You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family members. Sometimes you are lucky and end up with amazingly supportive, simple and harmonious family relationships, and other times these dynamics are incredibly challenging.
Anything from conflicting opinions on parenting to differing political ideals can cause personalities to clash. Usuallywe are able to set aside conflicts to keep the peace when we are on our best behavior.
Every extended family has at least one member who is manipulative, controlling, jealous or judgmental that you just wish didn’t exist.
These toxic people have a few things in common. They complain and disparage you passively or aggressively and often ask for special treatment and think others should work to please them.
They are largely uninterested in you and don’t make you feel good about yourself or your life.
You wish they would just mind their business, but sadly that is not how they operate.
I’ve found that most people feel (or think they should feel) they should have unconditional love for their relatives, but that is not realistic. It’s okay not to like them!
These challenging family members are in our lives for a reason. We can use them to learn how to draw our boundaries and become our best selves.
Your happiness and self-realization are paramount, and toxic relatives can interfere with your journey toward being balanced if you are not careful.
Here are a few ways to deal with your challenging relatives:
>> Clarify the issues. Love can often blind people to the facts about their family, especially in parent/child relationships. You may feel unhappy or stressed when around someone but are not sure of the root cause. It can help to think through what they say or do to make you feel that way.
>> Define boundaries. Come to terms with what you are willing to accept in the relationship and what you are not. Boundaries could include limiting topics of conversation or time spent together.
>> Take a break. If pulling back from the relationship until the person recognizes and deals with their issues feels like the right thing to do, do it. Sometimes people need a push to get their lives in order and if/when you come back, the relationship will be better for having given it some space.
Most of all, remember that when your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from the opinions of other people, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. You cannot control their behavior, but you can control how you respond.
While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you can always say to yourself, “Their way is just one way of many to look at what I’m doing, but this is what I choose to do, and how I choose to live. I own my life. I have that right.”
Do not subordinate yourself to anyone, even if they are related to you, or you will end up walking in the shadows for the rest of your life.
Alice Inoue is the founder of Happiness U. Visit yourhappinessu.com.