Releasing Ourselves From Burden

What is it that has us feel like a burden in life?

So many of us are afraid to be a burden to others – what taught us to have this fear? When did we learn that getting our own needs met is a burden? On the flip side, we may have taken on the burden of others and continue to keep it, long after the inspiration to give has left us. How do we start to say no to the burdens that we have accepted from others that are no longer an inspiration to us? Why are their burdens ours? Regardless of which way the ‘burden’ shows up in our life, how did we end up in this energy exchange of resentment and obligation?

We can prove that we are not as important by giving to everyone else before ourselves. Believing that this is true can limit our joy, narrow our world, and reduce our effectiveness in it.

Most of us learned that we were a burden to our parents in one way or another. Phrases like “I sacrificed everything for you, I went without so you could have nice things, If only I didn’t have so many mouths to feed my life would be better,” etc. were common phrases heard in many of our households. As a child, we needed our caregivers to be stable enough to take care of us. When they acted in ways that were not in our best interest, it was too painful and terrifying to consider that our parents may not know what they are doing. Instead, our ego came in and made up a story that allows us to stay safe and somewhat in control. If we felt that we were a burden, we may have decided that our needs were not as important as someone else’s needs. That story/decision/belief then drives how we see the world and how we respond to situations that remind us that we are not as important as others. It gives us a way to predict what is going to happen to us, even though we don’t like how it feels. We may tend to expect that we are not important and head off the disappointment by avoiding certain situations, people or places. We can prove that we are not as important by giving to everyone else before ourselves. Believing that this is true can limit our joy, narrow our world, and reduce our effectiveness in it.

When we believe that it is our job to make others feel good/happy, and their job to do the same for us, we lose ourselves in our relationships. This is the root idea of believing that anyone can be a burden to anyone else. We end up giving through obligation which creates a burden for ourselves and puts the other person in the place of being the ‘burden’.

The reality is that it is everyone’s job to make themselves feel good/happy. Everyone has free will and the choice to say yes (accept) or say no (reject) every experience they have – including supporting others.

When we support someone else from inspiration, not obligation, we release ourselves from taking on a burden and increase our joy.

As a result, the other person can receive our unconditional support without any expectation of how they have to be or what they have to do to ‘earn’ it. This also frees them from feeling the guilt of us harming ourselves to support them.

As children, we often felt that we were the burden when our parents put a burden upon us. One of my client’s mother is an immigrant and reminded her and her sister as children how much she sacrificed for them to be in this country. As a child, my client always tried to make her mom feel better/appreciated/supported thinking that was her job. The reality was that her mother moved the family for safety from her war-torn native land. She loved her country, didn’t want to leave and felt that she had sacrificed her happiness for her children’s safety.

Instead of finding a way to transform her perspective about the situation, she unconsciously blamed her children and passed on her dissatisfaction and obligatory attitudes to them – a burden that they didn’t deserve.

My client now realizes that she is not a burden and isn’t obligated to make her mother feel better about the choices she made in the past. She now knows that she is never a burden when she lovingly takes care of herself and expects others to do the same for themselves. When she supports others, it is from inspiration, not obligation keeping the entire interaction burden-free.

How will you release yourself from burden today?


Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
WENDY is passionate about enabling individuals, organizations and communities to value themselves and each other in the ongoing process of change. Wendy has guided hundreds of individuals and over 750+ public and private sector organizations to achieve tangible increases in impact and performance. Her successful practice in mentoring and coaching has led to authorship of the book, ‘Live a Life You Love and Make a Living Doing It’. Over the last 30 years, Wendy’s skills have been honed in leadership roles at MTV Networks, The Rensselaerville Institute, and a variety of community based projects in her town. In 2015 she launched BeliefWorks and offers Belief Coaching as a way to address the root cause of what limits the results we can achieve both personally and professionally. This is an 'upstream' solution to change. Instead of changing limiting behavior, she focuses on changing the limiting beliefs that drive that behavior. In all cases, her clients and partners speak to the specific increases in achievement that her consulting, coaching and partnership roles make possible.

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  1. An interesting topic, Wendy. If you don’t mind me saying, I categorize that burden as shame or the negative things they we believed who we were and are. But I always enjoy reading/hearing it from another point of view because that’s how one learns. Thank you for writing this article.

    • Interesting perspective John. For me, it tends more towards guilt than shame, yet we have all had our own unique experience and strategy to deal with it. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • I’d love an opportunity to discuss this with you because one of the first distinctions I make with all my clients is that they understand the difference between shame & guilt. I really would enjoy a discussion.

    • Hey John – thanks for offering to engage further! Here is the distinction that I tend to use from Brene’ Brown:

      Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is, “I am bad.” Guilt is, “I did something bad.” How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake?” How many of you would be willing to say that? Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.

      For me, burden and obligation are tied to behavior, not existence. That is why I make the distinction from my own experience.

      How do you see it?

    • Another interesting perspective, Wendy. I have a similar description of shame and go into more detail in my book. (By the way, I was honored to hand Dr. Brown a copy – that was exciting). I’m thrilled to hear your perspective. Thank you.
      With my experience, the burden and obligation was due more to shame (a lack of being unworthy). However, I realize that my perspective is not how everyone must interpret it. The key is that people are being helped and no doubt, you are making that happen. Keep up the great work.

    • John this is super helpful and has me realize that I need to spend more time exploring and shifting the idea of our inherent worthiness from what we learned in our youth. Thank you for helping me see this! Gratefully yours – Wendy

  2. Whats a burden to someone else isn’t necessarily a burden to me, so your right it is all down to the individual choice you either accept or reject, you take control. But sometimes what starts at not being a burden can grow into becoming a burden, so you then have to make a decision whether or not you are happy to accept that burden, and you retain control, It’s all down to choice

    • You are SO right Andy. The key is to become aware of the early warning signs that something has moved from a gift to a burden by staying in touch with how we feel and honor it. It IS all about choice. Thanks so much for your comment!