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Six Happiness Myths. Myth 2: Sacrificing Yourself Leads to Happiness.

Mel Ryan 100% you

This is Part 2 in this series. Here’s Part 1.

Note: The Audio Version of ‘Myth 2. Sacrificing yourself leads to happiness’ is located at the end of the article.

We could say that ‘sacrificing yourself leads to happiness’. Or reworded we could say ‘Looking after your family will make you feel loved and appreciated’. Now, I know most of you will probably laugh hysterically at this, I’m kind of with you! There's definitely a part of us that does love looking after our families, yet at the same time, we don't feel loved or appreciated.

Honestly, the biggest conversation I have with clients is, “I feel unloved, taken for granted, overlooked, and unappreciated”.

Interestingly this conversation is not one-sided. It happens with both partners in a relationship. The truth remains, this concept isn't just for women, this is for men partners, and even kids in the family as well.

Sacrificing or over-giving?

It's tough because, in order to feel like we look after our families, friends, people we love, and even work situations, we need to give. And when we give, we keep giving because of the love we get, which started out being amazing. Here’s where I remind you about Myth 1 ‘When I find my Soulmate I will find Happiness’. After a time the love we get back becomes limited. But there is no other way we know, so we keep giving, leaving us exhausted and unable to change this pattern unless we leave.

Picture of a pug lying down looking sad. Representing how we feel sacrificing ourselves
Looking after your family makes you feel loved and appreciated or exhausted?

“Putting the concept of us back into this situation is foreign to us.”

‘Looking after your family makes you feel loved and appreciated’ sits much better with us than, ‘Sacrificing yourself leads to happiness.’ We don't resonate with the concept of sacrificing ourselves. We don't associate giving with sacrificing. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves about what we feel when giving is not returned, there is no other feeling left. We are the ones sacrificing ourselves for something that we will never get.

It’s time we look at the link between overgiving and the void of nothingness it leaves in our lives.

Slide. Quote. If what we give is not returned, you are left feeling like you are sacrificing. Mel Ryan
If we are honest with ourselves.

Do we all feel like we are sacrificing ourselves?

When I focus on what I give I am very conscious that what I give is not returned. I am also very aware of feeling unloved, taken for granted, overlooked, and unappreciated.

So when I turn my attention to look at my partner hoping to get any kind of ‘well done you’re amazing’ from him, he replies with ‘I am exhausted and feel totally unsupported’. The only thing I can think is, “well you shouldn't feel unloved, taken for granted, overlooked, unappreciated, and especially not unsupported because I do all of ‘this’ for you”.

Because we are acutely aware of not feeling important or loved so, therefore, we focus on being overlooked and taken for granted, it’s now then, impossible for us to imagine that they could possibly feel this too.

Yet They Still Do and that’s their absolute truth.

From their perception, they are also working to get the love, never feeling like what they give is enough or, what they do is good enough. Everyone wants more from them, and all the rest, that we know and live so well.

Feeling loved, important, connected, and appreciated is not available to them. It’s not available to them, and it's not available to all of us, because after a while all of our relationships enter this co-dependent competing ‘who does more, who does what’ interaction and it squishes us so much.

Instead of supporting ourselves and what we need, we sacrifice ourselves, to try to find whatever love we can from someone else.

How did we get here, Sacrificing ourselves to try to find our happiness?

Let’s look at praise. From when we were little, the minute someone said to us, good girl, good boy, everything changed. We got love and we got attention from outside of us. We then look towards getting praise again and we need someone else to give us that.

So we give more and we do more to get praise, to get more attention, to get more love. This sets us up to do it again and again and again. Our focus is on them and not ourselves.

Close-up picture of girl looking for praise. The beginning of where we start sacrificing
We try to get praise from other people.

By setting up this pattern when we are little, now when we have a relationship or we are part of a family or we move in with other people in our life we continue to do the same thing. We then sacrifice ourselves thinking that it will lead us to happiness. “I'm going to dismiss what I want, and instead, do what I think you want because I'm going to get more love, attention, and support. I'm going to get whatever I need from you, instead of from ‘me’ giving it to me.”

