How do you know whether you are helping someone because you are nice or because you want them to think you are nice? Do you want to support somebody or you are doing something compassionate so that the other person doesn’t leave you? For most people, it’s grey: sometimes, they do it for the ego, sometimes, they genuinely want to help people, sometimes it’s both. But for those who have a martyr complex, help is a currency. It’s a way to feel superior.
I think I suffer from this too and I often battle two contradictory desires: on one hand, I want people to be nice to me but on the other hand, I compete with them in the area of kindness i.e. the kindness that they show to me shouldn’t exceed the kindness that I show to them. This is ridiculous, I know. I mean normal people WANT others to be nice to them because…seriously, that’s one of the best things in life! We want to receive love and affection, don’t we?
I was reading about martyr syndrome and one of the articles says that those who suffer from this are basically trying to evade responsibility. If you are a victim or a martyr, you really don’t have to be responsible because you don’t even have a choice, right? You could have had a happy life but since people around you are douchebags, you are miserable. Wait: did you give up your career because you love your kids or are you using this as an excuse? Will you use this as a ‘card’ against your kids in the future?
A normal person will straight away state what she wants and risk being called selfish. A person with martyr complex on the other hand will convince himself that he is selfless and noble for ‘sacrificing’ his desire. In reality, he too wants the same thing but admitting it would make him ‘equal’ to a normal person. By ‘sacrificing,’ he is superior. He can now choose to use this to manipulate others. Most people don’t realize that they are manipulating others (and those who are being manipulated often miss this too) by constantly reminding them of how much they have ‘sacrificed.’ Sometimes, this person doesn’t even say this to others but keeps feeling this inside.
How to spot a person with a martyr complex? In my limited knowledge and experience, the difference is this: somebody who loves you will never describe anything that he/she did as ‘sacrifice.’ Making effort is a different thing and yes, BOTH the parties have to make an effort. If one of them doesn’t then the other CAN express displeasure. But martyr complex is a different ball game…it is not love because with weigh your loved ones down and take away their freedom with your ‘sacrifices.’ A person with martyr complex will compel or indirectly pressurize you to do things…and that is certainly not love.
P.S. Do read this brilliant article on the topic (click).