I come from a strong Italian family and I know for a fact I’m going to get backlash for this post. I’m okay with that.
Every family has there issues, that’s a given. It took me entirely too long to realize that. I grew up in a family that was more dysfunctional than most so I spent most of my time growing up chasing the fairy-tale family I’d seen in movies. This only ended up being the first disappointment I’d brought on myself when I became an adult and realized no family is perfect; every family is dysfunctional — just on different levels.
With all of that being said, families are still an incredible influence on our lives. That can be either an amazing thing or a terrible thing. Some of us come from families that model everything we want to grow up to be and others of us, like me, come from families that model the exact opposite of what we want to grow up to be.
I’ll be twenty-two years old in a week and I’m still working tirelessly to break the mold of unhealthy behavior I’ve grown up in. Some days are easier than others, today wasn’t one of the easier days. Days like today, I need to remind myself that I have people in my family who will do and say anything to deter me from succeeding, as they always have, but it’s my job not to give them that power.
I’m not a fan of people saying “I know ___ is toxic but that’s still your ____.” If a person grew up with an abusive relative, they are by no means obligated to continue on relations with that relative if they choose not to. One of the most glorious things about being an adult is having the power to leave the people who hurt us behind, even if that person is our parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt/uncle, cousin, etc. I’ll stand by that forever and will always cringe when I hear someone say “that’s still your ___.” No one and I mean NO ONE has the right to be toxic in our lives. And if there is someone toxic in our lives we have full control over whether that person gets to stay in our lives or not.
I have relatives I no longer speak to. I have relatives that I have set strict boundaries with. I have relatives I get along with no problem. I had to learn that sometimes people can’t be in my life. No matter how much I love them or how much I wish they could be, some people cannot be in my life. So, for the few family members I no longer speak to, it was the only choice I had in order to live a healthy life.
Now, despite my best efforts to ignore some relatives, the relatives I do still speak to often times let me know what the other relatives say about me when I’m not around. This can be tricky because when we hear something negative said about us, especially from individuals we grew up around and possibly idolized for years (before realizing they weren’t the greatest) it may hurt us. Even though we know the negativity is coming from jealousy or resentment for being put on the back burner, family still has a huge impact on how we see and treat ourselves.
For purposes of not starting an argument with anyone, I’ll change the title of the family members around so if the person who said the negative things reads thing (not likely) hopefully they won’t know it’s about them and say I’ll that my sibling told me something my cousin said.
Today, my sibling innocently told me some of the negative things my cousin has said about me recently behind my back. One of the comments didn’t bother me much, the other comment made me cry. And is still effecting me 12- hours later as I sit and write this hoping that by writing it, my brain will stop replaying it.
Days like today are when I have to fight harder to remind myself that those words are not a reflection of who I am as a person or the success that I’m reaching but rather a reflection of the person who said those words. Those words come from a place of jealousy because I’m succeeding in my life farther than the person saying those words did. They come from a place of resentment because I no longer speak to my cousin, share my successes with my cousin or do things for my cousin. Honestly, my cousin said those things probably to either make himself feel better by trying to convince others I’m terrible or because he was hoping my sibling would do exactly what he did and tell me.
I know all of this and even then I’m still struggling. I know that what was said about me isn’t true. It’s far from true. I know that I’m a strong, independent, hard-working, beautiful woman. I know that I’m doing wonderful things with my life and will continue to do wonderful things in my life. But I also know that those words are going to float around my head. In the past, I would take those negative words and use them as fuel to self-sabotage. This time, I’m going to be proactive and find healthy ways to move past what was said about me and continue to do great and be great.
Just know that if you come from a family that is less than healthy, you’re not alone. If you’re breaking the cycle, I’m proud of you and you should be proud of yourself as well. Everyone always says “break the cycle!!” But no one tells us how hard it’s going to be. Family can be the best or the worst thing imaginable. Just remember: we have the power. We make the decisions. And we absolutely do not need to keep toxic people in our lives, no matter who they are.