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Bruce, Caroline

Martyr's Syndrom

I was talking to a friend of mine regarding the differences between men and women. She said that women's biggest fault is that they are, instincutally, too kindhearted, too nurturing, too giving. the implication I got from this was that women are, by their nature, Mother Teresa-like, and men are, by our nature, Ted Bundy-like. Since I know of many women, most notably my ex-fiancée, who bear absolutely no resemblance to Mother Teresa, and many men, most notably my dearly-departed father, who would never harm another human being, I have to take issue with this.

I also find myself, on various mailing lists and so on, reading a lot of "poor, persecuted, mistreated, discriminated-against me" messages. Almost invariably, people going through this, and I'll freely admit I find myself being one at times, fault themselves for being too polite, to kind-hearted, too giving. I'm not givng names here, I'm not pointing at anyone (other than myself) and saying, "You are guilty of this". I am simply making note of what I see as a trend.

Is it possible to be too kind, giving, and good-natured? I suppose if you let everyone walk all over you, it can be. But it's far easier being a martyr than being assertive. It's far easier to point out to everyone how damagingly-selfless you are, a technique almost sure to get positive things said about you by way of response, than it is to suck it up, be assertive, and don't let yourself get walked on. And if you are a kind person by nature, don't mistake cold-heartedness for assertiveness. They are not one and the same. To be assertive is good. To be unkind, cold-hearted, or ungiving is not.


It sounds like there's a mixed message involved here. Whadya think?
I agree with you.
Let me see if I can expand on this, although I can't guarantee I can make myself clear. So, as kids we get taught it is polite and great and wonderful to put the feelings of others before ours, and sometimes that means putting our own feelings last or just pretending they are not there. Then we grow up and we might get a good kicking around or screwing over by somebody because we had to not really consider our feelings and well, I don't want to offend anyone or hurt their feelings or disappoint them and I must please everybody. So we then get either scolded for not being assertive enough once we're run through a wringer or two, else we are kindly told that yes, our feelings actually do matter and we really are important. Buzzers and bells start clanging and buzzing away in the brain and red lights flashing and the brain says, "What? Does not compute. I was told very often that I had to put others first and to think of myself or how something affected me was an evil nasty awful act of selfishness. Dammit to hell, what do you want from me!!!" And it doesn't help that people might do or say something out of line, but nobody wants to be seen as the bad guy, so if you do call them out on their actions or attitude, they want to convince you of all the good intent meant by their craptastic treatment of you and how you should fall right on your knees and be thankful and grateful they are tolerating you in the first place, because they could just up and leave and then where would you be?