When you really sit down and think about the definition of what a burden means, it often doesn’t match with what is actually happening in your life. According to Webster’s dictionary, a burden is defined as, bearing a heavy load or your mere existence causing trouble. Whether or not you are an actual burden to someone is difficult to assess.
Throughout your life, people will worry about you and may feel concerned for your wellbeing and safety. You may feel that when talking to someone about your feelings, you’re unloading too much. While this is normal to feel; in the moment it doesn’t feel normal or comfortable. If someone tells us we make life harder or we are adding more stress to someone’s life, there is a possibility we feel like we have caused more emotional pain.
As a therapist in Orange County, I come across individuals who feel like they are a burden and are scared that if they do open up and be vulnerable, then their loved ones will feel burdened by them. Feeling like a burden can really hold us back from being genuine with others, from seeing an accurate and rational picture of things, from regulating our emotions, and from seeking emotional support.
In this article, I discuss where feeling like a burden comes from and reasons behind it. In addition, I specifically outline ways to stop feeling like a burden and how to feel more confident when seeking support.
Where Does Feeling Like a Burden Come From?
Someone might wonder where did feeling like a burden come from and how did the feeling originate. If we start in childhood, you might have grown up in an environment where emotions weren’t communicated effectively; yelling, guilt tripping, gaslighting, the silent treatment, or no discussion of emotions at all. When we are experiencing painful feelings with no healthy ways to communicate those feelings, the heavy load of those emotions can feel scary to talk to others about.
Or maybe you have had a negative experience of opening up to someone. This can cause you to feel like a burden. Being rejected or dismissed of your emotional experience can make someone wonder, “Am I a burden to others?” or “Am I not good enough to be cared for?”
There is a big shame piece that comes to play with the thought of “I am a burden.” You may question if you are worthy of other people’s time and energy. You may wonder if you are expecting too much from others or, if you’re getting a negative reaction, this might mean they don’t like you.
People pleasing behavior is a defensive mechanism to keep your emotional distance from others and only share information that people want to hear. The root of the problem with people pleasing is fear of rejection and abandonment. Essentially, people pleasers deny they have any bad, painful, negative, or hard feelings in their life for fear of burdening others with their problems.
3 Reasons You May Feel Like a Burden:
When we feel stressed and overwhelmed with all of life’s challenges and responsibilities, this can cause us to have a fuzzy and inaccurate perception of how other’s view us. You may feel as if people don’t have time to help and support your, or that you can manage these feelings on our own.
2. Hyper focused on other’s emotional states:
Observing our loved ones struggling can make us question if our emotions are too heavy for them to handle. We might tell ourselves the excuse of “They’ve got too much going on” or “I’m only going to make it worse.” When we are so focused on other people’s emotional states and what they are going through, we don’t give them the opportunity to choose if they are able to handle supporting you or not.
3. The idea that “I can deal with it on my own.”
Some people put incredibly high expectations on themselves in being able to manage their anxiety, depression, trauma, or grief all on their own. It might look like weakness or feeling incapable if we can’t fix our own problems. We get this idea that if we ask for help; we are disrupting someone’s life and affecting others significantly. Thus, we keep to ourselves and tell ourselves we should do it all on our own.
3 Ways to Stop Feeling Like a Burden:
· Be aware of your emotional energy
You might be concerned that “You are too much!” or “You are a lot to handle.” Most of the time when we are feeling like a burden to others, it’s due to us having a significant amount of stored emotions and emotional energy we need to get out. When we have no one to talk to or vent too, we can have an overload of emotions and emotional energy pent up. Thus, when we eventually talk to someone about our emotions and problems, it can come off as abrasive or combative. People who feel this pent-up emotional energy can have trouble not absorbing it and eventually, withdraw from that person. They might feel the emotional energy is hard to interact with. It’s important to be aware of your emotional energy and stored up emotions before communicating your feelings to someone else. You want to come across as in need of emotional support instead of putting your emotional energy onto someone else.
