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?

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?