I come from a line of women who gave up their dreams for children and families.
Women who sacrificed their bodies, voices, and needs.
Brothers and fathers who were taught to put aside their real dreams in the name of sacrifice.
Sacrificing was glorified, and martyrdom was praised. Although, at what cost?
While eternally grateful for some of the sacrifices made, I watched their inner light slowly dim as their sacrifices grew. Happiness was traded for responsibility. Sacrifice turned into resentment. Hearts slowly closed, and warmth was replaced with coldness.
As I carried this pattern into my life through self-sacrificing behaviors, I learned that sacrifice is a double-edged sword. I realized it was a quick road to resentment, burnout, and loss of inner power. It keeps us feeling unfulfilled and, in some way, is a form of abandonment.
It’s true that sometimes, we must give up something to gain something else. For example, giving up an hour’s sleep to go to the gym or skipping a social event to study. At other times, self-sacrifice might mean that, as a mother, we sacrifice sleep for our baby. In these instances, we are still gaining something, and a balance is maintained.
So, at what point does sacrifice become unhealthy?
When sacrifice feels unhealthy, we may have sacrificed something that was part of our soul’s essence. This could be your values, needs, or your voice. If you give these up, you may also find that you have given away a big part of your power.
This isn’t to encourage us to be completely selfish either and have our needs always met above others. Sometimes, we might need to put aside our choices to accommodate others. But by becoming more aware and cherishing our needs, we avoid resentment and ensure our cup is full.
4 Tips to overcome self-sacrifice and reclaim your power
#1. Change sacrifice to compromise
Compromising is a more balanced approach, which allows for a healthy give-and-take energy in relationships. An important difference between compromise and sacrifice is that in sacrifice, one person gives up their needs, while in compromise, you value each other’s needs.
#2. Give your dreams space to exist
If you are a parent and you feel like you must sacrifice one of your dreams for your child, ask yourself, instead of sacrificing, how can I compromise so that my needs are also met?
Even if it means spending an hour a week on your dream through things such as painting, writing, or learning. By doing this, you come from a place of wholeness rather than deprivation. Your dreams are a part of you and deserve to be honored.
#3. Express your needs
In romantic relationships, many times, we think we are making a sacrifice out of love, yet it ends in resentment later down the track. This is because when we come from a place of sacrifice, we are essentially giving up our needs and saying your needs are more important than mine. This might help solve a short-term issue, such as selecting a movie or picking dinner. But in the long term, it results in unmet needs. It can leave us feeling like a puppet while the other person always gets their way.
The first step is to learn what your needs are, then slowly start expressing them. Learning how to communicate healthily is integral to this.
#4. Reflect and question yourself
If you are unsure about a certain situation, whether self-sacrificing hurts you or allows you to move forward by being accommodating, question yourself.
What are you gaining, and what are you losing by sacrificing? Is sacrificing your needs serving your highest good right now?
Through reflection, you gain more awareness of yourself and the reasons behind the pattern of self-sacrifice.
As we thank our ancestors for the sacrifices they made and accept the important lessons of the past, we must reclaim this lost power and begin to honor our needs.
Now is no longer the time to give up our needs and make ourselves small. It is the time to let ourselves shine, to light up the world with our dreams, and inspire the others who come after us.
Now is the time to rise.