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Do You Sacrifice Yourself

I grew up with the concept that to ‘sacrifice yourself for the good of others’, to ensure their happiness, was not only noble, but from some teachings also pretty much guaranteed you a first-class ticket to heaven.

The worst thing you could be accused of was being selfish. That word when it’s directed towards me today can still invoke a feeling of shame and disappointment, like I have done something wrong. So what is the opposite of selfish? It is to be selfless, or for the purpose of this article to sacrifice your self – putting everyone else’s needs first. If we look at it the closer I am to being selfish, the less I feel good about myself; the closer I am to sacrificing myself, the more I can feel good about myself.

Deciding whether to be selfish or self-sacrificing doesn’t come from us listening and looking within ourselves. It comes from what we think others will think. Something I call ‘outside in’ living, where we look to others to feel good about ourselves.

Unconsciously, ‘what we think others will think’ or ‘outside in’ living, has been involved in parenting for a very long time.

Parents brought up children by a set of rules that were based on what everyone else thought. How the children dressed, presented to the world, what job they did and how they behaved all reflected on the family. They parented from an invisible realisation of a need to people-please. Only when they thought everyone else would, or did, approve did they allow themselves to be happy. The manipulation of parenting with the ‘what I know best’ line is fuelled by the fact that ‘my ability to think of myself as a good parent is when I think or know that my child will be approved of by society’; which means, really, that we have sacrificed listening to what the child wants and parent them in a way that society will approve of them, and of us.

The unconscious, or invisible, awareness of the way we live outside in, of what we think others will think, is the key to finding a different way than sacrificing ourselves.

Women, especially mothers, love to sacrifice themselves. From housework to the cooking, to parenting, to being there for everyone else, to sleep deprivation, to everyday moments in life, women find ways to sacrifice themselves; it is in some ways now a competition in a ‘who can do more for their family’ type of way. And as women we encourage each other, we all acknowledge (to each other) that “we have to” and in some ways admire the women who seem to do it more than us. The keeping-everyone-else-happy goal is the unwritten rule that we all live by. The way we feel good about ourselves is by dismissing our needs and looking to the unwritten list that is engrained into each of us – oh, that’s right, to be a good mother, wife, friend, daughter, I can’t do…; I need to do…; I have to…; …to keep them happy. Sacrificing yourself means ‘there’s no time left in my day to do what I want in life’. And even if there was, many women have adopted the ‘I can’t feel good about myself unless I do’ belief, so they don’t sit down anyway unless everything is ‘done’.

So instead of our happy coming from within us, it’s like we look to other people’s expectation boards and guess whether they think, for example, that ‘I am being a good mother’, and if we think the invisible board approves, then, and only then, will we think, ‘I am a wonderful parent’, and in that moment we feel good about ourselves. And this all happens in our heads in half a second, unconsciously, and we do it hundreds of times a day.



Women also complain about men rarely having to sacrifice themselves. And being a woman, I can agree because the men in our lives are one of the people who we sacrifice ourselves for to ‘keep them happy’; HOWEVER, let’s look at this in depth. It wasn’t just women who were bought up with these unwritten rules. Men feel equally as much the ‘sacrifice myself to keep everyone else happy’ feeling. If you listen to them they say exactly the same thing. Their job is to look after the family and keep everyone else happy. That is the key – keep everyone else happy. So because on our list they are one of our people to keep happy, we sacrifice ourselves for them. BUT, we are on their list, so they feel the ‘sacrifice myself’ feeling in relation to us. We need to move away from competing and comparing how much we think the other person sacrifices themselves and deal in the facts before us. Both genders feel exactly the same way and competing gets us nowhere.

In fact, both men and women can feel very unappreciated and unloved and taken for granted in their families and it all comes back to sacrificing yourself. There is no time to do what you want when you people-please. And because we try to get our happy from the what-we-think-other-people-think board, the other person (who is meant to think you are wonderful) doesn’t notice or acknowledge that you are sacrificing yourself because they are too busy sacrificing their self, so your conversation becomes a competition about who does more to try to get them to notice, which they don’t, so the unappreciated feeling stays.

We wait for each other to say, “Wow! You’re fantastic,” “I love you,” “You are amazing,” “I appreciate you so much,” but they never do, and they won’t because you taught them a long time ago that you don’t matter. Every time you sacrifice yourself, you show everyone around you that that is the right way to treat you – so now, subconsciously, they do. People take you for granted because you take you for granted.

