The End Of Martyrdom


Guest Post: Elizabeth Gilbert

Dear Ones –

I saw this quote the other day Brené Brown‘s Facebook page, and it stopped me in my tracks.

Does this quote resonate with anyone out there? Has anyone else out there struggled with the tricky question of confusing “love” with “putting everyone else’s life ahead of yours”?

Does anyone else out there think this is a particularly pervasive problem for women? Do you see your own mothers and grandmothers, maybe, reflected in this sentiment? Or perhaps your sisters, or your dearest friends?

Have you watched women whom you adore and admire allow their lives to be drained away to the very depths — constantly giving themselves to others — until there is nothing left to give?

Men do it, too — but I think women do it more…am I right?

Have you witnessed the depression, the vacancy, the emptiness, the sickness, and the despair that can result?

Or have you done that to yourself — drained yourself, over-given of yourself, until you can’t even find yourself in the story of your own life at all anymore? Have you let it get to the point that you resent every single one of the people you have put before you? And are you still mistakenly calling that “love”?

Or is the better name for it “martyrdom”?

My friend Iva and I have had so many conversations about this over the years — about our shared sense that the Age of Martyrdom is coming to an end…and that it must end. We must choose a different path. Iva and I remind each other all the time of the vows that we have sworn about our own lives, vows that say: “I’m not going to burn at the stake this time…not for anyone.”

Not doing it anymore.

I will love people freely and lightly and happily, or I will let them go.

I will allow people — especially other adults — to be responsible for their own lives. If other people are falling down hellholes, I will not tumble down those hellholes with them out of some mistaken sense of loyalty. (Compassion does not mean jumping into a pit of flame with anyone.) I will not stand in the fire anymore for anyone, or burn up my life for anyone, and mistakenly call that love.

I have a friend who said recently to me, “I liked you better when you were depressed. I was more comfortable with you then.”

My reply: “Well, I loved you then and I love you now. But I’m sorry — I won’t stay depressed just to keep you company, or make you feel better. I really do love you, but I don’t love you that much.” (Truth is, I don’t love ANYONE that much — because that ain’t love.)

I will not be loyal to suffering — neither yours or mine.

I will not be faithful to dysfunction — neither yours or mine.

I will not give you more than I (safely and sanely) have to give.

I will remember that we must take people as we find them, and that sometimes (as Iyanla always reminds us) we must leave them there.

I will not stay in the darkness for ANYONE, and I won’t allow myself to be manipulated by anyone who feels they must drag me into their darkness for their own comfort…or that, if I refuse to stay in the darkness with them, I don’t love them.


My life is an upward search — moving stubbornly toward the light — and you can come along with me, or I’ll see you later.

I will always take care of myself — because I recognize that if I don’t take care of myself, then I can never offer my useful service or my authentic love to anybody.

I will always work to fill my soul with grace and enthusiasm. Whatever energy overflows from me, I will happily and generously share it. But I will only share the overflow, because the rest of it, I need. I will not drain my wellspring to the dregs for anyone ever again, and mistakenly call that love.

This is the pledge of the End of Martyrdom.

Who’s with me?



The Martyr Archetype

Light Attribute

Learning the transcendent nature of service to oneself or a cause.

Shadow Attribute

Addiction to self pity.

The Martyr archetype is well known in two arenas: as a classic political or religious figure, and in the self-help world of contemporary psychology.

In the social and political world, the martyr is often highly respected for having the courage of conviction to represent a cause, even if it requires dying for that cause for the sake of others.

Suffering so that others might be redeemed, whether that redemption take a spiritual or political form, is among the most sacred of human acts.

The Shadow Aspect

Within the self-help field, the shadow Martyr is viewed as a person who has learned to utilize a combination of service and suffering for others as the primary means of controlling and manipulating her environment and an addiction to self pity.


While people recognize this archetype in others, particularly when they are directly influenced by the individual sporting this pattern, they often cannot see it in themselves.

Look for a pattern of giving yourself to causes for the betterment of others, regardless of the consequences.


 Movies with Martyrs

Watching movies related to one of your core archetypes, especially when going through the process of healing your shadow aspect is a powerful tool to help you understand yourself (your motivations, your passions, your fears – why you behave the way you do).

Healing the Negative Aspect or Shadow Side of the Martyr

Shadow Martyrs tend to be run down, sick, bitter and miserable before they wake up and realize that their life isn’t working for them.

It is probably working for everyone else around them though!

On a spiritual level the answer lies in choosing life and happiness, rather than choosing suffering and unhappiness.

Lessons in self love – taking care of your own needs first, in order to give and to be of benefit to someone else.

Selflessness vs. Selfishness

Assertiveness – learning to say no to others in order to say yes to yourself

Consider counselling or talk therapy to overcome issues:

Forgoing your own needs leads to ill health, victimization, blaming others, bitterness and resentment.

People do not respect those who do not take care of themselves first no matter how kind and loving they are.

Issues to Address

Your fears regarding creating a happy life for yourself – devoid of endless suffering

Learning to take care of yourself: emotionally, physically and spiritually

Being responsible for your own well being

Self Esteem

Learning healthy narcissism

Addressing childhood and/or past life issues regarding martyrdom.

Self Love

Learning how to set firm boundaries with people.

Removing the takers and selfish people from your life.

Developing the courage to take the action required to create your own happy life, free of pain, suffering and resentment.

Ask yourself this question when you choose to ‘help others’ or give to others especially when you yourself are stressed, run down or overtired.

Is this good for me?

“What do I need?”

and also remember…  

those that love you, want you to be happy and free of stress

…not miserable because you give endlessly until you are burnt out and exhausted.

That is not called love – that is called martyrdom.

Healing Quotes

Silver Girl