A few months ago, I posted a graphic on Instagram that says “You are not your family,” and so many people mention the impact this post made on them. Thus, I am expanding on the idea here.
My family has been dealing with some pretty complex, messy, and difficult things over the past few years. Honestly, I cycle through a range of emotions. Sometimes I just feel distant and disconnected. Other times, I’m heartbroken, embarrassed, or confused.⠀
While experiencing a pretty intense emotional reaction, I remembered a powerful truth: I AM NOT MY FAMILY. Their thoughts, behaviors, and actions do not belong to me, do not define me, and do not limit me. It is true that I may be impacted in small and big ways by things my family members think, say, and do, AND I am my own person, having my own experience.
The same goes for you, friends. ⠀
You are Not Your Family.
When your teenager gets caught drinking,⠀
When your middle schooler ditches class,⠀
When your parent makes a racist comment,⠀
When your spouse is late to school pickup,⠀
When your kid cusses in front of company,⠀
When your sibling cheats on a spouse,⠀
You have a right to feel any and all of the feelings. You may be impacted, even traumatized, by the actions of your family members. This is all real and valid.
And, yet, their thoughts, behaviors, and actions do not define YOU.
How to Be YOU
Remember: your family member’s thoughts, actions, and actions are not yours.
Through the years and challenging family circumstances, I have found a few steps that help me process and remember that I am not my family; I am me. It is my hope that these steps can offer you support as you navigate this complex part of being human too.
- Sit with the feelings. Find a way to let yourself feel and name your feelings. This can be through journaling, meditating, music, with the support of a coach or therapist, or any other way you find that works for you. Most often, you will need to take a little space from your family in order to honor your own process.
- Keep breathing. As you do the hard work of feeling your feelings, remember to care for and comfort yourself with breath, water, and foods that you find nourishing.
- Offer yourself an affirmation. If “I am not my family” offers support, you might offer this phrase to yourself to repeat as a self-soothing tool. If there’s another phrase that feels comforting for you, give it a try!
- Decide if there’s an action you want to take. After being with your feelings and practicing some self-care, it might feel like the time to consider a response. There’s no right or wrong answer here and each situation will be different. You might want to have a conversation with a family member, schedule a family meeting, meet with your coach or therapist, set a hard boundary, call a family member in, or even let the situation go. Please know that in some situations, it may take days or weeks to work through this step, and that’s okay.
- Return to feelings and self-care. After taking action, return to yourself. Notice your thoughts and feelings. And, again, practice self-care.
When a family member does something that brings up a big emotion for you, you have an opportunity to return to yourself and your unique process. Furthermore, the steps I share above are not a formula, but rather an invitation to be mindful about your throughs, feelings, and behaviors in a complex situation. Finally, as you practice remembering that you are YOU, you may enjoy documenting your support system, reminding yourself of the people you might like to turn to for comfort.