Imagine this: you and a longtime friend are hanging out, getting coffee at Starbucks because that’s what you do. You are talking, having a great time, when all of a sudden you say something that wasn’t entirely the smartest thing you’ve ever said. It happens; it’s what you do. But your friend? They lash out. They look at you with disgust, they tell you that this is why America is going to hell in a hand basket and put you down. Then, in an instant, they laugh it off as they see your face contort in confusion and hurt. “I’m just joking; gosh can’t you take a joke?” They smirk and move on, as if nothing even happened.
As you sit there, stunned by their sudden change in persona, you realize this isn’t the first time they’ve looked down on you. In fact, it’s pretty normal. At least once a get-together they say something that is rude and demeaning. They are always stealing the spotlight, they are always putting you down, and if it’s not you it’s some innocent victim at a restaurant, or the ticket teller at the movies who happened to be working the night there was a system failure in their computers.
After realizing their behavior was making you feel like less of a person, you decide you can’t be friends with them. It was hard, but you knew, in the long run it was the best decision for you. You’re happier and you no longer feel like you’re being controlled.
Now I want you to imagine this situation but, instead of a friend, imagine a family member. It can be a mom, a dad, a sister, a grandparent or a cousin. Would you make the same choices? Chances are, probably not. You’d sit there, take it, fume about it to your significant other or friends, but always let them continue to put you down and make you feel like less of the wonderful person you are.
Why? It’s simple. They’re family. You are told from the beginning you only get one blood related family. Sure, you have your friend family, your college family, your church family, etc, but only one is anything like your immediate family.
I get it, I really do. In fact, no one can blame you. Your family puts you through so much embarrassment through the years. They’ve been through everything with you, been to all your special events and helped you through every hard time; they’ve picked on you, they’ve lifted you up, but most of all they’ve always been there.
But just because they’re family does not mean you have to let them treat you like you are less of a person. People in power are not always fit to be there, and that goes for parents and family. Standing up to family members that don’t have your best interest at heart means you will meet a lot of resistance. There will be harsh words on their part, guilt trips and a lot of tears. You’ll get phone calls from family members telling you how much you’ve hurt them, and there’s a good chance you’ll lose the connection with some of them along the way, but in the end it’ll work itself out on its own.
We should surround ourselves with the people that love us, care for us and want the best for us. You should never feel like you have to deal with negativity in your life just because someone helped you grow up. Yes, we have an obligation to stand by our family, but when you’ve spent the majority of your life being put down and abused verbally – because that’s what it is – it’s time to let go.
And standing up to your family doesn’t mean cutting them off, but you have to make that choice on your own. Sometimes, despite family being family, you have to let them go. That’s not to say that eventually you can’t reach out again, but you have to do what is best for you right now. You wouldn’t put up with a friend or a significant other who treated you that way, so don’t let your family do it to you because you feel like you’re obligated.
Don’t forget you also have an obligation to yourself. You have to look out for yourself and do what is best for you. Don’t let people who think they know best, but don’t, control your life and your emotional well-being. It’s not worth it, and you are totally worth something better.