· Set boundaries around self-care
The most important thing to implement when feeling like a burden is setting boundaries around self-care. It is crucial to take care of yourself emotionally. Whenever someone has thoughts of being a burden to others, it usually means your emotional needs aren’t being met. We depend on others to meet our emotional needs and make us feel better, instead of taking care of ourselves first. Setting boundaries to meet your emotional needs could look like; implementing specific coping skills throughout the day, journaling your thoughts when you feel so overloaded with emotions, taking deep breaths when angry, working on mediation exercises to help calm your nervous system, or using daily grounding techniques to keep your emotions regulated. It’s starts with making your emotional self-care a priority by setting boundaries and following through.
· Change your perspective
Changing your perspective can be helpful when we feel like we are a burden to others. Sometimes we dismiss the fact that others might want the opportunity to support you. Ask yourself, “If the table was turned, would you want to be there for them?” “Would you want to support and take care of your loved one emotionally?” The typical answer is yes. It can be a helpful reminder that it feels good being there for others and helping a friend out. Being there for someone who needs it can validate the belief that you are a good friend. When you feel hesitant to reach out to others for fear of being a burden, it’s helpful to remind yourself that others want an opportunity to be a good friend and to support you emotionally.
5 Ways to Seek Support Confidently:
1. Pick a trusted person:
Take a step back and assess all your family members, friends, teachers, coworkers, and individuals in your life. Think back on previous evidence that supports individuals genuinely wanting to be there for you emotionally. Pick a trusted person that you can talk to about your emotions and painful feelings without judgement.
2. Think about taking care of you:
When you get the urge to make others happy before yourself, STOP. Take a step back and really think about how you can take care of yourself right now. Consider your emotional needs before pleasing others.
3. Remind yourself of your strengths:
When we feel like we are a burden to others, we are so hyper focused on our negative emotions, we forget about all our strengths and positive qualities. Our emotions don’t define us. As you know, feelings come and go. It’s important to remind yourself of all your strengths when you make the step to seek emotional support.
4. Stop apologizing for your feelings:
Your feelings are valid, and they are unique to you. You have a right to feel. When we apologize for our feelings, we are sending the message that it’s not okay to feel and we are dismissing our own feelings. You are not responsible for how feeling your feelings affects someone else. There is nothing to be sorry for and you do not need to feel like a burden when you are simply feeling your feelings.
5. Show yourself self-compassion:
We go through times in their lives where we are overwhelmed with so many emotions and it can feel like we might be burdensome if we talk to others about our issues. Showing self-compassion means being gentler with yourself as you walk through these hard and overwhelming times. Embrace these challenges as an opportunity to make deeper connections with others and get out of your comfort zone to reach out for help. Feeling like a burden isn’t a free pass to punish yourself and keep your distance from others. It’s the chance to be gracious with yourself and seek out the support you need from the individuals who are able and willing to be there for you.
The people who are meant to be in your life want to love and support you.
Feeling like a burden can feel isolating. We feel the need to please others, take care of them first, and put aside our own emotional needs. You might want to keep your distance because of the possible shame we can feel if we were to open up to others. Understanding where feeling like a burden comes from and reasons behind it can really help someone have a more accurate and clearer picture of what is causing those feelings and how to gain relief.
Awareness, setting boundaries, and changing your perspective can alleviate those thoughts and feelings of being a burden to others. Lastly, have confidence in yourself to reach out for support by reminding yourself of the wonderful qualities you have to offer, acknowledge that your feelings are valid, and giving yourself self-compassion during overwhelming and challenging times.
Sometimes feeling like a burden can become too much. As a depression therapist, I help teenagers and young adults feel more confident in verbalizing their feelings and seeking the help they need in themselves and others. I support individuals taking care of themselves emotionally and developing a routine to implement those strategies daily. Talking to a therapist can alleviate the feelings of being a burden and give you the tools to feeling more peaceful and happy. If you are a young adult residing in the state of California and looking to process your hurt and pain, schedule a free consultation today.