“You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family”, Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
There’s a truth to this that a lot of us have experienced; your family is what they are, after all. We allow our family to affect us in ways that we would never take from a stranger, and certainly not from a friend. Whether it’s words or actions, we often allow it because they are family; because we don’t want to create or antagonize problems; because we are ingrained to accept family behavior in a different way. (My beautiful, sainted wife once asked her mother why her father knew how to push her buttons so well. Her mother responded, “Because he installed them.”)
As we grow and learn, we find our own tribe. The tribe doesn’t replace blood, but it may overtake family. This is what 1DOS truly is: a group of people who care for and support each other no matter what. Sounds like a family, right? Or, at least, the family “ideal”. What we have realized, though, is that the only “ideal” family is the one that gives you the love and strength you need. That may take any of a million variations for you; as they say “your mileage may vary.” It may be blood family, or adopted; it could be lifelong friends or new acquaintances that are a perfect match.
Recently I got to spend the weekend with my brother. While we weren’t raised in the same house and have no genetic ties, he is clearly my long lost twin (although I must point out that he is MUCH older than me – several months, in fact!). After going years without seeing each other in person, we have been able to spend a lot of time together in 2018. In between, we talk constantly. We vent to each other, offer advice, help each other however we can. The truth is, I talk with him way more than I do my sisters and parents.
Yeah, I know – but before you get all judgy, who do YOU talk to the most? Your family, or your friends? I love my family; all 3 of my sisters are smart, funny, and terrific people. My parents, aunts, uncles, cousins… we are spread across the country, but we are there for each other. Still, I have more in common with Scott.
I have the luxury of a supportive, loving relationship with my family – at least, I think so and I hope they do as well. That’s not always the case, however. When people are tied into relationships with family who don’t support, or even actively sabotage them, it can be a crippling thing.
Why would this happen? Often it’s the other person’s own insecurities and fears that cause the problem. If their identity is tied into being the most successful, fastest, strongest, smartest, whatever-est in the family and you challenge that, they may not know how to react and lash out. They may not even consciously hold you down – they just act the way they always have, and it clashes because you have changed.
What Should I Do?
Working towards your own health and wellness is no easy trek, and mental wellness is a critical element of that journey. If you can’t get the support you need from your current tribe, whether they just don’t understand or are actively sabotaging you, you owe it to yourself to change your tribe. This can be a hard thing to do, obviously. You may have to step back from them, at least for a time. I’m not advocating permanently cutting ties at the drop of a hat; the first choice should always be to talk with them and tell them what you are seeing and feeling. However, if that doesn’t work, you have to be prepared to do what’s best for yourself.
The important thing to focus on is why; if someone is telling you, say, to stop working out so much are they genuinely concerned for your health? Could you be overdoing it? Or are they upset that you are passing them by or (in their mind) moving on? In the end, if they truly are looking out for you, they should be willing to have a conversation with you and see your perspective. If you make an honest effort to have that talk, and they can’t or won’t see your points, or possibly even talk with you about it, then you have to move on.
That rejection may serve as a motivator; instead of stewing on it and letting their actions drag you down, turn the pain into a driver. Show them just how strong you are, and that you can (and WILL) do all the things they said you couldn’t.
You Changed; They Can Too!
Nothing is forever. Just like you have things going on in your life, so do they. As I said, the problem is often their own mindset and personal issues. They may wish they had the courage to try the same changes; their own self-doubt leads them to lash out at you.
They may also come to the realization that you are not a competitor, but a resource. They may seek you out for help. At that moment, remember how you felt and resist any “so there” responses. Instead, give them the love and support you were seeking, and they are needing. It won’t be easy; spite is an easier path, but in the long run it is empty and will drive an even deeper wedge between you. Don’t believe me? Listen to Yoda.
The truth is, there is no one right answer to how to handle an less than supportive family or tribe. Just don’t forget that you are (hopefully) on this journey for yourself, not for anyone else. If someone isn’t on board with you, they may be standing in your path. Steer away from them and always keep moving!
When you find the right tribe, though, you will always know they are there with you. You will never swim alone!