Tony Robbins said something fascinating in a talk about feeding 100 million families.
He pointed out that if you think of your work as a “sacrifice,” you’ve set yourself up for failure.
As soon as you use words like “sacrifice,” you transform yourself into a martyr — and no one recovers from being a martyr. That identity creates a box for you to live in.
I want to talk about the psychology of being a martyr. Tony was speaking to CEOs, but once you understand the martyr mentality, you see it everywhere.
- WORKAHOLISM: “When I’m sleeping, someone else is hustling. My employees are counting on me. I have to work 16 hour days.”
- BAD RELATIONSHIPS: “I want to be single, but my boyfriend threatened suicide last month. He’ll fall apart if I leave.”
- PARENTING: “Jane has ballet rehearsal. These clothes won’t fold themselves. And there are toys everywhere. So much for going out. Supermom to the rescue!”
Can you spot the pattern?
Hint: Anyone who says “I can’t be happy because of X” has turned themselves into a martyr.
Curiously, you can give martyrs 10 ways to overcome that problem and it won’t help. Martyrs believe they need to be miserable for other people to be happy. And they use a secret vocabulary to stay that way.
For example, “supermom” sounds amazing. Who wouldn’t want to be a supermom? Yet many moms use this label to justify putting themselves last. Want proof? Offer solutions and watch what happens:
- If you recommend a nanny, she’ll say “too expensive”
- If you suggest afterschool programs, she’ll say “kids need quality time”
- If grandparents offer to babysit, she’ll say “we can’t put you out”
Slowly, you realize what’s actually going on. Martyrs have written an identity of powerlessness. And they won’t give it up without a fight.
After all: If you go out and have a blast with friends, what does it say about the last 5 years you stayed home?
Pretty painful to admit you had the power all along. Much more comfortable to stick with the identity you know.
Let’s do a show of hands. Have you ever made yourself into a martyr? If so, how? What did you tell yourself to avoid changing?
Let me know in the comments below.
P.S. I’ll share first. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s losing something. I HATE IT. Where are my keys? Where did I put that piece of paper? Why isn’t my apartment as organized as it should be?
After a while, I got used to the clutter.
And then I started saying things like “I’ll never get this place straightened out.” Like my apartment made itself messy. Like I had no say! (That’s the martyr mentality.)
Then I hired Andrew Mellen, a professional organizer and the author of Unstuff Your Life. Andrew’s system saved me so much time that I decided to interview him for you. Pay attention to what he says at 4:12 about holding on to “precious” items.