Life is hard. People can be difficult and messy. And when your messiness gets on others, it’s easy to feel like you’re a burden.
Why should this person put up with my problems?
Why should anyone else suffer because I can’t seem to keep my act together?
Why should my loved ones feel inconvenienced when my issues interrupt their plans?
All of these nagging thoughts poison our minds and relationships with unnecessary baggage.
What if you’re in a happy, healthy relationship, but you’re experiencing hardship? Perhaps you get sick. Or lose your job. Or can’t function at the level that you usually do.
Life happens – and sometimes, life is ugly and painful. In those times, you may find that you cannot perform at your full capacity.
That’s when it’s easy to fool yourself into believing that you are a burden to those around you because of the issues you are facing.
Or perhaps you are reaching an age where you need a little more help with things and your health may not be what it once was. It’s easy to feel like a burden on your partner or children if they have to spend more of their time helping you with things you used to be able to do independently.
It’s also easy to fall into this trap if you have been (or are still being) subjected to emotional abuse, convincing you that you are not worthy of other people’s care, attention, and effort.
Whatever your situation, how can you fix a mindset that currently convinces you that you are dragging others down?
Work on your self-esteem and self-worth.
Ask yourself these questions: What do people who don’t feel like a burden to others think? How do they think? What allows them to navigate these moments that we can learn from?
These people often have a strong sense of self-esteem and self-worth. They know that they regularly bring good things to the lives of their loved ones in whatever way they can.
They understand that even though these good things might be few and far between right now, that eventually, they will be plenty once again.
Or, they strive to contribute in whatever way they can while they are going through their problems.
Building self-esteem is a complex, vast subject on its own. It can be challenging to find the value in oneself if your life experiences have done their best to convince you that you are not valuable.
But this is a thing you can correct by taking actions to show yourself that you are worthy, and by replacing negative self-talk with positive.
Actions are a vital part of changing the narrative. You simply won’t believe yourself if you’re not taking steps that help you feel in tune with feeling like a valuable, positively contributing person.
It’s one thing to say it and quite another to believe it. Believing it takes a lot of regular time and work.
Remember: no one is 100% all of the time.
Practicing kindness with yourself is understanding both your positives and negatives.
And for context, it’s essential to look around at others. What you will find is that no one is ever totally at 100%. Everyone always has some problems that they are avoiding, ignoring, accepting, or working on.
Only an unreasonable person, likely someone taking advantage of you, would expect you to be 100% all the time.
That’s why it is so important to extend grace and compassion not only to the people around you who are suffering, but to yourself.
You can’t be 100% all of the time. And the people you love? They can’t either.
But you still love and accept them, don’t you? You still make room for them and try to extend them compassion and understanding so that they have space to improve and handle their business.
And that same compassion is what you need to extend to yourself.
Now, you may find that other people are less tolerant or understanding. That absolutely happens. Some people say they care but don’t actually perform the actions that back up their statements.
With those people, you have to stand up for yourself and let them know that you’re allowed to have a rough time or not be 100%.
It’s part of having and enforcing boundaries.
Put in the work to correct your situation.
One way to reinforce to yourself that you are not a burden is to start putting in the work to correct whatever the negative situation is.
Lost a job? Put in 8 hours a day applying for a new one, just like you were going to work.
Feeling sick? Do what you can, where you can, when you’re feeling well enough to do it.
Struggling with your mental health? Talk to a therapist, keep your appointments, and keep working at finding ways to improve.
These things won’t necessarily prevent you from feeling like a burden. Still, it is much more convincing to yourself when you can tell yourself that you are doing everything you can when you actually are.
And you know what? Sometimes, everything that you can do may not be all that much. If you have a chronic illness or struggles that aren’t going to be resolved any time soon, then it’s a matter of propping yourself up at the moment, so you don’t send yourself into a negative spiral.
Try to the best of your ability. That’s all you really can do.
People who genuinely love you will not look at you as a burden.
Love is an interesting thing. It comes in so many different shapes and sizes. But one qualifying truth about the deepest reaches of love is that it is accepting and unconditional.
A person who genuinely loves you will see your flaws and love them too. They will think you are beautiful, warts and all. Because the warts that we have are just as much a part of us as the positive, brilliant things.
Whatever you may be struggling with, the people that love you should still love you.
And if they don’t? That’s not a “you” problem. That’s a “them” problem. Their problem is that they are shoving unfair expectations onto you that are not yours to carry.
They may not mean to do this. People aren’t always emotionally intelligent or very compassionate. They may mean well and just not be succeeding with whatever notions they have.
But they may also be willing to stand by you if they understand just how much you’re struggling.
Try communicating with them. Open up and let your loved ones see how you feel and get their perspective. They may be able to surprise you with some meaningful emotional support and love.
On the other hand, you may find that their love is a bit too conditional, which should be a prompt to examine the relationship to see if it is a healthy one.
A word on the ageing process.
Many of us will reach an age where our physical and possibly our mental capabilities will wane. That’s natural.
But when this happens, you might quickly lose a lot of confidence in yourself because of all the things you can no longer do.
When others have to pick up this slack, you may convince yourself that you are a burden on them.
This is especially true of widows and widowers who have lost the person closest to them whom they previously turned to for emotional support.
In many cultures around the world, those in their senior years are brought into the family home of their children, but this is not nearly as common in the West.
If you feel like a burden to your children, there are two ways to look at things.
Firstly, if you had to help your own parents when they got older, ask if you felt burdened by them. Chances are, you did not. And your own children almost certainly feel the same way.
Secondly, in thinking back to your own parents, ask why you didn’t feel burdened by them. It was likely because of the unconditional love you felt for them. But also because you understood how many years and decades of help they gave you as a child or young adult.
Though you might not wish to see your children’s care for you as somehow being owed to you, they likely understand that it’s a natural and normal thing for them to repay some of the time and effort you showed them as their parent.
If in doubt, have an open and honest conversation with them. Let them know how you are feeling and let them express themselves in return. You will no doubt realize that they don’t see you as a burden at all.
They may even relish being able to help you and be close to you in a different role to any they have previously filled.
Consider professional help.
Sometimes feeling like a burden comes from a difficult or complicated place.
For instance, a child who feels unloved can grow into an adult who feels like they need to earn and be worthy of love. That is often rooted in an absent parent or abuse as a child.
If feeling like a burden is a recurring element in your life, then it would be a good idea to talk about the problem with a mental health professional.
You are valuable, and you are worthy, no matter what problems you’re facing. It can just take some time and effort to accept that truth.
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