“. . . and she loved a boy very, very much – even more than she loved herself.” – Shel Silverstein

Although there are many interpretations for the meaning of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, the story is generally about a tree that sacrifices all that she is and has to support the boy she loves. The boy takes her for granted, but the tree continues to give until she has no more to give. In our everyday lives, many of us have learned (through our culture, parents or society) that self-sacrifice is noble. We give up all of ourselves because we think that someone else is more important – it is the right thing to do. Whether it’s our children, a spouse or even at work, sacrificing our needs becomes the norm. At the same time, when we disregard ourselves in this way, we end up like the Giving Tree – tired with nothing more to give. When we don’t value our own wants and needs, we unconsciously send the message to others that we are unworthy. Through our actions, we teach others to treat us and then are surprised when no one shows up for us. Even when we do have the strength to step out of self-sacrifice we often feel guilty, as if we have violated some sacred covenant. We go running from it or find ourselves apologizing when we ask for something. Yet, if we want to live meaningful, happy lives, and even teach our partners and children about their own self-worth, we have to begin to set better boundaries and change our beliefs about sacrifice. Self-sacrifice isn’t really necessary to sustain healthy relationships. It also is not necessary for us to be loved, give love or receive life’s abundant gifts.

Weekly Pat to Peace: Let go of your need to self-sacrifice.

  • Whether with your partner, at work or with your children, recognize how far you will go just to meet others’ needs. Write out all the ways that you subjugate your needs for others. Notice too, how does it make you feel when you continuously sacrifice your needs or wants for others?
  • This week, may a promise to yourself to cut the cord and let go of self-sacrifice as means by which you receive love, recognition or attention. Be willing to let yourself set goals and needs for yourself and at least one time this week, allow yourself to put one of your needs above those of others. .

As you begin this week, rate your level of happiness, self-esteem and self-confidence on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being not satisfied and 10 being very satisfied. Notice where you are Sunday evening after you do this week’s peace practice to see if there is a change.