The Truth About Martyr Complex

This has many names but is referring to someone who uses their suffering or self sacrifices, to manipulate those around them. This may also involve willful suffering in the name of duty or love. Victim complex is probably more accurate as the word martyr is traditionally to do with religious beliefs. There’s a range of reasons for this behaviour such as attention seeking, avoid responsibility, coping strategy, or to manipulate others. These individuals usually hide their personal belief that they are superior to everyone else and entitled to things they claim no desire for. Mainly this is due to envy and the desire to exploit their situation. The lack of empathy aids their ability to manipulate without remorse.

“Because they sacrifice so much, other people must agree with, obey or appease them 100% of the time”


There can also be benefits of being a victim. One is that people may not realise that they are being manipulated in order for the person to get their own way. This tends to be less sucessful over time because over time it becomes apparent that there is always something. One thing to note is that any efforts rescuers make are ignored, belittled, or met with hostility. This is why over time this method loses its effectiveness.

When looking for the reasons as to why someone develops a martyr complex, many fingers pointed towards childhood experiences. Self esteem also has a huge impact. Although this may be a learned behaviour if you suspect you or a loved one is suffering from this then they should seek professional support. Ultimately their core belifes tend to create a cycle of bad luck which, in turn, reinforces their belief that they are bad;

  • Must willfully suffer in the name of love
  • If they don’t hold things together, it’ll fall apart
  • Everyone’s well-being and happiness relys on them
  • Their unhappiness, hardship, and mistreatment is because of others – not them
  • They sacrifice so much that other people must agree, obey or appease them 100% of the time
  • If they are no value to anyone, they are worthless

“Misery loves company”

Some of the signs of a martyr include;

  1. They don’t take action/ give up easily
  2. Often allows others to take control of their life
  3. Low self esteem/ lack of self confidence
  4. Experienced childhood trauma/abuse
  5. Lack of responsibility for their problems
  6. They present themselves as the “nice person”
  7. They exaggerate their suffering
  8. Have a hard time saying “no” and maintaining boundaries
  9. It’s always someone else’s fault
  10. Tendancy to self sabotage

The reality is that, like most conditions, someone with martry complex doesn’t know they have it. This makes it unlikely for them to seek the support they need to overcome it. The result is that they spend their entire life “finding their way” and constantly trying to seek the validation they need from others. In some cases cults and dictorial communes are appealing to those with Martry Complex.

This is not only concerning for those with it but also those around them. Here are some tips if you think you are dealing with someone with Martyr Complex;

Become self sufficient

Remember that nothing is for free. These “gifts” will be used as a way to make you feel guilty later. They will later refuse to accept your personal boundaries as you are indebted to them.

Be mindful of what attention you give

Martyr revels in attention especially pity and praise. Self-sacrificing is the easiest method to gain both of these so avoid praising or pitying these types of actions.

Maintain Personal Boundaries

People with this complex lack respect of the personal boundaries of others. Inch pintching their way into your life by all means. For this reason you should practice saying “no” frequently and often.

Do you know someone with Martyr Complex?

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London based beauty & lifestyle blogger

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