5 Signs That Your Biggest Fear is ‘Being a Burden’
Covert codependency keeps us connected by being the one that no one has to worry about
When you’ve been conditioned to never be a burden, having basic needs feels like you’re being ‘too much’. Perhaps you grew up with the experience that sharing your struggles wasn’t welcome. You learned that you were more acceptable or even safer if you kept your needs and emotions in check.
Not being a burden is one of the traits of the fawn response, which is the fourth stress response after fight, flight and freeze. It’s generally thought of as the ‘codependent’ response, but in my therapy practice I witness it as something more subtle. It’s characterized by a kind of ‘covert codependency’, where we remain connected to people by being the one that no-one has to worry about.
Fawning is a conditioned, preventative response where we learned to anticipate the needs of others. We’re not overtly people-pleasing, but we keep everyone happy by being ‘the capable one’ who copes on their own.
Here are 5 signs that your fear is around being a burden:
1. A belief that relationships are contingent on you being ‘in a good place’
You learned that people won’t always show up for you, so it’s been safer to deal with problems yourself. You may believe that sharing your struggles, difficult emotions, or asking for help will be tiresome for others; that they need you to be stoic. You don’t want to be seen as needy, demanding, or selfish.
You may have a deep-rooted belief that people will drop you if you’re not being positive all the time. Indeed, some of your relationships may be built on this premise. This results in you acting like you’re fine when you’re not, offering stimulating conversation when you’d prefer to be quiet, and ‘showing up’ when you’re shattered.
You fear that others won’t be able to handle your struggles and that being in anything other than ‘a good place’ means they won’t like you anymore. It means hiding the deep and complex parts of you, so they remain unseen.