Almost, I’m talking probably 99% of my Relationship Counselling couples, include at least one person who can be classified as a Self-Sacrificer.
It is remarkable how many people in couples counselling turn out to be self-sacrificers!
As part of the therapy process, I offer clients the chance to find out what their Schemas are. A schema is a learned behaviour or emotional response to different situations and stimuli.
And, you guessed it, Self-Sacrifice is defined as a schema.
I wrote an article here about what the Self-Sacrifice schema might be doing to your relationship, but I thought I would share these common beliefs and statements that these well-intentioned people might make or resonate with:
- I am a good person because I think of others first.
- Having needs makes me Selfish.
- I am primarily focused on the needs of others.
- It’s better that I just get in and do it.
- If someone really needs me I will put myself out to help them.
- Sometimes I feel I overwhelmed when I think of all I have to do.
- The more people know me, the more they rely on me.
- I feel guilty saying “no”.
- I don’t like talking about myself.
- I often say yes when I would rather say no.
- I get anxious when others try and assist me.
- In bed, it is more important to please or satisfy the other person.
- I am at least partially responsible for the way the other person acted.
- I suspect I’m being taken advantage of but don’t want to address it.
Does that sound like you?
Why is this trait/schema so potentially troublesome for us? Well, generally the emotional needs of the Self-Sacrificer are more often than not, not being satisfactorily met by family/friends/partner.
This can lead to resentment, frustration, and maladaptive behaviours.
Also, if you’re working yourself into the ground to make sure everyone else is OK, you’re potentially stressed and exhausted (there are links between this Schema and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome).
Self-Sacrifice Schema can be a sign of low self-esteem, low self-worth, or low confidence.
It can come from living in a situation of having too much responsibility before your time (like having to look after your younger siblings or even your parent’s physical or emotional needs as a child).
Remember, the difference between the self-sacrifice schema and just being compassionate is healthy boundaries and that is certainly something we might be able to work on in therapy.