Have You Ever Felt Like A Burden?

24 Sep 2019

This week, we need to talk about “being a burden”. Recently, the notion of Being a Burden has kept popping up all over the place, for me. When this happens, I like to think it is the Universe’s way of saying, “Hey! You need to be doing something to help exorcise this destructive belief.” Since it really doesn’t pay to argue with the Universe, let’s see what we can do to dispel the toxic – and unfounded – fear of being a burden that can  make a person want to run and hide.

 Where the Burden label comes from

You become A Burden when you fall short of the – unreasonable expectations – other people impose on you.

For me, as for many of my clients, the belief that I was a burden has been a recurrent theme throughout my life . First, I failed horribly to be the daughter that would meet the exacting standards of my mother and father wanted.  Then I failed, even more horribly, to meet the even more exacting standards of the husband.

Both parents and husband led me to understand that I was the millstone around their neck – when it was my job to be the wind beneath their wings. And, yes, they felt precisely no reluctance about trotting out the most shameless cliches – provided those cliches served their purpose.

The ideal role of The Burden

The people who label you a burden have a very clear idea of the role that you are meant to play in their life.  By rights, they expect you to do whatever needs to be done for them.  Your job is to upgrade their quality of life, howsoever they see fit.

Accordingly, your monumental task-list includes,

  • Massaging their ego.
  • Making them look good in front of Other People.
  • Tending to their creature comforts as required.
  • Providing them with a constant source of satisfactions.
  • Shouldering the burden of their problems for them.
  • Being a problem-free zone. In practice, that meant either having no problems or else acting as if you have not a problem in the world.

Needless, to say, I failed miserably to satisfy my taskmasters’ demands.  So, too, do all people labelled Burdens. 

 But how could we  not?

The impossibly high bar

The labors of Hercules are child’s play by comparison with the emotional labors of a Narcissist’s significant other (read slave of all work). A Narcissist will never give you time off for good behavior – rather good behavior serves as an indication  to set the bar even higher. 

Whenever I failed, my Nearest and Dearest Narcissist(s) could launch into their – well-rehearsed – Burden routine.

My parents did it one way.  They labored the deep disappointment that I had caused them, the poor return on All That They Did For Me, and my rank unworthiness.  They compared me – unfavorably, naturally –  to the mythical daughters of their acquaintance and pronounced me an ungrateful, unworthy millstone round their necks. They wondered – purely rhetorically, of course – what such Wonderful, Aspirational Parents had done to deserve such a poor excuse for a dutiful daughter.

The wasband did it differently.  He preferred the Fire and Brimstone approach.  He modelled himself more on the God of the Old Testament.  His horror at my betrayal of his expectations led him to visit an endless succession of Plagues on our house.  He felt justified in  passing damning judgement on pretty well everything and everyone that mattered to me.

How was such a wonderful partner as he was expected to tolerate this human debris?

The effect on your self-worth

Being fed that kind of line – consistently – by your nearest and dearest, does not do much for your feelings of self-worth.

Even when you know that you are not who they say you are, that deep, primitive part that your rational, adult brain cannot reach, still believes it.  When you have been told often enough that you bring down your – alleged – Emotional Betters you end believing it.  You end up feeling “like a burden”.

The irony is, of course, that throughout your life, you have been anything but a burden.

As a sensitive, caring individual, you have always paid attention to what your Loved Ones have said to you.  Long before you knew the phrase, you knew that they found you too “high maintenance”.  You did your absolute best to be as low maintenance as possible.  Even No maintenance.

When I listen to the lengths that clients have gone to not to be a burden, in any way, on the people who were supposed to love them, I am amazed by their quiet heroism and selflessness.  They have just got on with intolerable situations.  With little or no protest.

The Everything They Did For You routine

I could be tempted to say that I have done a bit of that myself (although less so than many of my wonderful clients.)  Although, doubtless, if asked for their opinion, my parents and ex-husband would have warmed to the topic of what a difficult, demanding, selfish, ungrateful, thankless creature I was.  They would have cited chapter and verse.  All The Things That They Had Done For Me would have been dredged up and dissected.

In fact, on one occasion, my father launched into his All The Things routine, segueing seamlessly into what a Mad, Bad, Selfish creature I was for the benefit of the wasband -, before he became the wasband.  My father’s purpose was to warn off his future son-in-law who, he sensed, was a threat to his authority.

I felt so humiliated and worthless that my gratitude to the future wasband – who laughed in my father’s face – could not have been greater. This man was prepared to take on the terrible, burden of little old me despite my father’s damning judgement.

How on earth could I understand that my father had just passed the baton over to the future wasband, selling him the perfect Damaged Goods relationship prospect?

But let’s scroll back now from the realm of Narcissistic toxicity to reality.

Your needs were not met

You and I were once children.  We needed to grow up in an emotionally safe environment. We needed love, care, attention and validation from our parents.  We needed them to be loving parents towards us.

That did not spontaneously happen.  Our – totally justified – needs were just not met.

So, what could we do?

We were forced, when our need became too overwhelming, to ask for what was not spontaneously offered.

When we did that, we were labelled “a burden”.  Maybe  not in those words.  But that was definitely the underlying idea.  We were needy.  We were demanding. We were selfish.  We were whatever form of words our parent, or parents, found that was powerful enough to wound us back into silence.

The bottom line is that people who are emotionally inadequate labelled you a burden – because  you proved unequal to the job of making their life optimal for them. But really, when you look at the facts, who was the real burden? You, the super low-maintenance child? Or the chronological adult(s) with their impossible, incessant demands?


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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