Stand True to Who You Are
No truer words ever spoken.
My grandmother told me a way to a man's heart is to feed him.
But she forgot something. She never taught me how to cook.
If only we could see through the thick of it.
Becoming who you are.
When we are born, we face the ravages of life waiting behind the shadows to tear us down.
No one said it would be easy after taking our first breath.
Is life really about what we make it to be?
Or are we what life makes us?
The definition of Matriarch is the female head of a family or tribe.
Who decided and when was this decided, that one specific female would rule the roost so to speak?
It may tear the house down if I pulled the carpet out from under feet that once walked where I'm standing.
But let's face it, were we born to be regulated, controlled, and dictated to our entire life by one woman in line ahead of us?
Are we each not unique individuals with our own desires, dreams, passions and responsibilities that cause us to be who we become?
Shocking isn't it, that someone would be so brave to speak up for what has been kept silent in many families.
Do you recognize pack mentality in your family?
A pack is defined as a group or number of individual components.
Usually we see this behavior in animals such as dogs.
What happens when a group of individual people in a family form a pack?
In order to blossom, we have to stand true to ourselves.
Are you a unique individual or does someone own you?
Have you ever sat back and thought about the fact that you are unique as the sky above?
Being faithful and loyal are attributes of a personality.
When we are growing up, we have parents that guide us in our learning. They help us become who we are. But at some point the law established an age where we are free to become our own person. You are a true individual to yourself at some point in life.
Yet, many people find themselves trapped in this idea that they have to be loyal to someone and if they don't, they feel guilty.
Five steps for beating Toxic Guilt at its own game.
Speak honestly in truth.
Grip your stance.
Ride the wave.
Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.
Freeing yourself from other's hostility.
We learned not to talk to strangers because our mothers most often enforced a rule upon us. Stranger danger.
It's when family members take it too far. When our mothers themselves are at odds in a family that shape the way our future lies in a hierarchy of matters.
It's when we become an adult and others are still trying to control our lives that we need to take our independent stance.
Do not waiver for anyone.
Part of remaining true to yourself is to stop allowing others to control your thoughts, feelings and actions.
I like to think that it's not what others say or do, it's our reaction to it.
"Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you." This is a commonly misused childhood quote in my opinion.
Words can and do hurt us. Words mold us like a potter's hand forming clay in to a sculpture.
What we need to learn to do is take a stance and stay put.
Ok, so my family has pack mentality, now what?
What is one to do? Many times, people are afraid that if they don't allow themselves to be controlled by the puppet strings of others, something bad will happen.
- The first step to understanding is to acknowledge what you feel is a bad consequence. Do you feel like you are going to be ousted by your family? Would that feel bad to you?
- Do you think that your family would try to harm you in some way? Emotionally, mentally or physically?
- Would you be in danger of your life if you decided you wanted no part of your family's control any more?
Make no mistake. I'm not talking about a child here who needs their parents to teach and guide them.
I'm not talking about a teenager here who has goals, dreams and wants to pursue a career with their parents help.
What I'm talking about is when we become adults. We are now an individual person with a path of our own. We have to abide by the laws of the country in which we live.
Yet some people take this a bit further and decide that they are the ultimate authority over you no matter what age you are or how much you have accomplished in your life.
If it doesn't bother me, why should it bother you?
What I often see happening in families is this pretentious idea that people have control over another person.
For example, suppose you don't get time to speak to your siblings every day. Is it not between you and your sibling? Who else should be concerned about a relationship between yourself and another besides you?
If it doesn't bother you that you and Sister Joan can't speak but a few times out of the year, why should anyone concern themselves with it?
If you and Sister Joan are happy in a sibling relationship, comfortable with the fact that you can both get along well and speak a few times a year, I think that's great! It shows that you have busy lives, but you acknowledge one another, and it should have no bearing on what anyone else in the world does. It shows a point of maturity.
Yet, for some reason, it becomes daily drama on reality tv shows and some matriarch is always shouting in to the microphone that it's Danny's fault for not calling Sister Joan more often.
Hypothetically, these names have been made up to reflect an approach to a sensitive topic. But many people will recognize and understand what I'm saying because it does in fact happen like this.
My only question. Why is Danny always being blamed for being the one not to call? Doesn't it take two to have a conversation?
All this rambling is making me hungry, I'm going to grab that last donut.
"Maybe if you didn't eat so many donuts, you wouldn't be fat."
Have you ever made a simple statement such as, "hey I need to lose a few pounds"? And then to your unbelief, two weeks later you see a family member out at a coffee shop. While you peruse the bakery section, you find a perfectly sprinkled donut that you feel like eating. As you pop a bite in your mouth, that family member reminds you so eloquently that you happened to state a few weeks back that you wanted to shed a few pounds?
I never underestimate the power of the human memory. It truly amazes me how Aunt Sally can't remember where she put her glasses, even though they are resting on the top of her hair do where she last put them, while she fumbles around for them all over the coffee table. Yet, she so quickly reminds you about something you stated a few weeks back! You yourself didn't remember that you stated it, but she did. It was on the tip of her tongue waiting to lash at you like the tail of a two-headed beast.
Negative energy is like a bad habit gone wild.
Negative energy is contagious.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people are taught from a young age in childhood to share, play nice, love one another, etc. But at the same time, the very people teaching them these characteristics are doing something completely different.
