Self-Sacrifice Schema

Individuals who experience conflicting relationships may develop one or more of these three schemas: self-sacrifice, subjugation or approval-seeking.


We may all occasionally put the needs of other before our own. If you have developed a self-sacrifice schema, you may experience an excessive focus on meeting the needs of others, while neglecting your own. You sacrifice your own wellbeing for the wellbeing of those people around you. There can be various drivers for this kind of behaviour, with the most common ones being a fear of displeasing someone, feeling guilty for being selfish when tending to our own needs, or concerns about hurting or abandoning others by not being constantly available. This may also be linked to a fear of losing people if we do not please them appropriately and put them before our own needs.



When activated, this schema may understandably trigger compliant surrendering to the needs of others, giving up ourselves for someone else, and harbouring resentment when our efforts are not validated by those around us or we are taken advantage of. The true need behind this schema is to feel loved and accepted for who we are rather than for what we sacrifice and how we please other people.


Here are some questions to think about if you are considering whether the self-sacrifice schema resonates with you:

Do you tend to put other people’s needs and wants before your own?

Do you agree to help someone even if this will be difficult to fit into your schedule?

Do you worry about saying no to someone?

Do you worry about displeasing people close to you?

Do you find yourself so busy with doing things for other people that you struggle to find time for yourself?

Do you feel angry, anxious or rejected if people do not acknowledge what you do for them?

Do you find yourself always listening to other people’s problems, but not sharing as much about your own?

Do you prioritize other people so much that you sometimes feel like your needs and wants do not get met or are second best?


If you generally answer no to most these questions, you are unlikely to have developed the self-sacrifice schema. If you think the self-sacrifice schema applies to you, start observing how it manifests in your daily life. Recognition is key to changing patterns that stop you from achieving your goals.


To find out more about your own personal schemas, book a consultation with Dr. Terrighena on (852) 2715 4577 or e.terrighena@mind-balance.org.

Dr Esslin Terrighena - Psychologist in Hong Kong

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