I recently heard a quote from a spiritual teacher who said, “family is overrated,” which was such a simple statement but yet so controversial and thought-provoking. Many people would probably take offense to this comment, but having the perspective of a therapist who has seen the gamut of family dysfunction, I really see the value of this concept. First of all, the basic fact is, you don’t choose your blood relatives. If people were really honest with themselves, would many of them actually choose their relatives as people they would associate with, or is it really out of a sense of obligation and the cultural belief system that is ingrained in them which is “family comes first?”
I often say to people in my therapy sessions that you are born into a family, and then you need to find your tribe. I define a tribe as usually non-blood relatives whom you form relationships with because they feel safe to be vulnerable with and it feels good to be around them. Your tribe are people who just seem to understand you, who you can be yourself around and who you feel unconditionally loved by.
I have observed countless people both professionally and personally who struggle with feeling unhappy and inadequate all of their lives because they are primarily focused on trying to get their family members to approve of them, to accept them and to love them. When people can let go of their faulty belief system that family can fulfill all their needs or that there is something wrong with them if they don’t fit into their family of origin, then it releases them to expand their definition of family, and to open themselves up to finding loving connections with like-minded people from their Tribe instead. It helps people become more grateful and joyful in general when they do have people in their lives that appreciate them, instead of feeling depressed and resentful and trapped in the victim mentality if they don’t feel a positive connection with their family members.
In addition, it is really important to emphasize that it is our individual responsibility to meet our own needs and to learn to love and appreciate ourselves first rather than expecting to receive that from the significant people in our life. It is my belief that all relationships are basically a mirror of what we think of ourselves, and therefore, we must first find our happiness and self-worth from the inside out instead of the outside in.
I believe it is a really good time of year to re-evaluate all of our relationships, especially reviewing those relationships with our family members that we are trying so hard to make work even if the relationship is clearly “toxic” or unhealthy for us because we have continued to adopt distorted beliefs from our culture. Therefore, I challenge you this Holiday Season to value yourselves enough to ask the question of all your relationships: Does this relationship really foster your growth, reflect how you believe you deserve to be treated and resonate with your authentic higher self? If the answer is no, you need to shift your perspective and focus on finding and/or cultivating your Tribal connections, and let go of the unrealistic conditioned belief of how you believe family “should” be.