I truly believe from what I've witnessed in human packs, there are those that are cast out among families and made the focal point of everyone's bad ideas, negative energy, displeasures, guilt, and blame.
What do I mean?
Well, it would be too simple if everyone accepted responsibility for their own doing, bad or good. But that's simply not the case. For whatever reason, from the beginning of time starting with the first people known to man, there have always been those that blame everything on someone else.
In pack families, there tends to be the one person who is cast out among the rest and used as a whipping post in a nonliteral sense.
The family members that often cry the loudest about the wrong doing of another, are usually the ones with the most issues themselves.
Yet the one most often criticized the harshest, is usually the strongest, most brightest bulb of the blossoms.
The strongest, prettiest, and smartest are usually the ones cast out first.
Be bold, beautiful, and brave.
When it comes right down to it, I'm not going to sugar coat it.
Anytime I've ever had a problem with someone, I've gone to the person and let them know. That way, they know where I stand and vice versa. We talk over it and move on from it. There is no sense in opening old wounds. It's good to forgive and live.
However, don't mistake my words to mean to forget everything. No way! In order to survive, I am a strong advocate for keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. Not that I'm an advocate for enemies mind you.
A friend of mine used to say, "you need to stay ten steps ahead of the game".
That one piece of advice has rescued me from many situations in which I'm glad I wasn't a part of. You can often see through the thick of it from staying above it!
Helfpul reading materials.
There are three books that I have found to be very helpful in situations where a person is stuck in a toxic family.
- Escaping Toxic Guilt, by Susan Carrell, RN, LPC
- Toxic Parents, Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life, by Susan Forward, Ph.D.
- When You and Your Mother Can't be Friends, by Victoria Secunda.
I thought all three of these books are excellent reading if you have suffered from an outcasting due to pack mentality from matriarchal positions in your family.
The reason a mother-child relationship can become the most toxic is because it is the very first relationship of an infant's life. The infant becomes dependent on the mother.
My inspiration for writing this article comes from years of talking to other women (and men but not so much) about the volatile relationship they had with their mothers.
It's shocking to me that so many people have similar hurtful stories.
Make peace within yourself to start the healing process.
What does it all mean?
Many women I've spoken to have said to me that they wish they had a better relationship with their mother.
They came from abusive, neglected, abandoned homes or were simply flat out ignored growing up.
They feel they never had a true bond with their mother and in turn, their lives have been a battle between trying to stand on firm ground and trying to find peace. It is never an easy thing to do. While they try to make sense of it all, it never seems to end.
That's when I recommend to end it yourself.
People can only take so much nonsense in one lifetime.
The question always remains, why though? Why all of the fighting? Why all of the hurtful words? Why all of the gossip and busy bodies running rampant spreading hateful things?
I've only ever come to one conclusion. The people who shout the loudest are often hurting the most.
Most women in families that appoint themselves as matriarch are usually harboring a lot of deep-tissue pain of their own. It could be that they were abused or hurt in some way and this is how life molded them.
Then there are those who simply suffer from some undiagnosed condition which makes the brain lack the skills to function appropriately at times. Let's leave that one to professionals.
Don't sweep it under the rug.
Any dirt swept under the rug is still dirt. Now it just makes for a dusty carpet.
Every step you take will ultimately result in a poof of dust in your face. The cycle will continue.
The best thing you can do for yourself if you are trapped in a cycle of toxic guilt between family members who do not sympathize or haven't had the same upbringing as you had is to walk away.
The right of passage in to adulthood brings you new opportunities.
In interviewing a well-known therapist in my area, I asked her outright how does one escape from toxicity in a family when that's all they've known their entire life.
She replied, "move".
While not everyone is in a position to physically pack up and move to another state and start over, I do understand the concept.
Even if you aren't able to physically escape or get away from it all, do yourself the biggest favor of your entire life. Take a stand and stick with it.
Whatever it is that you want to do, you are now able to do it. No one can hold you back. By letting toxic guilt and fear manipulate your emotions, you yourself are the only thing holding down the dreams from surfacing.
Create a new way of thinking.
Your escape plan may include:
- Not answering your phone or change the number to unlisted
- Don't answer your door
- Set boundaries
- Tell others NO for the first time
- Liberate yourself from feeling like you are held hostage in this life
You only get one life. Live if to YOUR potential every day.
My homemade chicken pot pie. Take the bull by the horns and teach yourself to cook!
Every rose has a thorn.
We can all sit back and make excuses for why we can't or don't do something.
The truth is, if I did that, I wouldn't have made that wonderful homemade chicken pot pie you see pictured above.
In order to move on without carrying on unwanted family toxins, you have to learn how to overcome obstacles.
Can't cook? Learn how!
By making excuses and blaming everything on everyone else, we are not better off in the long run than the person blaming us!
Stop the bull in its tracks. Take it by the horns. And do it differently this time around.
This isn't about not honoring your mother.
We don't always get the family we want. We most often get the family we need.
Finding strength in difficult situations usually gets us out of the rabbit's hole.
My only advice for dealing in a situation where you feel you have no authority over your own life is to take charge.
Take control back from those around you that think they can control your life.
Don't worry about what people say. If they do something abusive to you that puts you in harm's way, call the law.
It's through understanding the WHY and satisfying the need to know that brings you to a place of healing and peace.