The Modern Day Martyr

It breaks my heart that so many talented, brilliant caring people giving themselves away, are suffering, living in scarcity and burning themselves out!

The traditional martyr is a person who suffers endlessly or is killed for their religious beliefs.

I work with mission-driven entrepreneurs, do-gooders - your work is an expression of your vision for the world; you are someone who is working to serve, heal, transform, create peace and wholeness. This type of endeavor comes with many perks (feeling good about what you do, enjoying your work, feeling on purpose) but it also has its pitfalls and drawbacks.

One is to martyr yourself to your mission - The modern-day martyr is someone who sacrifices their sustainability for the sake of their mission; someone who puts their mission ahead of their own well-being.

You may not know that I martyred myself to my first career. I was an environmental activist for ten years. I ran campaigns for clean water, clean air, toxic waste reduction and recycling all over the country. I was nationally known and respected for my work. However, there was only my work. A regular work-week was 80 hours and often much more. And, no surprise, I was paid very little for my work. When I left I was completely burned out. There wasn’t much of me left. Not only did I suffer but so did my cause, the mission to which I had dedicated myself. I was no longer able to carry on that mission.

I see a similar martyrdom in my clients and colleagues. I see my clients undercharging. I see you giving your services away. I see you working so hard and wondering if you will be able to stay in business or working so hard for so little that you need to work even harder. Or sometimes you just work yourself to exhaustion because so many people need you. These are all symptoms of the martyr syndrome. My stand is that the martyr syndrome must end! Will you take that stand with me?

There are two roots of the martyr syndrome:

1.   Not understanding your true value

2.   Believing that your service and mission are more important than your own well-being

These roots stem from our historical spiritual context and the notion that service to others is to be given without compensation. Every religion has a form of the Sanskrit word Seva, selfless service, a service which is performed without any expectation of result or award for the person performing it. Selfless service has its place. It is a beautiful gift. But do not mistake your business or your life for an act of selfless service. (Unless that is what you are choosing.)

Often when I’m working with a client on this issue what comes up is that if they charge what they are worth they will become, or even worse appear, to be a mercenary, someone motivated solely by a desire for monetary or material gain. What happens is that they are so afraid of appearing to be a mercenary they perpetuate being a martyr.

I propose a new relationship to this martyr/mercenary no-person’s land. I’d like to propose that the service you provide is priceless. It is critical to your clients and to the uplifting of humanity. I’d like to propose that what you have to offer when compared to many of the things people spend money on is significantly more valuable. You provide health, mental well-being, a sense of purpose, relief from pain, relief from stress and worry, connection to the divine, and the list goes on.

I challenge you to claim your true value. I challenge you to hold your gifts as precious. You don’t see Apple giving away iPads. They don’t say, “People really need them but probably can’t afford them. So, let’s give them away.” No, they charge a premium because they know that their product is that good.

How about you? Isn’t what you have to offer way better and more valuable than an iPad? Isn’t it time to stop giving it away or discounting it? Because when you give your services away you give yourself away. Isn’t it time to start charging it’s true value? I challenge you to believe in yourself.

Next I want to propose that your sustainability and prosperity is the most important part of your mission. The more of you there is, the more of your gifts you get to give to the world. A tired, worried about money, harried, frazzled, wondering if you will be able to do your work for the long haul version of you isn’t going to have the impact that’s possible. I’ve been there. I know first hand.

When you value your personal sustainability and prosperity over your mission the craziest thing happens… your ability to serve your mission grows. I challenge you to put your own well-being, health and prosperity before your mission’s and watch your impact take off.