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

Lee McKay Doe
Forge
Published in
4 min readMar 30, 2022

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Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

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’

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Lee McKay Doe
Forge
Writer for

A therapist who writes about careers, fulfilment and being your true self. IG @thecareertherapist. For resources go to https://www.thecareertherapist.com