We are meant to believe as we grow up that self-sacrifice is a positive, noble, or righteous act. This notion, I believe, stems from the religious lessons many of us were taught as children.
However, as we grow up and form adult relationships we quickly find any relationships, both personal and professional, based on a sense of self-sacrifice are the ones we are least happy with.
Self-sacrifice, therefore, is a common sign of a relationship in trouble.
WHY SACRIFICE & RESENTMENT GO HAND-IN-HAND
As we develop relationships based on self-sacrifice, what occurs is a growing sense of anger, resentment, and frustration that our most noble acts of sacrifice go unnoticed and unappreciated by those who we intend to benefit from them.
That is because, contrary to what we were taught growing up, self-sacrifice is NOT a noble or righteous behaviour.
In fact, most people engage in self-sacrifice for no other reason than to satisfy their own ego need to feel more righteous and/or morally superior than the person for whom they are making the sacrifice.
It is for this reason that when we begin to feel anger and frustration over a lack of recognition for our sacrifice we project this anger on to others.
"The problem isn't us", we say, but rather the problem is the person who isn't recognizing our sacrifice.
"They don't appreciate me."
"They are selfish."
All of the statements are common.
But here's the thing.
Most of the sacrifices we make for others will indeed go unnoticed by the person they are meant to benefit.
And if that bothers us...we each can make the choice to stop our self-sacrificing behaviour.
Who Do We REALLY Self-Sacrifice For?
This doesn't make the other person bad or dumb or close minded and blind. Rather, It reinforces the fact that WE have chosen to make the sacrifices for OUR benefit and not theirs.
No, it isn't that we enjoy giving up something of value to us.
Rather, our desire for acknowledgement and recognition from the other person for giving that thing up is more valuable to us.
If our sacrifice were truly for the other person's benefit, the value we derive from our act would be from the act itself and not the recognition we receive for it.
The truth is, we choose to do things for people we care about in our relationships because we like how it makes us feel...
...The question is, does the good feeling we get come from a silent observation of the benefit others receive from our efforts? Or, does it come from the recognition and acknowledgement we receive from the other person via their demonstrated gratitude.
Why Others May Not See Our Sacrifice
There is a distinct difference between sacrificing something for someone or something we care about and the behaviour of self-sacrifice.
While they are both selfish behaviours (selfish doesn't always imply a negative), the value, or good feeling, we get from the former is not dependent on the reaction we receive from the recipient of the benefit...it comes from the act itself.
When we regularly engage in self-sacrifice, however, the value or good feeling we get is dependent on the reaction of the other person.
This means we are no longer in control of ourself, of how we act and react. We have given that power to the recipient of our self-sacrifice...
And this is contrary to Personal Mastery....
IF they show us acknowledgement and gratitude, they allow us to feel good. IF they don't recognize our sacrifice for them, we blame them for feeling angry and frustrated.
Further, as our self-sacrificing becomes a habitual behaviour and is repeated by us over and over again we develop - in the other person - an expectation that the behaviour of self-sacrificing will become our norm.
So often, this is the case between spouses.
When one spouse complains that the other doesn't appreciate his or her sacrifice, what we tend to hear from the other spouse is a statement such as, "I didn't know this was a sacrifice for him or her. I thought he or she just enjoyed doing this. I really had no idea."
How To Prevent Relationship Breakdown Caused By Misguided Self-Sacrifice
If you are one of the millions of people who feel angry, frustrated, or resentful to someone else for NOT recognizing your self-sacrifice, here are a few tips taken from The Law of Cooperative Action Personal Mastery Program, that if practiced regularly, are guaranteed to improve how you feel.
- Accept that YOU have made the decision to sacrifice something. It was YOUR choice...not the other person's. Therefore, if you are feeling good as a result, or your are feeling bad, your feeling is the product of YOUR behaviour. You are 100% responsible.
- Reflect on WHY you are making the sacrifice. This can be tricky. To protect and preserve your self-image, your ego may prevent you from being honest with yourself. To get around this obstacle, simply pay attention to how you feel when you engage in self-sacrifice for others without receiving any recognition or appreciation. If you find yourself feeling anything other than joy, happiness, or an inner-satisfaction, you are making the sacrifice for the wrong reasons.
- Put effort into putting your ego behind you. You can do this by constantly reminding yourself that your sacrifices are not about you.
- Be in control of how you perceive your sacrifice. Again, you are in 100% control of yourself and your thoughts. If you view your sacrifice as a gift for which you expect nothing in return, you will be the recipient of the intrinsic benefits that come from knowing you did something good for someone else.
- If you are unable, or unwilling, to change how you perceive your sacrifices for others and continue to feel anger and resentment towards others for not properly acknowledging them, stop self-sacrificing. No one is forcing you to engage in this behaviour. Therefore, if you continue to at the expense of the quality of your relationships, understand the part you play in the relationship breakdown. You are the root of your problem, not the other person.
In order to have positive, healthy personal and professional relationships, we must acknowledge and accept that we cannot control the beliefs, actions, or behaviour of others. We only control ourselves...how we choose to act and react to the people and the world around us.
When we take this truth to heart, we take back control over how we feel as we learn that sacrificing for others is not really a sacrifice because we actually do receive significant benefits from it.
Are you ready to take more control over how you live your life? Learn more about the Law of Cooperative Action Personal Mastery Program.