Road of Self-sacrifice

The strengths which attract people to this avenue are “Unselfishness” and “Care for Others”. However, controllers warp these values into serving their own interests and neglecting others’ needs. Since unselfishness is never applied to them and caring is defined by whether it is meeting their desires, going down this road has the certain ending of self-sacrifice.

Those stranded along this path often are confused about what is selfish and what isn’t. They often feel a lot of guilt when they do something for themselves or when they aren’t focused on doing for others. I find it helpful to introduce the concept of self-interest into the conversation. Many of the things they have been told are selfish end up being normal things people do out of self-interest, such as:

  • Buying themselves clothes that are within their budget,
  • Going out with friends,
  • Taking a class,
  • Saying no to extra work,
  • Reading a book,
  • Calling a friend –

There are both wants and needs represented here. Regardless of which they are, doing things that are within our grasp that we desire is part of what makes us human and what leads to a happy, fulfilled life. None of us get 100% of what we want, but when people are deprived unequally or unfairly of these things, they end up depressed and unhappy.

Regardless of whether people identify with being Christian, it is often instructive to remind them of the principle behind the biblical story regarding Jesus in which he said “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” It is very interesting that many people focus on the first part but neglect to see the implication of the second part, “as thyself”. It is healthy to love yourself; it does not mean you are selfish. Self-love and love of others are not mutually exclusive. Yet, many people operate as if they are. This is often because of messages from controlling individuals who were threatened by not getting their way.

Mothers more frequently struggle with valuing their needs when it comes to their children than fathers do. I think this is because of their socialization with emphasis on care giving to others and none on self-care. Men have more permission to be “selfish” in our society. Sometimes they really have been socialized to be self-centered, but other times they have learned the healthy skill of placing their self-interest as a priority. Men have to learn how to balance this strength with being attuned to family or others’ needs. Women’s challenge is to balance in the other direction, putting their needs higher on the priority list.

This concept of balancing is extremely important for women and men. Children do not benefit from having one or both parents sacrificing themselves; they learn how to live poised gracefully between the values of loving others and loving self when they see this in one or both parents. Too often, children learn they should sacrifice themselves from the models parents provide. With girls, this has most frequently been learning their needs aren’t important and sacrificing everything they want. With boys, this has mostly been about sacrificing their feelings and closeness with family by seeing their fathers put career first at the expense of time with family.

It is important to be aware of the internalized predator which calls yourself selfish for what you want. Being cognizant of this can help you avoid the path of self-sacrifice in the future.

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