Last week I discussed and defined what Martyr Complex is  if you missed out on part 1 here is the link Why do you enjoy the pain of being used (Martyr Complex) Part1

Today I will discuss the causes of martyr complex

(1)Early responsibilities at childhood

If at an early age you were given too much responsibilities like your parents were not financially capable or were absent, especially an absent father who Is a drunk, never took responsibility for the upkeep of the home, maybe your mum had to work full time to support the family or she was absent as well due to health issues or death…. As a child you were forced to sacrifice your childhood, fun and leisure by looking after your siblings, looking for a job at a young age… in a nut shell generally behaving like a responsible adult…  As a result you became resolute beyond your years.  It also reinforced the conviction that you should be serving and catering to the needs of others, while repressing your own.


(2)Watching a parent being a martyr while growing up

As a child you learnt to be a martyr while growing up from a parent, most times your mum…she made a lot of sacrifices to the family and was verbally and physically abused by your father… she tried keeping the family intact by putting up with this bad behaviour, e.g. absorbing the blows herself…

Since your mother was never happy she lived her life through you and your siblings so she could find some peace and happiness through the experience of her kids…

Most times to please your mum you learnt to put her needs first before yours, your needs were secondary… you did that by repressing your own desires and behave passively towards authority…

Whenever you tried to contradict your mum by asserting your personality, your mum saw it as a sign of betrayal and made you feel guilty by repeating the so called mantra “Is  this what I deserve after all I have done for you?”


On a deeper level, martyrs are very needy for love. Unfortunately, they unconsciously believe that the only way they can get love is through suffering. The suffering makes them feel special and wanted, and it brings meaning to their life. Their suffering is tied to their ego. They are actually proud of it. Take away their suffering and they seem lost.

(4)Self Esteem issues

Someone suffering from martyr Complex  looks for validation outside of themselves always wanting to please everyone friends family partners so they will be accepted and valued by the others… remember a martyr might seem selfless with their action but there is always something they want back… acceptance, love and validation for their sacrifice..


A martyr will put up with all sorts because of the fear of being alone… they will love to help people with their problems and people end up using them and only call when they are needed… The martyr is fully aware of this as they complain most times to people that they feel used but because they do not want to loose these fake friends and be alone they still remain in that situation…..

(6)Fear of change and unknown

Most people with MC have a strange fear of the unknown because of this feeling they will put up with anything just to maintain the status quo.. Like women or men who are suffering for physical abuse in their relationships/home the thought of leaving the significant other only brings about great fear, they have a motto they live by “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know”


Sometimes guilt keeps us locked in an unhealthy situation. Let’s say you are a caregiver and your sole responsibility is to take care of the people around you once you start thinking about yourself or wanting to take care of your own needs you start feeling bad and guilty about it… you keep having these thoughts” you don’t deserve to be happy and enjoy the little pleasures”  why because you feel responsible for someone whose needs has not all been met…So guilt keeps you stuck in the situation…

Food for thought:

“Women are taught that their main goal in life is to serve others–first men, and later, children. This prescription leads to enormous problems, for it is supposed to be carried out as if women did not have needs of their own, as if one could serve others without simultaneously attending to one’s own interests and desires. Carried to its “perfection,” it produces the martyr syndrome or the smothering wife and mother”    Jean Baker Miller  

Next week  I will discuss ways to manage Martyr Complex in ourselves and others