Family can be wonderful (lucky you if this is your experience, haha!). If, however, you experienced boundary issues, trauma and neglect, you have to be careful of getting drawn into what basically boils down to bullshit (BS) and drama. Family will play the Guilt Card, the Blood Is Thicker Than Water Card, the After Everything I’ve Done For You Card. They’ll play the If You Loved Me You’d ________ Card, the Denial Card, the Rewriting The Past Card, and the You Were Always So _________ Card.

Unhealthy family dynamics are based on roles that keep you stuck in familiar patterns that block healing, growing and learning. These ‘cards’ typically make up something about you or ignore the fact that you’re not a child any more and have changed. 

I used to think there was something wrong with me because of the way that my family was. Shame accompanied my entire childhood and clung on well into adulthood until I started listening and opening my eyes.

It’s been a relief to discover that most people have some level of Family BS. I (and you) are not alone.

We humans put too much energy into keeping up appearances and shaming others for experiencing family estrangement. If we didn’t, we’d give ourselves permission to have healthier, loving boundaries with family.

You can get involved in your family’s drama or keep defending yourself. Or... you can get on with being you, and you will find that they’re going to be and do whatever they’re going to do, it just impacts you less. I get it. They could do with changing, and you’ve been through a lot with them and love them. At some point, though, you have to question why you’re investing so much energy into changing them when you could be getting on with the business of being you. What’s that all about? As much as those changes you desire for them could be useful, they serve your aims, not theirs.

When you figure out and honour your boundaries, you cut back on the drama.

If you allow yourself to get sucked in, it will hurt. Take it from someone who knows.

Stick to your guns, and don’t apologise for having boundaries. The best thing you can ever do with family and also for your self-esteem is to stop playing roles. Figure out the role you play in your family and you will soon see where you fit in the drama dynamics. And then choose boundaries instead of doing a ‘job’ that isn’t you. It will feel very uncomfortable at first and possibly for a while. Your family are not used to you not playing your part or the boundaries. But the dynamic will evolve because your boundaries have.

Respect who they are so that you can respect yourself. It will be a relief when you give up this ‘vocation’, and you get on with living your own life in the best way that you can. It also allows you to love and respect them for who they are instead of persecuting you (and possibly them) about who they’re not. That’s always a good thing, even when others don’t necessarily recognise it!

Are you ready to stop silencing and hiding yourself in an attempt to ‘please’ or protect yourself from others? My book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon), is out now.

The Joy of Saying No by Natalie Lue book cover. Subtitle: A simple plan to stop people pleasing, reclaim boundaries, and say yes to the life you want.
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