Does sacrificing yourself lead to happiness?

The questions we need to ask are: ‘Does sacrificing yourself lead to happiness?’ ‘Does looking after your family, or over-giving at work lead to happiness?’ Or is the truth: The more we give the more unloved, taken for granted, overlooked, and unappreciated we feel.

If you think about the saying; ‘Happy wife, happy life’, that saying ultimately means, don’t focus or care about what you want, just keep your wife happy. And if your wife is happy then you will be happy.

But really is that the truth?

When I try to keep all the people around me happy, especially in my family, I say things like this; “Don't worry about me. It doesn't matter. I don't need this. Don't worry about my birthday.”

As much as I know this makes it easier for them, in truth there is a part of me that is not happy with this. And by not keeping me happy, I am sacrificing my happiness to make it easier for them. The only person that loses in my happiness quest is me.

The more we dismiss ourselves the worse we feel.

This is when clients seek me out, or they are told by a past client “you need to see ‘this woman' she can help you like your life”.

Most of the clients I see feel terrible. They are stuck in the repeating circle of “I feel unloved, taken for granted, overlooked, and unappreciated”. With the more ‘I give’ the worse it becomes scenario and with no idea how to change this.

And when we feel like we can't change this, we get trapped in that hole that pulls us down. To the place where we feel defeated and wonder what the point of it all is because to us, there's no solution and there's no way out.

Picture of a girl with her head in her hands with the caption above that says
The more we dismiss ourselves the worse we feel.

There is a way out, to stop sacrificing ourselves.

We’ve established that sacrificed people are not happy people. So how do we move from ‘I sacrifice’ to ‘I choose’?

Honestly, we stop sacrificing ourselves by becoming present to ourselves. Becoming part of the team that we create that supports us. But we have to be on that team and we have not been on that team before.

Our boundaries have gone out so far, from ‘don't worry about me, it doesn't matter, you're more important’, to ‘I need to do more for you’.

Now, when we try to do anything for ourselves all we come up with is “I can't” to the point “I can't even sit down and have a cup of tea during the day because I've got to get everything done. I have to make sure I’ve finished all the things on my list first before I can give myself permission to relax”.

Moving forward, less sacrifice more self-awareness.

We have all got our own list, however, looking after our needs is not on it.

We are not on our lists.

Everyone else is. Work is on it, kids are on it, parents are on it, family is on it, partners are on it. We're not on it. So when it comes to doing anything for us, one tiny little thing, all we feel is guilt. When we have guilt, we then block ourselves and this results in, we don't do anything for ourselves at all.

Consequently, we repeat the well-known pattern of feeling unloved, unappreciated, overlooked, and taken for granted. More importantly, now we're contributing to that. When we contribute to it, it just keeps us going down to that place where we circle the bottom wondering how is life going to get better?

Furthermore, we wait again for something else, or someone else outside of us to make us happy because we're not part of our solution.

Cartoon of a post-it note with a list of people we look after and the word Me is on the top.
It’s time we become one of the people on our lists

What if we realised that we are the solution? We no longer need to sacrifice ourselves.

What if we could give ourselves permission to move our boundaries back and stop sacrificing ourselves, to include ourselves in the people we look after. To be able to see things from a different perspective. Where we give ourselves permission to ask ourselves “What do I need? How can I support myself in this situation?”. Where we seek to understand ourselves. We may be far more successful in our quest to find our happiness.

Yes, it all starts with us. We are the solution.

The beautiful journey that we go through with ‘The Handbook. The one you were meant to be born with’. The Handbook invites us to stop sacrificing ourselves. It dares us to start to listen to ourselves. To introduce us to be one of the people we support. To make time for that five minutes of sitting down to enjoy that cup of tea! It challenges us on where and how we try to find our happiness.

It is time that we return to ourselves to find answers. The answers have always been there yet we were never taught that we were allowed to look at ourselves as being the answer.

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Byline Mel Ryan
Audio version of Myth 2 Sacrificing yourself leads to happiness

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