Self-sacrifice is very hard to escape.
It is so conditioned into us that whether you are an HSP or non-HSP doesn’t matter. You are subject to the expectation.
Self-sacrifice carried to an extreme will make you sick, emotionally and physically.
Why is self-sacrifice such a problem?
Self-Sacrifice Solves A Lot Of Problems
Self-sacrifice solves so many problems:
- if there are scarce resources, self-sacrifice ensures that there is “enough”
- if someone is abusive, expecting self-sacrifice from victims “erases” a problem and injustice
- if life is unfair, it is because self-sacrifice is your “lot” in life
- if the system does not work, self-sacrifice enables us to avoid dealing with the problem
- expectations of self-sacrifice ensure that social inequities remain in place by allocating support only to some
- expectations of self-sacrifice maintain unequal relationships and relationships that are one way streets. They maintain power imbalances and the status quo.
How Self-Sacrifice Affects An Individual
Self-sacrifice feels devastating to the individual who experiences it. It is more than feeling like you are less than others. It is a way of appropriating the life force of one individual for the benefit of others.
For highly sensitive people for whom emotional vampires are a danger, a life of self sacrifice can be even more cruel since you are being both emotionally and usually physically exploited without any hope for reciprocity and care.
People stuck in self denying situations often feel angry depleted and robbed of their lives.
They are right!
Self Sacrifice Destroys Relationships
Self sacrifice is culturally conditioned. That means it is expeted and is often the basis of social and familial approval.
When such an arrangement is socially supported, change becomes more difficult, because the social support for change is not there. Generally some people benefit from the arrangement and therefore will not want to end it.
A sacrificing arrangement takes away the power from the person who is sacrificing, because it is in the nature of the relationships to deny the validity of any claims from the individual who is being used. That is why many people who have been in self sacrificing situations will feel rage and powerlessness at the same time: wo uncomfortable emotions and even more hurtful together.
An unequal self-sacrificing relationship is set by expectation and social custom, therefore, it is not always possible to negotiate a better arrangement, and if improvements are possible they are often hard won and hard maintained.
Without appearing too gloomy, it is important to be honest about the deep difficulties faced by those individuals and groups whose lives have been damaged by individual, group and systemic exploitation. When you grasp and feel the intractability of racism and sexism, you can have some compassion for those recovering from those forms of discrimination.
Self-sacrifice may be physically and emotionally devastating to the victim, but it is also spiritually damaging, even more so for the perpetrator than the victim, although both are harmed, nonetheless.
Changing Your Life
Changing your life to one of healthy living and wellbeing is very challenging. It is important to treat oneself with respect during the difficult process of change.
People who seek more equal and more respectful relationships are often considered troublemakers, and misanthropes by those who gain from the inequity.
We see this resistance to change all over as our world gradually evolves to one where individuals share the world more fully. As desirable as equality is, it takes time to make a transition to an equality based life and can take a long time depending on the support that you have and receive.
As individuals recovering from racism can attest, the road to full acceptance can be a long one.
There are steps you can take to make the process easier:
- assess your skills and resources
- develop skills so that you can survive in the world
- determine what your basic necessities are and get them met s that you need as little as possible during the process of creating a self respecting life for yourself.
- find support among people who share your desire and vision for a better way of life
- expect the process of change to take time
- honor yourself for making the journey
Developing a self-respecting life is a hero’s journey. Those who undertake it deserve compassion and respect.