So, You Think You're a Burden
Updated: Apr 20
Many people hesitate to reach out for support because they do not want to put their worries or problems on to someone else. At least, that is the dialogue that many have with themselves. Too often, the idea of being a burden is inaccurate and leaves people more isolated than they have to be.
There are many reasons why you may not be reaching out to friends, family, or even a professional person for support. We live in a society that values independence and negatively labels you as needy should you seek help from others. Sometimes you forget, or refuse, to apply the saying, "That's what friends are for" to yourself during times you need it the most. However, you have a story to share and there are people who want to hear what you have to say. Your presence is not a burden. Your story is not a burden. You are not a burden -- you are a person who is deserving of care and attention.
When challenging unhelpful thinking patterns, it's important to take some time to reflect on where the thoughts stem from or what keeps them going. As you better understand your thoughts, you become more skilled at challenging the ones that have no validity and do not serve you in a healthy and healing way. Here are a few reasons why you may be concerned about being a burden:
Your mental illness tells you so
If you are living with depression, you may battle thoughts telling you that you are not worthy of attention or someone else's time. Your depression may even tell you that you are only 'seeking attention', and that there are other people who need help more than you do. You may even feel that you will bring others down if you talk about your feelings and experiences.
THE TRUTH: Sharing your dark moments will not add darkness to someone's life. They may feel sadness because you are hurting and that is absolutely okay for them to feel that emotion. People who care about you will grab your hand when you reach out to talk. If someone turns away, then let them leave. Maybe they know their own limits regarding support. Either way, you deserve to be surrounded by people who want to listen to you, support you, and love you.
You're the strong friend
This means that you are a source of support and advice for others. You may feel that because this is the case, your friends are not able, or capable, to support you. While that may be a true concern, I have found that often times the strong friend does not want to appear weak to the very people who look to them for advice. You may even feel embarrassed for needing help or 'not having it all together', which keeps you from speaking your truth.
THE TRUTH: "It's OKAY to not be OKAY". It's that simple. You do not have to have all the answers, you do not have to be perfect. What you do have to be is willing to push your ego or pride to the side to make sure that you are taking care of yourself.
Being independent is your thing
This is a common feeling experienced by people who may need physical care. As I've worked with aging adults and adults with illnesses and disabilities, sometimes it can be hard to accept that you need help with chores, transportation, and even personal care. So, it may not be about being a burden as much as it may be about feeling like you're trading your power for dependence.
THE TRUTH: Needing help does not diminish your independence. You still have as much agency as before because you choose from whom, how, and when you want to reach out for support. Your loved ones are there for you and want to show their love and support when possible.
If you feel like you are a burden, it's ok to check in with others to see how they are doing. That is a loving and considerate thing to do. Even if someone says they have been feeling overwhelmed, that still does not mean you are a burden. It just means that they are human, and not a machine. This is also why it is important to have a supportive network so that you can reach out to different people when needed. Remember, working with a therapist, or even contacting a help hotline is another option for seeking support!
Rafaella Smith-Fiallo is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and owns Healing Exchange LLC. She specializes in supporting healing after sexual violence, building self-esteem and confidence, and teaching healthy sexuality to individuals, those in relationships, and within supportive group settings. She also cofounded Afrosexology, a sex-positive, pleasure based sexuality education platform.