How to believe in yourself even when you feel your family doesn’t
Self-belief is a battle.
It is probably one of the hardest battles anyone will ever fight.
There are already enough factors in our world that might make you feel utterly worthless. School, social expectations, personal failures, health challenges. But having a family that does not understand you or give you the support you need only exacerbates that feeling.
For years, my parents have been both my greatest source of emotional support and the single greatest challenge I have ever had to overcome in my entire life. They are the people I can always go to and yet also the people I so often want to run from.
Not everyone is capable of loving you the way you would like to be loved. Is anyone, for that matter? And that is where the struggle begins. Your parents are given to you to mould you into the person you are meant to become — but that does not mean that you will always agree on everything. In fact, your family is very likely the people that you will disagree with most passionately because they are the ones who know you best and who influence you most. Besides, maybe it is in disagreement that growth arises.
I have always felt like I lacked the nurturing of a parent. The simply “being there for you” feeling. My parents have always been involved in my life, very much so in fact, but I never had the feeling of them simply being….there. It seems that everything was always centred around some kind of work, some kind of project, some kind of next adventure. And there is something beautiful about that. Yet, a part of me feels as though my parents were in some ways emotionally absent from my childhood even though they were physically there all along.
I don’t remember a moment when they were just proud. Just satisfied. It has always been involvement, never observation. They were always excited to join my idea, my project, my aspiration rather than let me do it on my own, mess up as many times as I need and feel….free. Free, but loved. Of course, this made me feel as though I never had the space to grow independently without causing friction. I always felt as though what I’m doing isn’t in the hands of my own will power. Always being told what to do eventually makes you wonder if you’re so unfit to make your own decisions that you do need to be told what to do. I have often felt the need to prove something to them. To claim my independence, because I felt that it would not simply be given to me.
At some point, I realised that in my life, my free will is something I would need to fight for. It wasn’t something that was understood by my parents. This is when I decided to take matters into my own hands and took the very clear position that I need to actively claim my own self-worth. Otherwise, I would forever be drowning in self-doubt, self-criticism and a desire to be understood. I made the conscious choice that even if no one understands me, I will.
And it is in claiming my independence that I learned to believe in myself.
Going against a narrative of someone always trying to replace your own power means that every time you resist it, you have to believe you’re doing the right thing. It’s much easier said than done. There’s also the very blaring fact that you are emotionally attached to your parents. You love them. And you know that they love you. But that emotional attachment does not justify the way they behave, nor does it invalidate what you so strongly feel. Sometimes, it can feel as though you’re insane for having these thoughts.
“But my parents love me. I’m disrespectful. I should just be grateful.”
Yes, we should be grateful. But you also have the right to live your life freely, with joy and fulfilment, freedom of thought and most importantly, of action. I came to a point in my life when I realised that everything I was doing was in reference to what they would think. Not how I felt about it. That was where I drew the line. I refused to have any voices but my own dictate my choices.
I’m assuming I’m not the only person in the universe who’s felt this way. I know it’s not the most comfortable topic to face.
Before I proceed, I urge my reader to remember that just because you feel like your family doesn’t believe in you, just because you may hold some kind of resentment towards them, just because you disagree with them on perhaps some critical points in your life does not make you a bad person. You are allowed to feel this way. Anyway, you cannot deny what you feel. The point of this article is to provide some kind of constructive solution for this wide-spread experience.
So, consider this as a love letter to you, to help you get up on your feet even when you feel like you don’t have the strength. This is self-belief bootcamp. I’m sharing what I’ve learned and what worked for me and what brought me out of my lowest, darkest, least inspired times. It is what has allowed me to make peace with my parents and with the way they have raised me. It is what has allowed me to respond rather than react and what has made me a little bit more whole.
Keep in mind that harnessing your self-worth means developing a voice independent from your parents. Sometimes radically different. This is no easy task, but I assure you — you can do it.
- You have to understand that your life is yours. It is not anyone else’s. The fact that someone bore you, raised you, fed you, clothed you, helped you as much as they could does not mean that they have the power to control your life. This is not to say that they may necessarily even want to control your life — sometimes, this happens inadvertently due to an absence of healthy boundaries. However, the purpose of a parent is to raise a child to the point when they can stand on their own two feet. Not to replace their footsteps in their journey, or stop them from taking them. You are in charge of you.
