December 22, 2013

5 Tips for Dealing with Family Criticism this Season. ~ Thandiwe Ogbonna

Going home for the holidays can be a great chance to reconnect with our families and enjoy the uniting spirit of the season.

It can also be a chance for family members to express their dissatisfaction with our current life choices, making us feel distant and excluded.

I’m sure many can relate. In fact, it is this reason some dread the holidays, finding any excuse to avoid the critical reactions they are expecting. Others are caught completely off guard, hoping for support and finding, to their dismay, contrary opinion.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Or, at least, we don’t have to suffer for it.

Here are five tips for dealing with these annual family reviews.

1. Be prepared.

If this is something that happens every year, we can find ways to prepare ourselves for the onslaught. Perhaps spending some time in deep meditation, practicing yoga, running, writing in a journal—-whatever we need to clear our minds and help us to maintain perspective when these situations arise.

2. Bring support.

Bringing along a significant other, or friend, can help us feel more at ease. It can also be fuel for the fire, so we must be careful here.

We can bring items that instill a sense of peace in us, like certain trinkets, our favorite music, inspirational videos or even a pet. Writing ourselves a note that we can come back to if things get dicey can also be immensely helpful.

3. Avoid controversial topics, if possible.

This doesn’t mean we hide or pretend. It means we choose our battles carefully.

Just like there are some friends we wouldn’t share everything with, not everyone in the family needs to know, either. Our impulse is to tell everything we’re excited about in our lives—because families are supposed to support us, right?

But we know that isn’t always the case. So we can save ourselves some grief by keeping certain things under wraps.

4. Don’t argue for argument’s sake.

We know the difference between constructive discussion and destructive squabbling. Steer clear of the latter. It will leave us feeling dazed and often angry at the other person’s inability to understand where we’re coming from.

But families are made up of people, and people are entitled to opinions, just as we are. Not everyone will agree with what we do with our lives, and no one is required to. However, we are also entitled to end conversations that are going nowhere, or to refuse to engage in them at all.

This certainly doesn’t mean going along with anything that is contrary to our values. We can stand up for what we believe, but it can also be okay to let certain things go if it isn’t worth the fight.

5. Have compassion and remember that these criticisms are (usually) coming from a good place.

Family members say the things they do because they love us and they want the best for us. They remember a time when we were young and needed their guidance.

Unfortunately, even as we grow older, they often feel it is still their place to tell us how to run our lives. They are not able to let go of their attachment to those roles. They have their own ideas of what is best for us, but we are the only ones who know what is best.

So we must trust ourselves, and take their objections with a grain of salt.

I will be with my family this season for the first time since 2010. I am so looking forward to it. I also know there are certain things I have chosen to do that may not be accepted by all members.

My path as a yogi is a continual source of contention, for some. Even now, as I am fundraising to complete a yoga teacher training in Africa, offered by Africa Yoga Project, I have heard from my mother that I will not be supported in this endeavor.

Yes, it hurts to hear, but in the end, this is my life. I’m the one who lives it, so I’m sure as hell not going to let anyone else run it for me.

If we make the choice to stay true to ourselves, regardless of what other’s say, we will find the most happiness in life. So keep this in mind as you navigate the minefields this season.


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Editor: Laura Ashworth

Photo: elephant archives



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