I told you that one day I would talk about the lie I tell myself. My lie is deeply seeded within me, from the time I was very little. When I did my hypnosis classes when I was pregnant with my first son, and it was when my lie came out. But the truth is, I’ve always felt that way. I feel like I am a burden to my family, and sometimes everyone around me.
That’s deep, and it hurts like hell. And I would guess that I’m not the only one who has felt this way in their life.
Why do I feel this way?
This kind of self-doubt stems from childhood, and has had deep impact on my life. It’s possible this feeling stems from my dad. I love my dad, and I don’t blame him for my feeling this way. My dad was a police officer for 31 years (now retired and living the good life golfing and doing yard work ), so he saw how people lived and how they were treated when they weren’t functional, contributing members of society. He did everything in his power to protect my brother and I from having a life like that. He did his best to make us responsible, accountable, and independent… even if sometimes he may have pushed too hard.
I honestly can’t think of anything specific from my childhood that he did or said resulting in this feeling. I was expected to be good at school, responsible, and hard-working.
Really, it was when I was an adult that I took note of my dad’s push for me to be independent. When I was forced out of my first job ever at the age of 25 and was waiting to hear about my application to grad school, my dad said to me, “Well, don’t even think about moving back in with us, because that ain’t happening.”
I don’t think he knew how much it hurt to hear that. It felt as if he didn’t want me.
I’m sure he has his own insecurities from his childhood that contributed to him having these kinds of expectations. And he did it out of honest love. I think it would abhor him to think he caused me this kind of self-doubt.
The effects on my life
My feeling that I am a burden on my family spurred all kinds of additional toxicity in my life, including my first marriage. It was almost as if I thought that if I could fix my ex’s psychological problems, I would be worthy to be relieved of the title of “a burden”. I would have done something helpful, something important! When I spun my wheels trying to help him, all I did was get stuck in the mud that much deeper.
This lie even took a toll financially as I have always been a spender, looking for a new way to impress people, to prove people wrong, to prove that I was worthwhile and respectable.
The belief that I’m a burden to my family has made me a people-pleaser. I was always so focused and worried whether someone liked me that I never stopped to wonder if I liked them. It is not uncommon for me to hold my tongue when I disagree with someone, even on the smallest thing.
This was how I lived my life for the longest time. Even now, having become aware of my lie and working to alter it, I find myself stuck in its clutches.
This feeling stops with me
At my 6 week postpartum midwife visit in May, I brought M along. He wanted to push around anything with wheels, including the blood pressure machine and cart with all the doctor’s tools. I immediately apologized to the nurse who had shown me into the room for M’s destructiveness.
She put a nurturing hand on my arm and said, “He’s exploring. That’s how they learn.”
I have never felt so ashamed in my life. Not only was I doing the same walking-on-eggshells/people-pleasing that I had always done, but I was inadvertently projecting that onto my 19 month old.
On top of that, the nurse was schooling me on how children learn, and I was the one with a degree in Education!
I would NEVER want my children to grow up feeling as if they are a burden to their family, so I have been more than mindful about it since this has happened.
Changing the belief
I have been actively working on changing this mindset, and so far it has been working. Here’s what I’m doing to help lift myself up and release the belief that I’m a burden to my family and those around me.
Talk it out
Find someone that is close to you that you can trust. Someone that you know will listen and respond with love. Luckily, I have a husband who is great at listening objectively. Make sure you find someone who will validate your feelings. If they don’t, they aren’t the right person to talk to. Your feelings are ALWAYS valid.
Explain how you feel. Tell them, “I have realized that somehow I feel like I’m a burden to the people around me. It’s not you, it’s probably something in the way I was brought up. I just have these feelings.”
Even when you are having other feelings and you are feeling ashamed to bring them up, remember that when we bottle our emotions, they can manifest as all kinds of other maladies. You might get pain or tension, you might have trouble sleeping, or you might put on weight.
I can think of no other change that I have made that helps me more than talking with someone I trust. I have been in therapy many times in my life for just this reason.
If you are having a difficult time thinking of someone who you can trust, perhaps finding a therapist would be beneficial. I have actually been wanting to try the Talkspace app. There are a number of therapy apps that work the same way. You wouldn’t even have to leave your home.
Catch your feelings when they happen
When you realize that you might be acting in a way that sells yourself short, makes yourself feel small, or tries to blend into the background, stop for a moment.
Say to yourself, “I’m feeling like I’m being a burden right now.” Even just recognizing and naming the feeling can be hugely powerful.
Then step back and tell yourself. “I am not a burden.” Take a deep breath in and let it out. Let go of the feeling.
Then continue wherever you were.
Let go of fear
If you’re like me, you fear being a burden. So you not only need to let go of feeling like a burden, but also of the fear associated with it.
The people who are in your life who are meant to be there will not feel that you are a burden on them. They will ultimately want to love and support you.
There may be those so-called “friends” and perhaps narcissistic family members who do in fact let you know that you are a burden on them. If this is the case, you probably need to reevaulate whether they should be in your life. There are myriad resources for children of narcissistic parents and setting boundaries. (Try reading here and here.)
When you realize that the problem often lies with the other person and not you, it’s a little easier to let go of the fear. (Only a little…)
Stop apologizing & Reframe Your Response
One of the first things that happened when I projected my own feelings onto my son was that I apologized for his behavior. And it wasn’t even something that needed to be apologized for.
I find myself apologizing often for things that are out of my control, things that are completely normal, and things that are within my system of values and beliefs.
Apologizing takes away your power of control over your feelings and the situation. True apologies should happen only when they are really necessary.
When you find yourself wanting to say you’re sorry, catch that feeling, just like you did when you realized you were feeling like a burden. Catch it, recognize it, and let it go.
Reframing your response as a thank you can have a huge effect. For example:
From: “I’m so sorry that I’m late…”
To: “Thank you so much for your patience.”
From: “I’m so sorry my child is being destructive…”
To: “Thank you for helping my child pick up the mess he made.”
Apologizing implies that you did something wrong. Whereas saying thank you validates that the other person did something for you, but it shows gratitude and positivity.
In sum, there are probably many people around you that tell themselves the lie “I’m a burden to my family”. You aren’t alone, and there are definite steps that you can take to erasing this response from your repertoire of behaviors and thoughts. Show yourself some grace and love. You are worthy of being here, worthy of being with your family, and worthy of being loved and appreciated for who you are!