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Do you feel anxiety at family gatherings? The drama, the judgments, the criticisms, the boasting, the minimizing…

I have heard lots of anxiety-causing scenarios from people about how they are treated by siblings or parents and their experiences when they have a family get-together. They feel uncomfortable, get stressed out and feel nauseous. They don’t want to be around that type of behaviour.

To those who have tried to change the dynamic, to talk about others’ abusive behaviour toward you and still choose to place yourself in those situations, what I really want to know is: Why do you go?

Common responses are:

“I go because my parents will be upset if I don’t!”

“Because it’s family and we always get together for these types of occasions.”

“I feel guilty if I don’t go!”

So now, I‘m curious! If that is the way your family interacts with each other, and their values and standards are so different from yours, why do you need to be there?

Why would you subject yourself, time and time again, to people and situations that are unhealthy and likely very toxic?

But it’s family!

Family norms and behaviours are often ingrained and have developed over years. When we grow up with them, we perceive them as normal and acceptable. It is not until we move out and spend time around other people and in their homes, we see a different way of life.

Imagine those family members are people you recently met. As you became friends and get to know them better, you discover they are toxic. Would you hang around them? Likely not.

Just because it’s family doesn’t mean you need to.

Other members of your family may choose to accept the family norm and be obligated to attend every family occasion. That is their choice. They may try to make you feel guilty, saying they are hurt or disappointed that you are not attending. If you are uncomfortable and you don’t like being disrespected or you don’t like people who disrespect others, then don’t go!

We create our own personal foundation of who we are, what we believe in, and what our vision is for our lives. We create our values and our personal standards. When we do, we feel strong and confident about ourselves. We hold that foundation up and use it as a tool to guide our decisions about relationships, jobs or other situations we may want to be a part of.

It doesn’t matter who it is. If someone does not align with what you stand for, you are under no obligation to spend time with them. Why would you go to a family gathering where you feel miserable, but your relatives are happy? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

What about you? What are your boundaries? What are you prepared to accept or not accept when it comes to your family? How do you advocate for you?

The next Believe blog will be about how we give our power away. Being upset at our families for their toxic behaviour and going back into that circumstance, again and again, is an example of compromising our power. Next time we will look at how to break that cycle you feel trapped in. Stay tuned!