What Do I Do If I Feel Like a Burden to My Family?

If you feel like a burden to your family, it's important to review where that idea comes from to avoid establishing emotional distance.
What Do I Do If I Feel Like a Burden to My Family?
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 24 November, 2023

If you feel like a burden to your family or friends, perhaps your days are spent with emotions that you minimize or soften so as not to be a worry to others. Perhaps the disguise of being an “all-powerful” person allows you to alleviate the discomfort that comes from thinking of yourself as a “burden” to your loved ones.

However, all of this comes at a cost. As you immerse yourself in this dynamic, you may become overwhelmed and isolated in a world where no one else can reach out to help you. You’ll experience a sense of loneliness and disconnection. It’s important to understand the causes of this situation and explore what actions you can take to change it.

Why do I feel like a burden to my family?

A woman puttin her arm on the shoulder of a new mother who looks sad.

Feeling like a burden to your family can create great emotional weight and worry. It’s a common experience, but it’s essential to remember that your perceptions may not reflect reality. Sometimes that sense of feeling like a burden is driven by a variety of factors. For example:

  • You’re going through an illness and you notice that someone has to accompany you to the doctor, help you with documentation, food, medication schedules….
  • You’re in a difficult economic situation, and your family is helping you with your expenses.
  • You’re going through a separation and need to stay at your parents’ house until you get your own place.
  • You feel overwhelmed as a parent, attending to your work and family responsibilities.

While it’s understandable that you may experience complex emotions in these cases, you also need to step out of these “punishing” thoughts and have some self-compassion. These are situations that aren’t of your choosing.

It’s important that you can accept vulnerability and understand that everyone in certain situations needs the support of others. Reciprocity is a natural aspect of family relationships and, at some point, you’ll be able to return the attention you’ve received.

However, what you can do that is very helpful and makes a difference in the family climate is to try to maintain a cooperative and understanding attitude.

This means that instead of complaining about your situation and unloading your anger by saying you’re a burden, try to help by doing your duty at home. Also, don’t forget to be thankful.

A different situation may be that you feel like a burden because of some episode in the past. Perhaps some decision that didn’t go the way you expected or some mistake. If this is the case, it’s important that you learn to forgive yourself and understand that many times, you make the decisions that you can at a specific time.

Therefore, today, it’s better to accept that situation and consider how you can change your current situation and not the past.

The consequences of feeling like a burden to the family

Feeling like a burden to your family can lead to consequences that involve certain difficulties when relating to others. For example, you avoid sharing your experiences with other people, you decide to spend your anguish in solitude, and you’re closed off to telling others what’s happening to you…

It’s also possible that you project the image of being a self-sufficient person, who does not need anything from others. However, this can lead people to feel that you reject them or that you make them uncomfortable.

They may perceive it as a great effort to approach you because of your lack of openness. As a consequence, a feeling of isolation, loneliness, and superficial relationships may be generated.

On your end, the cycle ends up reinforcing itself, like a self-fulfilling prophecy: You’re reluctant to share what’s happening to you, and people who are interested in you notice this rejection; they try to approach you but find it difficult. Thus, the relationship lacks fluidity and is filled with obstacles, which ends up reinforcing the feeling of being a burden.

What can I do if I feel like a burden to my family?

The first thing you should know is that this is a feeling that can be normal at some stages of life, but it’s important to keep the context in mind and learn how to get out of this way of thinking. Below, you can find some suggestions to avoid feeling like a burden to your family.

Question your own beliefs

Why do you think you’re a burden? I’m sure several ideas will come to your mind here. Some of them are yours, and some you may have heard from others. Perhaps some family experiences led you to think you were a burden. Another possible question you can ask yourself is: Is this feeling of being a burden present only in your relationship with your family, or is it also present in other relationships?

At the same time, you can try to do the reverse exercise: If someone in your family asked you to do them a favor, would you feel that they were a bother or a burden? It’s important to get out of the self-sufficiency narrative, the belief that asking for help or going through a difficult moment is synonymous with weakness.

Finally, it’s also a good exercise to ask yourself if there’s something you can do for yourself that you’re not doing.

There are families where parents overload themselves with tasks and leave little room for their children to participate, even when they’re perfectly capable of resolving certain things on their own. If you think this is the case, you can try to take a more active role and start to see what responsibilities you can take on, as well as those that you can delegate to your partner and children.

Trust others and their own decisions and choices

No one in your family is obligated to do you a favor. In many cases, they’ll choose to accompany you and feel comfortable doing so. Learn to ask for and accept help.

Learn to validate your own emotions

Acknowledge your emotions and give them the importance they deserve. Learn to value yourself. Why is it that other people’s things are important and yours aren’t? Why are you always available to listen to others but avoid sharing your own experiences? You need to work on your emotional intelligence so that you can recognize that what you feel is valuable.

A mother preparing meals with her children.

Get involved in family dynamics and activities

In this regard, so as not to feel like a burden, you can participate in family activities and obligations, collaborating with others. In this way, even with small actions that take into consideration the age and ability of family members, your cooperation can make a difference.

You may be interested in: Dear Mom, Don’t Forget About Yourself

“Today for you, tomorrow for me”

To stop feeling like a burden in your family, you can also ask for help from a professional. In this way, you can explore in depth what the origin of that belief is and what causes you discomfort.

It’s important that you learn to recognize your emotions and validate them as a person who has feelings and to whom things happen. Try to make your thinking more flexible in order to understand that you live in a community and that you have bonds of mutual care in which everyone has value and no one is a burden for the rest.

Each person will know when they can help and will know how to set a limit to their availability. Each person will know how to help you without neglecting themselves in the process.

That is what you should work on: Learning to value yourself and to be there for others, without disguising your emotions or feeling a burden. Ultimately, this is how community works: “Today for you, tomorrow for me.”

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.