If you look really closely at your children’s lives, you will be able to see that they have already begun to sacrifice their selves.

In years gone by, I imagine the person who was sacrificed or thrown into a volcano for the good of the tribe wasn’t really happy about it. If you think about it, nothing much has changed with our love of sacrificing, except, of course, the severity of the sacrificing. And others don’t do it to us; we do it to ourselves.

Can you be happy if you sacrifice yourself?  There are so many people on antidepressants and not all of them because of clinical depression.  Some of these people have unconsciously created a way of life where they feel miserable, unloved, trapped, unheard and unappreciated.

We look outside ourselves for love. The feeling we get when we think everyone thinks we are a good parent (because we sacrifice ourselves) – that love is fake. Love that comes from others is approval love and, really, all we are doing is waiting for permission from someone else so we can then love ourselves. But it is momentary and so we need to do it all over again.

People who live by sacrificing themselves are not happy people – sacrificing ourselves to make others happy is really us ignoring ourselves.

 “Whilst thinking of others may superficially seem like kindness, it’s actually a selfish technique to stop you thinking of yourself.” – Russell Brand


Many of you will disagree with me, some even aggressively. People continuously say they feel good when they sacrifice themselves. Let me challenge you. Stop, take a moment to make some space, take a breath and make every single other person in this or any other sacrificing opportunity disappear. Now if I take something from you that you wanted, were looking forward to, or I stop you from doing something that you were excited about, your first instant feeling is to feel sad, disappointed, overlooked or unloved. We just become so used to it. And we are trained in the don’t-be-so-selfish thought pattern that we don’t even acknowledge that feeling, we don’t even think it exists because we no longer listen to ourselves. But if we slow it down to super, super, super-slow motion and we stop and focus on us, the feeling is there, we just dismiss it. And we do that countless times a day.

We need to be intimately aware of how we treat ourselves, because trying to find our love outside in, or from other people’s approval, the only message your soul gets is ‘I am not worth it’, ‘I am not important enough’, ‘I feel so left out’, ‘I am so not interested in you’.  Wow! No wonder we feel so bad all the time and struggle to find our happy.

If we continue to sacrifice ourselves, our lives won’t change, our happy will come from outside in and we will teach others that we should be sacrificed. That pattern will perpetuate in our children.

So how can we change sacrificing myself into selfish and have it be a good thing?

Let’s start with changing the way we think. Let’s turn the word selfish into ‘soul honouring’. Start listening to ourselves and really be aware of how we feel and honour it, not dismiss it.

Live inside in – where we stop comparing ourselves to others to feel good about ourselves. Where we put happy in and not rely on outside-in love.

Don’t wait for anyone to say you’re fantastic, they love you, you’re amazing, they appreciate you so much. Say it to yourself first.

Change your thoughts from ‘I have to’ to ‘I choose to’. Every ‘have to’ drains us. Change your ‘I have to’ take the kids to footy training, cook tea, go to work, mow the lawn, or study to an ‘I choose to’. If you need more convincing, add in a ‘because’. Because I can, I’m hungry, I get paid, it looks so good, or I want to do well. ‘I choose to’ ensures that your energy isn’t drained. ‘I choose to’ means you don’t look for approval or outside in love. ‘I choose to’ is how you find inside-in love.

Be aware of the moments you sacrifice yourself – If you always give the best bit of roast lamb to your partner, instead take it in turns. When it comes to birthdays or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, don’t wait to see if people remember or make you have a good day; join in, help them celebrate you with you. If there is one piece of cake left, cut it in half, take turns of whose CD plays in the car. Make a roster of jobs with the children, or even a roster for a night off.  

The only person who you will not be able to ever live without is yourself.

Include yourself; treat yourself how you would treat everyone else. Be equal. Love yourself and look after yourself like you do your children. If you spend a day off doing something you love and people negatively comment on it, don’t react, and love the fact that you honoured your soul today. Better still, talk together about ideas and ways you can be soul honouring. And ALWAYS make sure you are on the list of people you love today.

Real happy, real love, comes from inside in, when you listen to yourself, when you are aware of how you feel and you treat yourself like you matter. You then get the best out of yourself and most importantly you don’t need to go anywhere else to find your happy. Honour yourself, honour your soul.


Mel Ryan   100 % You

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