There ain’t no virtue in being a martyr

No. 59 #ShePersisted Series

When I was a little girl, I thought it was my job to make my mom happy.

I sucked at it.

Not understanding why she cried so much and why she sometimes threatened to take her own life in front of us children, I did everything I could to make her laugh, to (literally) take the knife out of her hand. Mostly I made her cry. I didn’t realize I was not responsible to lift the cloud of dark depression (which as a child I had no name for) that permeated her essence.

I wasn’t that powerful.

I tell you this because in times of extreme stress, and you gotta admit, this pandemic qualifies as that, those childhood messages can rear up and undermine our well-being, our sense of self, our way of being in the world, if we don’t get conscious of our own ‘stuff’.

We’ve got to take care of ourselves.

And part of good self-care is being conscious of the things we are doing, including the unconscious/buried/hidden internal messages our psyche’s are acting out on from our ‘lizard brains’, that do not serve us well in the here and now.

Like believing I could save my mom.

Over the years and circumstances of my life, that child’s thinking turned into an adult belief that it is my job to save the world. That there is something I need to be doing to raise civilization up, to stop the tears, the pain, the suffering. But, (and here’s the kicker) because I couldn’t do it as a child for my mom, I also have a darker side of that belief; the self-defeating, self-annihilating belief that, no matter what I do, it won’t matter. Because, and this is the child’s thinking infiltrating my adult mind which knows it isn’t true but struggles in times of stress to soothe the child’s cries of, “I don’t matter”. “Why bother?” “Whatever I do won’t make a difference anyway.”

Now, I have spent my adult life working on healing those childhood wounds and fears. As Virginia Slims ads used to say, “You’ve come a long way baby”.  But, just like the virtues of the cigarettes those ads used to extoll, in times of distress, we are all at risk of falling back to default positions in order to cope. For me, one of those defaults is the good old depressing, martyr’s role. Unfortunately, there’s no virtue in playing the martyr unless you want to be a saint.

Ha!  Did I mention that the meaning of ‘Louise’ is ‘Saviouress of the world”?  Actually, Louise means, ‘protectress of the people’, so close, right?

I think I may have taken myself and the meaning of my name a tad too seriously. But hey! You can call me Saint Louise if you like.

Don’t get me wrong, I am laughing at myself this morning, looking at my hubris and throwing my hands up in the air as I exclaim, “Oh my look at me being so human! How fascinating!”

The fact is, I am sharing this because understanding where my shadow self is at play, keeps me grounded in the truth. I am not powerful enough to save the world. I am powerful enough to change my world. To create light and beauty in my world, to share my gifts with a generous heart and to create ripples of better all around me.

To do that, I must take care of myself so that I can then give back to others from a place of compassion, generosity and Love.

I know, deep within me, that I am not here to save the world. I am here to save myself from my thinking I am here to save the world. (That one made me smile so I’m leaving it as is).

So, here’s the deal. I tell you all this because I have been feeling the weight of this crisis, wanting to do more, feeling powerless, helpless, useless. I have been struggling to find my way through the dark, alone.

I am not alone. We are all in this together. We are all connected. This is all our one world, one planet, one humanity.

It’s just sometimes, when I’m not taking good care of myself by loving myself through the darkness, I can get trapped in believing I’m all alone. I don’t matter. I can never do enough.

I know that when I’m willing to embrace my truth with compassion and love, be it my light shining or a dark shadow looming, I am free of my childhood driven fear that I will never matter. I will never make a difference. I have no worth.

We all matter. We all make a difference. We all have worth.

And here’s the deal.  Remember at the beginning of this (long) post, I said in the context of saving my mother, “I wasn’t that powerful”?

Well, when we take care of ourselves, when we heed the voices rising up out of the dark past and lovingly embrace their fears, their angst, their belief there’s nothing we can do, we are taking really good care of ourselves. Because, in acknowledging their presence, they feel safe enough to return to the past and we become free to be here in the present, in all our light, beauty, and love.

And in that place, we are powerful enough to live from our magnificence, so that together we can create a better world for everyone.


(And yup. She’s a long one this morning. I thank you for reading through to the end. I thank you for shining your light on my path. I thank you for being you.)



11 thoughts on “There ain’t no virtue in being a martyr

  1. If even one person heeds your words, follows the example of those who are “socially responsible”, that is one life to the good. I cringe when I see news items of packed beaches, etc. Why is it that common sense is the first thing to fly out the window. We know a few who are in denial and we are flummoxed to the point of being angry as to how to deal with them. We are looking after ourselves first and foremost. Are we being selfish, maybe, a tad. However by staying healthy we can go to the store and help those who are self-isolating due to travel or other reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely Iwona. And I know what you mean. I have to move myself, spiritually, mentally, physically into compassion for those who are flaunting their closeness by ignoring social distancing. I have to ground myself in love to not fall into angry, virulent response.

      Hugs. we are safe and secure at home. It’s snowing this morning. Beau and I are about to go to the park. It will be nice and empty with the inclement weather so I won’t even have to think about keeping my distance or someone bursting my bubble! 🙂


  2. “And in that place, we are powerful enough to live from our magnificence, so that together we can create a better world for everyone.”
    I am so touched and strengthened by this past paragraph so it comes out first. You are strong enough, we are strong enough, to make a difference. It seems impossible with so many people in this world but I totally agree with the effect of all the ripples. They build up to a powerful force.
    Thank you for this deep story, Louise.


    Liked by 2 people

  3. Louise, this line resonates in my heart. “I am here to save myself from my thinking I am here to save the world. ” I just listened to a women this morning teaching on our mind, how we are responsible for how we think, that’s where we can be powerful and help others. I grew up thinking I was a pitiful person since that is the name my drunken Dad gave us kids. Even after becoming a believer in Christ and what He did for me on the cross I still have periods of feeling pitiful. I cling to the scripture, greater is He then is in the world on a daily bases and God says I am the child of a King, a saint, and a long list of other wonderful words that lift me out of pitiful. This was a great post for me to read during this latest trial and some personal ones we are going through. Your words shown light and insight into my heart, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your beautiful words and vulnerability. You are not alone. Those childhood learnings have long roots. And just when I think I’ve got it all uprooted, I discover another tendril. Sending you much love and healing grace.


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