Have you ever found yourself feeling resentful and lonely in your relationship, a self-sacrifice schema could be at work. This is a pattern in which you tend to be vigilant about others’ needs while ignoring your own needs.

In adults, this schema can lead to focusing excessively on others, to the detriment of yourself. People with this schema might feel burnout by always accomodating others and going above and beyond (even when they have their own things to do), resentful (as friends and family might rely on them more than others, knowing they are likely to say ‘yes’), and lonely (as other people tend not to reciprocate with offers of help to the same level).

The good news is that it’s possible to break the self-sacrificing pattern and learn new healthier ways of coping. The important thing to remember is that looking after others and being compassionate is fine when it is done with healthy boundaries.

Step 1: Recognise your self-sacrificing. The first step is to recognise when you are doing it. It may be helpful to keep a journal of situations where you feel like you are putting others’ needs before your own. Many individuals with the self-sacrifice schema have an exaggerated sense of how helpless others are. Take note of how you feel in these situations, both physically and emotionally.

Step 2: Challenge your beliefs. The self-sacrificing schema is often rooted in beliefs such as “I am only valuable if I am helping others” or “My needs are not important.” By challenging these beliefs, you can begin to shift your perspective. Ask yourself if your beliefs are really true, or if there is another way to view the situation.

Step 3: Practice saying no. Learning to say no is a crucial step in breaking the self-sacrificing schema. Start small by saying no to simple requests and gradually work your way up to more significant ones. It’s essential to remember that saying no does not make you a ‘bad’ person, and you are not obligated to say yes to every request that comes your way.

Step 4: Ask for what you need. Asking for what you need can be challenging, particularly if you are used to putting others’ needs before your own. However, it’s essential to communicate your needs to others so that they can support you. This could be as simple as asking your partner to take care of the kids for an afternoon so that you can have some alone time.

Step 5: Be kind to yourself. Breaking the self-sacrificing schema is a process, and it may take time to unlearn these deeply ingrained patterns. Be patient and kind to yourself, and don’t beat yourself up if you slip back into self-sacrificing behaviour. Reflect on what happened and how you can do better next time.

The self-sacrificing schema is a challenging pattern to break, but it is possible. By recognising your self-sacrificing behaviour, challenging your beliefs, practicing saying no, asking for what you need, and being kind to yourself, you can learn to change and improve your well-being. Remember, taking care of yourself is not selfish, it’s necessary for a happy and healthy life.


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