Family is a touchy subject. So many deep emotions are formed around the family dynamics we grew up with and still deal with as adults. Memories, comfort zones, the attention we wish we’d received, the expectations we had to live up to, and the worldview we formed. Whatever the family dynamic is, we can be assured that it runs to the core.
But how does this affect our journey towards living an alive life? In what ways do the ideas we formed as children, and the relationships we carried over from that time, hold us back today? Here are four family dynamics to look out for so you can live a healthy and intentional life.
1. They Don’t Treat You Well Because You’re Family
Sibling rivalry is nothing new, but while it’s normal for children to behave this way, it can become a problem if it extends into adulthood. Parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins can feel comfortable treating you badly as well, because they know you won’t go anywhere. Pointing out all your faults, calling you names, or making fun of your life decisions are all ways of competing with you to be on top.
Competition is greater among family members because everyone is competing for the favor and love of the same people, and have come from the same circumstances. This means that if you are successful and they’re not, they can’t blame it on their childhood like they could with non-family members. This creates a need to point out faults to make themselves look better, and it can turn nasty.
If you are allowing them to treat you this way, either speak up about it, or stop hanging out with them. You wouldn’t let non-related adults treat you this way, and the title of “family” shouldn’t give them a free pass for taking knocks at you.
2. They Think You Are Still a Child
It takes a lot of effort to change and grow, and being around people who refuse to see you as anyone different than who you were as a child or teenager can make it a hundred times more difficult. Think of the people you surround yourself with as mirrors. Some people will behave like magnifying mirrors where every flaw is visible, some people will behave like funhouse mirrors giving you a distorted image, and some people will be those awesome skinny mirrors that make you look amazing. Who would you rather be around?
Family has a tendency to behave as a mirror that makes you look a lot shorter (like a child). Most likely they are unaware of this, and having a conversation with them about who you are now, and what direction you’re heading in, can be a great place to start. If they aren’t able to see or acknowledge the larger vision of you, then distance yourself from them, because this one behavior can sabotage your growth plan in a major way. Circumstances do matter, and self-belief is the hardest attribute to maintain. Guard it with your life.
3. Your Birth Order is Still How You’re Judged
A couple of years between kids makes a huge difference, but when we enter into adulthood 3-5 years doesn’t mean as much. Older siblings may stunt younger ones by not listening because they think they know more. Younger siblings may still expect older ones to bail them out of tough situations. Older siblings may feel responsible for younger ones. And younger siblings may feel that if their older siblings don’t agree with them, they must be doing something wrong.
A lot of these dynamics are subconscious, and having them brought to our attention can be a great start. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I expect from my siblings and what do I think they expect from me?
- Are these valid expectations or just old patterns?
- What fears do I have at the thought of changing these dynamics?
4. Family Guilt Keeps You Doing Things You’d Rather Not
Do you have to take in your cousin when she’s down on her luck? Do you feel the need to loan money to your brother-in-law for his most recent business venture? Are there excessive family gatherings filled with people you don’t like and food you don’t enjoy?
I’m not saying that doing these things is wrong. In fact, I’ve taken more than one person into my home, not out of guilt, but because I genuinely loved and wanted to help them. But I’ve also had to cut off a brother-in-law who never stopped asking for money and eventually stole my husband’s identity when we stopped giving it to him. It’s those relatives that it’s okay to cut out.
There is no cosmic rule that says we have to treat family any differently than we would other people in the world. If we don’t like a non-family member, we don’t pursue a friendship, or go out of our way to see them at holidays or help them out of a pinch. Yes, we are more inclined towards family because we share more with them than any other group of people. History, genetic tendencies, and many times culture. Some of my best friends are family members.There is no cosmic rule that says we have to treat family different than other people in the world. Click To Tweet
But there’s also an unspoken rule in our society that says blood is thicker than water and we have to stick with our family no matter what. This isn’t true. As you bloom and grow, you need to find your tribe. The ones who understand your thinking, your dreams, and your values. It’s okay to be distant from your family, even if you’re not angry with them. There doesn’t have to be a family feud in order to establish boundaries.
I challenge you to take a look at your family relationships from your new perspective, and evaluate how you need to move forward with them in order to come alive.
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