Feeling like an outsider or the “black sheep” of the family can really put a damper on your spirit—especially during this time of year (and we can’t have that). Just in time for Christmas, we’ve put together a holiday survival guide for the black sheep to offer way more hope than headaches.
Weigh Your Outcome
Being the black sheep means you’ve probably got plenty of experience in the misunderstood department. You may feel annoyed at the thought of your family coming together (yet another holiday) to condemn you for your life choices. Or It could be that you’re already used to the sly remarks and disapproving opinions, so they just roll right off your back. Or maybe it’s not negativity that you’re experiencing from your family—but a disconnect. Regardless, decide whether or not to show up in the first place for the sake of your well-being.
Respect Differences & Find Common Ground
Instead of viewing differences as obstacles, view them as opportunities for mutual learning and better understanding—or simply agree to disagree. If your family is having trouble doing so, remind them that no two people share the same views and values, even if they are related (ask any sibling you know).
Engaging in intense debates with relatives (especially if they have already convinced themselves) is pretty pointless. You can validate their perspectives without necessarily agreeing with them. This shows respect for their standpoint while staying true to your own without engaging in unnecessary conflict. Instead, engage in shared interests or topics to bridge the gaps and keep everything cool and copacetic.
Get Comfortable With You
Deciding to partake means accepting the possibility of what may come with it, like awkward conversation and questions you’d probably like to avoid. Show up just as comfortable and confident as the inquiring minds who find your life chat-worthy. As long as you aren’t bringing harm to yourself or others, own your confidence, live in your truth, and find comfort in your own narrative. You might inspire another relative to do the same.
Stay In Control
You can’t choose your family, but you can choose to make self-control a priority.
By recognizing your emotional triggers, you can practice communicating your perspective without escalating tensions. Try using ‘I’ statements to express yourself without pointing fingers; for instance, instead of saying, “You always bring up such and such to make me feel a way” you could try, “I don’t feel comfortable discussing this subject.” and leave it at that. (But just FYI, “no” is also a complete sentence.)
Set boundaries and take breaks when needed by finding a quiet space or doing something you’ll enjoy (like watching a good show or chopping it up with your favorite cousin). Mindfulness techniques like grounding exercises or going for a walk can help you regain composure. You can also come up with a code word or signal to share with someone you trust to discreetly indicate when you need to exit without causing a scene.
Seek Outside Support
Finding solidarity outside of the family circle can offer invaluable perspective and emotional support. Friends and support groups can