I don’t know about you, but I am by nature and experience a very negative person. I am upset by small things, like being late, or missing a train. I worry all the time, and feel an impending sense of doom when I look at my iCalendar, brimming with classes, and work, and other engagements. I feel inadequate when I get rejection emails, and I feel like I am not in control when I look at assignment due dates and the space where the loaf of bread I just binge-ate used to be.
This is a list of negative things that burden my day from the moment I wake. And mostly, I am ashamed to say that I feel this way.
But that’s okay too. We all go through moments like these – we’ve all said or done things or thought things that we aren’t proud of, and we all go through moments of self-doubt, or lose motivation. These are normal things that we have learned to be embarrassed or ashamed about, and that we frankly don’t talk more about.
And we need to talk more about these things. We need to be able to have a dialogue about what is burdening us.
In my lowest moments, I have a small but close support network of people that I can complain to, or confide in. But coming to that moment of feeling that it’s okay to talk to someone about what you’re going through is difficult.
At least personally, I have always felt a pressure to achieve, to be ambitious, to do a million things with the same twenty-four hours everybody else has, and come out on top. I attribute this to multiple factors, including my upbringing, and my personal struggles with self-love and self worth.
My experience isn’t universal to everybody, but it is quite normal to feel for whatever reason, you aren’t ready to confide in someone. It’s also true that not anybody will do. Don’t pick friends that you struggle to communicate with – people that you can’t see eye to eye to, or haven’t been empathetic or good listeners in the past. Pick friends that you trust, that will understand, that will give you the time of day.
The right friends and family will be ready and willing to support you with whatever problem you come to them with. And no matter how overwhelming and frightening the notion of confiding in somebody about your daily challenges and stress, try to take that leap of faith. More likely than not, that conversation you’re about to have is about to do you a world of good.
There’s also a way to go about finishing those conversations.
Whenever I reach a point where I accept my need for support from my nearest and dearest, I also feel ashamed and guilty. Once again, this experience isn’t universal to everybody, but it’s not uncommon.
If not during, immediately after a moment where I confide in somebody, I feel that I have burdened them, and that I was somehow unworthy of their patience and kindness – this is especially so for those closest to me that I lean on more than once. Often, it’s the people you love most that you want to burden the least – but these ideas just can’t coexist in reality.
At some point, I realised that this was not a healthy way of dealing with my stress. While I was partially doing the right thing – voicing the thoughts that plagued me in order to stop demonising them and bring myself back to earth – I was also stacking on additional guilt and shame for supposedly burdening my dearest friends with my own negativity.
The point of opening up to people in your support network is to ground your thoughts and worries. After confiding, you want to feel somewhat relieved, a little less burdened, or just more able to see things with a clearer perspective. To feel the additional shame and guilt of supposedly being a burden or wasting someone’s time does nothing for these outcomes. To end these kinds of conversations with your friends and family with “I’m sorry, I’m such a burden,” or “I’m sorry you have to listen to this,” actually counteracts the benefits you were trying to get out of talking to somebody about your problems. It also reinforces the habit of negative thinking in your mind.
So I changed how I did things a little.
Instead of saying these negative things that reinforced my feelings of shame, of weakness, of being a burden and an annoyance to the people who loved me – I started saying “thank you”.
“Thank you for listening to me.”
“Thank you for giving me this advice.”
“Thank you for being here for me.”
“Thank you for taking the time to listen, it really means a lot to me.”
Thanking somebody is inherently positive – it communicates gratitude – that you acknowledge the difficulty or burdensome nature of something, but instead of dwelling on that negative, you praise and thank someone for their kindness and persistence in what they have done for you.
This is not a foolproof guide to finding your way out of your daily pressures, worries, sadness, or anxiety. Honestly, this is not a solution to any of your problems at all. I’m a flawed person. I still haven’t got my shit sorted, but this is something small that I do, that might make a difference to you too.
This is just a way to possibly help guide yourself out of a habit of negativity, and also give your support network the appreciation and respect they deserve.
So next time, instead of apologising for your supposedly being a liability or burden, thank that person who held you while you cried, cursed with you as you let out your anger and frustration, or talked you back to earth in a 2AM phone call.