Do you have a Martyr Complex (MC)?


Someone who has a MC tends to “willfully suffer in the name of love or duty”. A “Martyr Complex” is a flawed personality trait. People with MC tend to go out of their way to help others, see themselves as helpers, consider it their moral obligation to put others in front of themselves, and view self-sacrifice as a duty. Normally it is okay to be helpful to others, the problem is that those with MC, tend to do it at the detriment of themselves, and in the process may even harm themselves to the point where they are not even being helpful to others anymore.  They are always unhappy and unfulfilled because they deny their own needs for the sake of others.  . They view life as a struggle, and themselves as a bastion of righteousness in an ungrateful world.

The martyr is one who employs self-sacrifice and victimization as a way of avoiding to take responsibility for their life. They are prepared, however, to take responsibility for everyone else’s life.

Women in general and mothers more than fathers, tend to suffer from this complex. Mothers, by nature, are givers. They will put their children’s needs before their own and this behaviour often extends to husbands, parents and friends.  Lets not forget overzealous employee.

It is NOT a martyr complex when you are generous with both time and material possessions, but when this type of behaviour is dependent on constant validation and verbalized appreciation it is perceived as a martyr complex.

Martyr complex often goes hand in hand with a deeply ingrained need to please others (people pleasers)

I will clearly differentiate the difference between an innocent victim and someone that has martyr complex so we do not get confused between the two as there is often an overlap…

Nine differences between being a martyr or a victim

1.Taking advantage of

 Martyrs are people who recognize they are being taken advantage of and choose to remain in the situation.

Victims are people who are taken advantage of but are unaware of being treated as such. Once victims recognize that they are being treated unfairly, they have the choice of remaining in the situation or not. If they stay, they risk becoming martyrs.

2. Recognising rights are being ignored

 Martyrs are those who recognize that their rights are ignored and abused but choose to remain in the situation and continue to be treated this way.

Victims are individuals whose rights are ignored and abused but were unaware that they would be treated in this manner before they entered the situation.

3. Unfair treatment

 Martyrs are people who let others know how unfairly they are being treated but choose to remain in this unfair position.

Victims are people who let others know they have been treated unfairly. They have the chance to leave or change the situation in which they have been victimized. Victims often suffer silently for long periods of time before they are able to verbalize the unfairness of their life situations.

4. Enabling bad situations

Martyrs often knowingly continue to enable or set up situations in which their rights are violated or ignored. This “setting up” is like a prediction or prophecy of failure into which, consciously or unconsciously, the martyrs play, fulfilling the prophecy.

Victims often unknowingly set themselves up for continued abuse and violation of their rights. They are often confused and bewildered as to why this occurs. They lack insight into the actions that bring on this abuse.

5. Always want sympathy

 Martyrs often seek sympathy for their plight. They seek support, advice and help from others. Yet they seem stuck in their current course of action and seem to be unable to resolve it.

Victims frequently never seek help. They are often frustrated and lost as to what needs to be done to get them out of their current situation. Once victims have been offered help and make a conscious choice to remain stuck in their situation, they become martyrs.

6. Obliged to remain in misery

 Martyrs often believe it is their obligation to remain in their position in life. They would feel guilty if they let go of the current situation. They fear taking the risk to change the situation. They are apparently comfortable, habituated or submissive to the situation and believe a change would be worse for them and for the others in their lives.

Victims often want a change and are desperate for a solution to their situation. As soon as a victim gives in to a situation, choosing not to resolve or correct it, they become martyrs. The saying, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem,” applies to the martyr’s state in life.

7.Stereotypical and habitual complainers

Martyrs have a story line which is stereotypical and habitual. They rarely change their tales of woe. One can meet them several years later and find them still suffering from the fate they were experiencing when you last talked to them. A person with a chief feature of martyrdom has a habit of complaining about endless problems and blaming those problems on anyone or anything but himself. It’s all the fault of his mother, his boss, his so-called friends, this society, the government, people in general, life itself.

Victims experience their plight temporarily, get help and are more apt to get out of the situation. If after getting help and changing, victims experience the same problems later, they could be martyrs at that time.

8. No willingness to seek change

Martyrs often mask their behaviour with an aura of willingness and desire for behavioural change in their lives. Usually they are only fooling themselves, since the others in their lives can see by their behaviour and attitude that there is no possibility of change.

Victims usually are open and honest about their discomfort and willingly seek behavioural change. Their sincerity is easily perceived by others due to the actions and behavioural changes that take place.

9.”Professional” help seekers

Martyrs are “professional” help seekers. They make the rounds of paid and volunteer helpers, advice givers, counsellors, and consultants–anyone willing to listen to their tale of woe. Unfortunately, they usually ignore the assistance, advice or direction they are given. This frequently results in their “helpers” giving up on them in frustration and discouragement.

Victims, on the other hand, seek help in a “crisis” only after the pressure of their problems becomes too great for them to bear. They are highly motivated for a “change” and are rewarding people to work with as they and their helpers witness the benefits of the help, advice and direction given.

Which one of these have you experienced as a victim or perpetrator what is your side of the story?

Food for thought

This week spend time observing yourself and notice if you are being a martyr or a victim… Always ask yourself this question do I have a choice in this situation?

Next week I will discuss the causes of martyr complex/syndrome