- Give yourself permission to feel. There is no way you’re going to harness self belief when you don’t allow yourself to feel all the conflicting emotions of being unable to rely on your family for emotional support on important issues. You will probably feel anger, despair, resentment, frustration, sadness, loneliness, maybe even severe depression. The first step to getting out of that zone is legitimising those emotions, no matter how heavy they may be.
- Your life is worth fighting for. You are worth fighting for. I’m not here to say anything cliche. You are a deeply beautiful being who is capable of creating the most beautiful life. Often, our family are the people who create the biggest struggles in our lives. They are the ones who fill us with all of our insecurities, blocks, doubts, fears, traumas, etc. This is not to say that they are doing so on purpose. It’s just that being so close with certain people most definitely means that you will be exposed to their less sightly traits just as much as to their good side. Some just don’t understand the degree of damage they’re causing their kids by not being conscious of their behaviour. But as an adult, you are now fully in control of your own life. Be adamant in creating a universe that belongs only to you. And don’t you dare settle for anything less than what makes you feel deeply alive.
- Your parents do love you — be compassionate. Your parents are not perfect beings. They can only love you as much as they love themselves. Not everyone learns to do that. Writing as a 25 year old, our parents’ generation had a very different approach to dealing with emotions and personal struggles. Most times they were suppressed, disregarded and buried somewhere deep within. But that doesn’t mean that these unresolved issues don’t exist. By virtue of being unresolved, they are then extrapolated to you. Be compassionate to your parents’ struggles as you mould a (possibly) different life for yourself. Most times, our parents really are just doing the best they can.
- You are not just living for yourself. This world needs you. You cannot let your family struggles keep you from giving your gift to this world. You’ve come here with specific gifts, skills and talents inherent only to you. It is your duty to harness self-belief so that you can help create a better world. This is why it’s so important to learn to overcome whatever personal obstacles you might be facing. We need you so much. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for the world.
- Don’t discuss your actions — just act. Get to work. There are some things that are better left unsaid. I used to discuss my creative pursuits with my family but I don’t do this anymore because I realised that most times, this discussion quickly turns into me having to explain why I’m doing this or this. So, this is a very important rule. Do not discuss what you are going to do with your family. This can be very difficult, especially if you’re very close with your parents, like I am. Closeness with your family doesn’t mean that you will feel supported in everything. Sometimes, it does more harm than good. Some things are to be relished or even suffered by you and you alone. Not disclosing everything about your life gives you space to reflect on your choices and actions with greater freedom, without someone constantly asking, “So, how’s that project going?” and causing a pang in your already self-esteem crippled stomach.
- Be of service to others. The best way to cultivate your self worth is by being of use in this world. If you really feel low and you don’t know what you want in life, I really encourage you to begin by simply helping another person. Start a blog, go volunteer somewhere, or maybe just be there for a friend. Every little bit counts and it is incredibly fulfilling.
- Be prepared to dive deep. Be prepared to cry. Feeling a lack of support from your family can be a very, very serious and deep-seated emotional issue. This is not something that’s going to go away in one day. It took me a whole three years to get rid of the hurt that my dad caused me by being so hostile towards my decision to pursue music. It almost ruined our relationship and to this day, has made us much more distant than we used to be. As family bonds can leave a lot of important things unspoken due to it being considered inappropriate to address such issues in your family, there are some emotions that can leave us feeling very alone. The only way to release them is to acknowledge their presence, really feel the pain once and for all, and then release it. Through journalling, tears, talking to your friend, whichever it may be. Which brings me to the next point.
- Verbalise what you feel. You can’t keep it inside yourself. Discuss this with a friend. Say it to someone. The first time I spoke about this with anyone, I started crying. The tears just came out of me. I didn’t even expect to have this kind of reaction, but bear in mind that talking about something that severely disturbs you is an essential component of healing. It is also a way of honouring and releasing what you are going through. If anything, the first place to start in changing our self-image is our roots — our family. Once we gain greater freedom, independence, respect or simply emotional release there, we can continue to bring about the same changes in the other aspects of our lives.
- Finally, do it for your family as much as you do it for yourself. Healing yourself is a way of healing the world. If aIt’s also a way of releasing unhealthy family patterns. Knowing your own strength allows you to approach your family relations with greater confidence. Showing up for yourself means you can show up differently for other people. The fact that you choose to be brave enough to choose your own path will very likely give hope to your parents and other family members that it is possible to believe in yourself, it is possible to overcome anything and it is possible to follow your dreams. Change the name of the game.
I hope this helped someone who might be going through the same thing. If you’re dealing with a family that you feel doesn’t support you — remember that you’re not alone. And you got this :)