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Costa Coffee, Martyrs and Gordon Ramsay

December 2, 2010

I was sitting in Costa Coffee  the other day  in Bluewater and I heard a group of women moaning about how stressful Christmas is with all the present buying, food shopping, wrapping and writing all the Christmas cards.

And it got me pondering ……

Why do some women take the role of martyr in their lives?

What purpose does it serve in their lives?

Does it give them significance, a feeling of importance, does it get them noticed as they moan and complain?

Do they secretly enjoy it?

Why don’t they ask for help, take steps to change their situation from suffering to  happiness and enjoy the festive season with all its parties, family times and food?

I wondered whether at some level they like being a martyr or a victim of their circumstances – as one thing I’ve learnt in all my travels is that happiness is definitely a mindset – otherwise how can some people in the most challenging of circumstances smile, be philosophical and get on with things while, others collapse, sit down and give up?

It takes a shift in mindset but it also takes a shift in taking responsibility for one’s own needs and happiness.

I pondered what memories I had of Christmas growing up and I closed my eyes and relaxed and thought of the sounds, smells and pictures of Christmas I remembered and I reflected that as a parent I am creating a blueprint for how my children will remember Christmas – the images they will have, the sounds they will remember, the feelings of Christmas they will hold deep within them and the traditions and memories we have built for them to treasure.

So when I heard the ladies going on and on – I wondered what their kids will remember about the atmosphere around Christmas in their houses as being a long suffering martyr is something that you pass on to your kids as you are a role model in everything that you do, say or in how you act.

Here are some parent coaching questions to get you pondering now!

  • Are you a long suffering martyr in the way that you talk and act?
  • What messages are you sending your children if you behave like this?
  • What are the long term values you are passing on – guilt, blame, disappointment and a victim mentality?
  • Do you make your kids feel like you “sacrifice” things for them?
  • What message does this send out to them?
  • Do you quietly “get something” from your behaviour like attention, feeling noticed, feeling needed or feeling important?
  • How could you ask for more help?
  • In what ways could you delegate more tasks – what would that teach your children , partner or family in general – independence, sharing responsibilities, building better team spirit and bonding, a better relationships all round – more festive fun?
  • Would asking for more help get rid of some of your anger and resentment?
  • What would making some small changes in how you take responsibility for your life help you move forward, learning and growing and discovering more about yourself?
  • How would empowering yourself feel?

Be totally honest with yourself:

  • Is it better to give than receive?
  • Is someone else more worthy than you to receive good things?
  • Do you feel that you are entitled to happiness?
  • Do you feel that you deserve the good things in life?
  • Is it necessary to sacrifice to have good things?
  • Must you suffer a chronically bad situation to have the good things in your life?

 Here’s a mini version of a visualisation I do when I work privately with clients and it’s also on lots of my CDs:

Recall a time when you felt like a martyr.

How did you feel? Write down on a piece of paper what emotions you experienced when you recall this past situation.

What did you gain and what were your expectations when you made this sacrifice?

Did you resent this sacrifice?

Do you still resent this sacrifice?

Gently and in a relaxed, kindly voice ask yourself if you are willing and able to take responsibility for this situation without guilt or self-recrimination now. Just gently relax and allow yourself to make some small changes from today that will help you to avoid this situation again.

Just ask yourself if you can accept your need for love and appreciation and accept that you needn’t sacrifice yourself to be loved?

Just breathe deeply and slowly and allow your unconscious to make some small changes to make yourself feel empowered, happy and relaxed.

One of the easiest way to keep the martyr at bay is to do things you like doing – and is tied up to my idea of the “Me” Time Mums Club –

Do things that make you happy, that are fun and feel rewarding.

Things like listening to your favourite music, having a frothy cappuccino with chocolate on the top, phoning a friend for a natter, going out to the cinema with your partner, or going up the pub for a drink on a Friday night – whatever recharges your batteries and makes you feel good. Make a list and commit to doing one of them every day or every week.

So now off you go around the Shopping Centre near where you live, and have some festive fun and remember to build memories that last a lifetime that are BRILLIANT and as Gordon Ramsay would say job……… “DONE !”

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How to give your kids the gift of self-esteem by clicking here

About the author

Sue Atkins is a Parenting Expert who offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, well behaved children. She is also the author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the  famous black and yellow series published worldwide and the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs. She regularly appears on BBC Breakfast and The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and her parenting articles are published all over the world.

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Sue Atkins the Parenting Expert
T: + 44 1342 833355   M: 07740 622769

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 2, 2010 7:14 pm

    Great post and powerful questions Sue.

    One that especially stood out for me was: Do you make your kids feel like you “sacrifice” things for them? I have heard some parents talk directly to their children about how much they’ve sacrificed for them – so they could have a particular home, lifestyle or schooling and it’s always made me a bit uneasy.

    There’s something about making a choice to benefit someone, then later transferring the burden of the cost to that person that seems unfair.

    Having said that, I do try to teach my children to appreciate what other people do for them “Wasn’t that kind?” and to be sensitive to others “Mummy has a headache. Do you think you could help by playing quietly please? That’s very helpful, thank you.” Obviously it’s easier to have these kinds of conversations with my 5 year old than my 1 year old!

    • December 2, 2010 8:58 pm

      Hello Grace

      Thanks for your kind comments. Yes it’s not very helpful to make kids feel that you “sacrifice” things for them ….. I wonder what they learn from that…. ? Guilt perhaps which may turn into resentment later? If you do things for your kids it’s because you have chosen to….. tidied their bedroom , sent them to a private school ….. it’s all a choice isn’t it?

      Teaching kindness and empathy is great and of course you’re right it does depend on the age of your children !

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