienced what you have, they haven’t experienced it in your way. Their definition of what will work for you is theirs. Reclaim what you need and reclaim those instincts. Do not let anyone believe that asking for what you need makes you selfish and do not let them make you think that they know what you need.