“You can’t force anyone to value, respect, understand, or support you, but you can choose to spend time around people who do.” ~Lori Deschene
I always felt somewhat different from my family growing up.
I didn’t have a terrible childhood—I was certainly loved, cared for, and looked after—but despite having two siblings, a mother, and a stepfather (who raised me), I seldom felt a sense of belonging and often times I felt very lonely.
Growing up I could never quite put my finger on what it was that was different, but I just knew that I was. I knew that I didn’t see the world how my family saw it. I analyzed everything on a much deeper level. I viewed things differently, and a lot of my interests were different than my family.
Late last year, I had just gotten back from a long weekend on a family trip and I was relieved to be home. I found the weekend to be exhausting and couldn’t wait for it to be over. I checked in with a friend and informed him about my weekend.
“It sounds like you’ve outgrown your family.”
I paused while I reflected on this statement. Just a couple of weeks prior I had written an article about outgrowing friendships. It never once crossed my mind that we could outgrow our own family.
I mean, we can’t possibly outgrow our family, right? At best, they are our protectors and providers. They love us unconditionally, flaws and all, and they are our biggest supporters. We are tied and bonded by blood and DNA.
I sat and reflected on this for a few days. If we can outgrow our friends and partners, then we can, too, outgrow our family.
I had worked a lot on myself over the past ten years. I was committed to self-development, and although I was in no way perfect, I actively worked to be the best version of myself and tried to take something away from every difficult situation I was faced with.
This inner work had enabled me to grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, while I believed my family were stuck in their ways, ignorant to the fact that as the world around us changes, so should our mindsets.
As I did the inner work, I noticed I disagreed with more things that my family were saying and doing. Decisions they made and behaviors they displayed didn’t sit right with me a lot of the time. I was changing, leading me to drift further away from my family. The connection we once had was tearing at the seams, and I desperately wanted them to ‘catch up.’
The trouble is, outgrowing our families can be complex. For example, when you outgrow your friends, you usually go your separate ways, open and ready to let people into your life who align with who you are at that time. But when this is family, it isn’t always that easy or the right thing to do.
Below are some things you can implement in order to maintain healthy relationships with your loved ones when you have outgrown your family.
1. Stop trying to change people who do not want to be changed.
Whenever I found the courage to disagree with my family, I would spend a significant amount of time trying to reason with them and make them see a different point of view—that things are not always black and white, but there are sometimes grey areas too.
Admittedly, I would often try to encourage personal growth and healing in the hope that they would view the world the way I did, and in the hope that we could connect on the same level we once did. This only created tension, frustration, and conflict.
When I reflected on this, I realized that I had my own views on how I felt my family should behave or act, but not everyone had to think the same way I did. I also realized that I shouldn’t preach and try to push my ways of living on others, and that I didn’t always know best, especially since everyone is on their own journey and path to self-discovery.
Everybody is responsible for themselves; you cannot change anyone if they do not wish to be changed. Perhaps, like mine, your family does not feel that they need to change. If this is the case, then you are fighting a losing battle. You cannot change anyone, and they cannot change you.
2. Do not be afraid to let them know when you do not agree with them.
There were times when I did not agree with my family’s decisions, opinions, or choices, and to keep the peace or to please them I would agree with them, at the detriment of being true to myself.
This always led to me having a deep sense of discomfort when I had to pretend to be on their side of an issue. It always felt like my reality and spirituality were at war with one another, and I was being a traitor to myself.
As I looked back, I realized that this had nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. I didn’t want to disappoint my family by having opposing views and feared how they would react if I voiced my true opinions.
I also feared that I would be rejected, and moreover, I feared that any disagreements would lead to conflict.
Understand that you are your own person. You may share blood and DNA, but you are on your own journey, and you may have morals and values that do not align with your family’s, and this is okay.
While I was fearful of hurting my relationship with my family members by being honest, I also learned that not being honest with them could do just as much damage if they found out how I truly felt.
You are entitled to your own opinions and views, and if your family or friends condemn you for not agreeing with them, then that is their problem and not yours. They should try to understand that our differences make us diverse and unique.
Now, I can confidently and respectfully disagree with my family when I need to, without fear of consequences.
3. Have compassion.
While I have spent a significant amount of time healing from old wounds and past trauma in order to grow, spiritually, emotionally and mentally, not everyone in my family has.
Everyone has their own struggles and battles, and we should not judge or condemn them but be compassionate toward them and their struggles.
4. Establish new boundaries.
Establishing boundaries is a solid foundation for any healthy relationship. When we have boundaries in place, we have a clear understanding of what is expected of one another.
Boundaries have many benefits for our relationships; they are more likely to be respectful, with less conflict and more peace.
Perhaps there are topics that you feel uncomfortable talking about with your family, or behavior that you simply won’t tolerate. Identify your limits and set those boundaries in place so everyone is clear on expectations.
5. Understand “outgrowing” doesn’t mean “better.”
The word “outgrown” gets a bad rap, which is why I have avoided using it with my own family for fear it will make them feel less-than. However, I am not better than my family, nor are they better than me.
Outgrowing family does not mean that your life is now better than theirs, and the way you view the world holds more value than the way they view theirs.
Outgrowing your family simply means that your values, morals, opinions, and views have changed and may be in conflict with one another’s. It means you are no longer in alignment with those you once were.
Something changed, and that something is you (or them), and that’s okay. Change is natural and fundamental to progress in life. When you change, it can change the dynamics in relationships, sometimes for the better and sadly, sometimes for the worse.
6. Learn conflict resolution.
Nobody’s family is perfect; there will always be conflict. But this can be even more common if you feel you have outgrown your family because there may be more disagreements and behavior you can no longer tolerate.
The ability to deal with conflict might just be the saving grace for serious fallouts and family dysfunction. This can include:
- Addressing the issues
- Finding a resolution to the problem
- Agreeing to disagree without animosity
- Using good communication skills; for example, actively listening
- Not ignoring the conflict
7. Distance yourself if needed.
Being family does not have to mean that you are obliged to put up with anything you do not feel comfortable with, toxic behavior, or abuse, so if you need to distance yourself or cut off family members to protect your peace and mental health, you are well within your rights to do that.