September 01, 2015

Cinderella Syndrome

I read this morning about martyr-type personalities. Martyrs are those who see all of life as a glass that's half-empty. Plans won't work out, ideas will fail, and everyone would have a better time without them.

I know I have my martyr moments, but it was a cold shock to realize how MUCH of me is martyr. Harder than that was reading what causes martyr behavior: desire for control and a sense their wants don't matter.


I grew up thinking my wants didn't matter, and control was something I wanted but didn't have; most control came from my parents, who taught me a lot about authority and respect. The difficulty is that my habits over the years make it hard to accept help. Help means I failed to do it myself. Not feeling heard or listened to by someone I love still sends me into disproportionate panic.

I wondered if there's a Cinderella Syndrome going on in Christian culture. We're supposed to serve. We're supposed to look out for others' interests. We're not supposed to be selfish. We often develop the mindset that experiencing pleasure, doing something just because we want to,  is wrong. The only way 'want' is acceptable is if we do all our serving others first, then fit our want into the space that's left. Cinderella Syndrome: once our list of chores is done, THEN we can go to the ball.

I don't know what the right mindset is, but I know my current one is wrong. This outlook makes it nearly impossible to believe that God loves me and wants good for me. This perspective leads me to believe that God wants joy for me, but gives it reluctantly and only if I prove I've worked/done/served/done enough -- whatever 'enough' means.

I think the antidotes for Cinderella Syndrome are these:
1-- Ask for help, Ask for it before I'm at the bottom of a pit flat on my back. Ask for help without offering 'payback' things to compensate the giver. Ask without excuse or justification or lessening of my inadequacy. Receive the help with simple thanks -- not offers that balance the 'need' scale in my head, not fear that all help comes with strings attached, and not shame that I needed help in the first place.

2-- Surrender. Stop trying. The chore list will never end. Laundry will always get dirty again; the dog will need to be walked again, no matter how long you were out this morning. I could always pray for more minutes, read more chapters in my Bible, and volunteer for more serving opportunities. I need to surrender in the moment to whatever God is telling me. I need to surrender control of how anyone else might view me and be willing to have someone else be mad or think I'm foolish for doing or not doing something.

I hate what the Cinderella Syndrome creates, but changing how I think and act can be so very hard.
One day, one hour, one moment, one thought at a time. Jesus, please strengthen me today. Please strengthen all of us; make us aware of your spirit in our ever-present NOW.

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