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What is a Martyr Mindset and How is it Affecting You

What is Martyr Mindset™? 

You are the one to call and everyone comes to you. Whether it is at work, your favorite nonprofit, or your family, they all depend on you…and you used to enjoy doing it all. You are on every committee and when it’s time to delegate, you’re the best person for the job because you get it done the right way (also known as your way). You volunteer because you are passionate about helping others and striving for goals because you think it is the right thing to do. Now, you realize it may be working against you.

In the traditional sense, a martyr is someone who is killed or sacrificed for their beliefs. In today’s world, having a Martyr Mindset™ may mean you are willing to suffer or sacrifice for a cause you believe in. Some even develop the traits of a “people-pleaser”, or as I like to call it, a “Miss Fix It”. A Miss Fix It takes pride in saying yes and is running around trying to do everything for everyone, oftentimes unknowingly sacrificing her own needs in the process.

So what does it look like when we get in our own way? Many of us are grinding away on a mission, constantly going and constantly giving. This endless demand is a destructive pattern that ultimately can lead to burnout, a sense of feeling unfulfilled or unappreciated. You are doing everything for everyone but you are forgetting about taking care of yourself first

How is a Martyr Mindset™ Developed?

Martyr Mindset™ often stems from a conditioned behavior that can develop from:

Personal experiences significantly mold us into who we are and how we behave and think. If you grew up with parents or were mentored by someone with a Martyr Mindset™ then it is likely that you were influenced by those behaviors. 

Societal/cultural conditioning also contributes to the development of a Martyr Mindset™. Gender roles, religious beliefs and social expectations all contribute to this conditioning. In a culture where it is normal for a woman to give up her plans to devote herself to being a mother and wife is a culture that promotes the development of a Martyr Mindset™. Our culture and society can determine many of our thoughts of who we are and who we “should” be. 

Lack of Confidence in your value can ultimately play a role. The more you question your skills or worth, the more you may try to overcompensate and prove your value to others. Even though you have all the training or expertise, even after you have proved yourself time and time again at work and in your relationships, you may still strive for outside recognition or validation. 

External & Internal Pressure from work, family, friends…the list goes on and on. Pressure or guilt to take care of what obviously needs to be done can make you feel justified in putting your own needs to the side. The pressure to show that you are committed to your job or duties makes you feel like you can’t take your vacation or sick days without being judged. You give into these pressures because you think it is what you have to do or are expected to do in order to be successful or make an impact.

You don’t have to be a Martyr!

You’re tired of being Miss Fix It and not having time for your own health or goals. There are studies that show 50% of happiness is how you are wired at birth, 10% of happiness comes from circumstance, and 40% is from the choices we make. There are three steps you can take to step out of your Martyr Mindset™ and start living with more joy.

1. Create a clear vision of your future and expectations
2. Give yourself permission to pursue that vision and ditch the Martyr Mindset™
3. Choose YOU and commit to what you value because no one is coming to save you!

Of course, these steps look simple, but we all need a community for support when we commit to building a legacy. Our Soar To Excellence™ Community helps you navigate through with all the validated tools and systems. It’s never too late to pursue your dreams. Sign up for a Soar to ExcellenceTM Assessment and start your journey today!

About Dr. Toni A. Haley

Toni A. Haley, MD is a bestselling author, speaker and certified executive coach for high performing women. She is also the founder of Soar to ExcellenceTM Coaching. Dr. Toni is sought after by clients for her 25 years of experience in healthcare, wellness and finance. Her proven strategies have helped hundreds of women break through personal and professional barriers, such as Martyr MindsetTM, Perfectionism, and Imposter Syndrome. Dr. Toni has committed her career to empowering others to achieve greater prosperity and fulfillment beyond success.

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Dr. Toni A. Haley


  1. Tamina McMillan on April 8, 2020 at 5:53 am

    Another great piece, Dr. Toni!! I love having authentic friends because they’ll tell you the truth no matter what. Once a dear girlfriend said, “Why do you always play the role of a martyr?”. That question stopped me cold. Until then, I hadn’t realized that was what I was doing. Also, I realized that I had a CHOICE. Thanks for clearly elucidating what a Martyr Mindset is and how to fight your way or if it.

    • Dr. Toni A. Haley on April 8, 2020 at 8:26 am

      Thank you, Dr. Tamina Mc Millan! This is the real epidemic for all the strong leaders I coach. We have plenty of positive choices we can make to set the example and help us serve even better!

  2. Tabitha Jones-McKnight on May 11, 2020 at 9:29 am

    This piece is extremely well written and timely! Often times we do not realize we have taken on this role in so many aspects of our lives and it takes someone from the outside looking in to help us to see it. Thank you Dr. Toni for sharing this with others and thank you for teaching how to serve better!

    • Toni Haley on July 19, 2020 at 11:32 pm

      Dr. Tabitha, we are happy you enjoyed it and found it helpful.

  3. Cynthia J. Holmes, LBSW, MHA, ACM on May 17, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks so much Dr. Haley. This is awesome ii formation to share regardless of where you are in your life’s journey.. There are so many takeaways.
    I recently retired from what I believe to have been a successful career in healthcare . I can identify with what you have graciously shared..
    My goal now is to give back by mentoring youths who aspire to become leaders in healthcare, Case Management in particular.

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