Family Obligations and Building Self-Esteem
The obligations we feel towards our family can influence our journey to build stronger self-esteem. Our families are the first groups we belong to, and our earliest relationships can have an impact on all the relationships we form throughout our lives. As I continue my quest for healthy self-esteem, I find myself evaluating each of my relationships to see if it supports my goal, and family obligations were some of the latest to fall under my scrutiny.
My biggest hurdle in building strong self-esteem is being open and honest about my needs and challenges with those around me. I try to think before I speak now to make sure I am owning my truth and not just perpetuating old patterns that are no longer beneficial to my mental health. Here are some of the changes I made based on my family obligations and their effect on my self-esteem.
Tweaking Old Relationships Can Build Self-Esteem
Today is my uncle’s birthday. Two years ago, when he turned 100, I started questioning and redefining relationships that I took for granted since early childhood. It started when I had a falling out with my cousins about celebrating his big day.
I have many cousins, and I’m younger than half of them. I grew up respecting and listening to my older cousins. When I disagreed with my cousin about my travel plans to join them in celebrating my uncle’s special birthday, it took me a few days of stomach aches and fighting with myself to find the courage to stand up for what I knew was the right way for me to behave. It meant believing that I could be right when I disagree with my elder. As I’m in my sixties, I think it’s high time I got to this point.
Not doing what my cousin told me to do was difficult and I’m proud that I respected myself as an adult and an equal and acted accordingly. It may seem trivial, but to me, it was a big step. This falling out changed my picture of my family ties. I realized that I had a fantasy vision of my family, and when I was honest with myself and faced that we are all different people and have different pictures of family obligations, I felt a great loss, as if my childhood memories were riddled with lies. I also felt a weight lifted as a new and healthy boundary replaced an outdated one.
You Can’t Choose your Family But You Can Set Your Boundaries
A more recent step for me in studying my family obligations and relationships and how they support my journey is harder for me to talk about. I decided to stop communicating with my brother. He and I fall on opposite ends of the political spectrum. I spent a lot of my adult life letting my brother spout whatever he wanted uncontested. During the tense period from the start of the pandemic and leading up to the election, I was not able to maintain the same distance emotionally from his words, and in a move to protect my mental health, I told him I can’t listen to him any longer.
He has made several attempts to restart communications with light-hearted texts that ignore the tension between us. I won’t answer him in a way that leads to a conversation. It will take more than a simple greeting and wishes for a good day for me to re-engage, and he has said he has no need to discuss our differences as a way to heal the breach. Our 62-year relationship taught me that he will always do exactly what he wishes, and he wishes to speak his point of view without pausing for breath. I will now choose to actively not listen, instead of passively letting his words flow in one ear and out the other as I used to do. This is huge for me, and hard, as it causes discomfort to our mother and possibly to some of our kids. Putting myself first is a show of stronger self-esteem. I hope as time goes on I can learn to let him talk without it affecting me, but for now, my boundaries are set to protect and honor the person I am today.
Family obligations can affect our self-esteem, and as we grow, as we learn how to better show ourselves the respect we deserve, we can modify our relationships even with the people we have loved all our lives. How does your family honor your journey to build self-esteem? Do you find yourself building new boundaries in old relationships? Share your stories in the comments about family obligations and self-esteem.