The Family You Choose

Who do you consider to be your family? Imagine them in your mind. If you’re like me, not all of the people are biologically related to you, or to each other. Each one of us comes into the world and is brought into a home. It could be a home with two biological parents, a single parent, adoptive parents, co-parents, or some other arrangement. We have little to no control over the families in which we are raised. Our families of origin could be completely healthy and nurturing or dysfunctional and toxic. Often, there is some combination of the two. Our family of origin can imbibe us with strength and resilience. It can also saddle us with baggage and maladaptive coping skills. These factors will influence how we interact with others as we grow and mature. We cannot control where we came from—the actions of others are beyond our control. What we can control is the family that we create as adults.

It is important to surround ourselves with supportive, kind, and caring people. A useful image is one of a large red balloon that is filled with helium. Each time someone criticizes us, ignores our feelings, or makes excuses for their bad behavior, they let some of the air out of our balloon. How can we hope to keep ourselves afloat if our balloon has no more helium? Conversely, every time someone encourages us, affirms our feelings, or supports our goals, our balloon is filled with more helium. We can fill our own balloons as well, but that is for a different article.

When did you realize who you wanted to be? I’m not just asking when you realized what career you wanted, but also when you realized what kind of person you wanted to be. Did you imagine yourself growing up to be a person of faith? A person who stays home with children? A person who travels the world with a partner? A person who volunteers and gives money to charity? It has probably taken you a long time to realize who and what you wanted to be. Maybe you’re still trying to work that out. If so, you’re in good company. As we grow and mature, our needs change. The people we could not live without in high school may not even be on our Facebook feed. That old partner that you just HAD to talk to every minute of the day could be older and married to someone who is decidedly not you. Each day, each week, each month, each year, we grow and change. If we’re lucky, those closest to us grow and change with us. If they don’t, we may need to reevaluate the role that person has in our lives.

Positive change happens deliberately. The following action steps are suggestions, not necessarily a roadmap. After all, you are in the driver’s seat of your own life. I submit that if you at least consider taking one or more of these steps that your life will improve, at least slightly.

  • Find ways to bring new supportive people into your life. Join a craft club, try a new sport, dialogue with someone who is reading a book that you like. Take time out of your day to smile at strangers and say hello to people in the hallway. You’d be surprised how many of them will be thrilled that someone has taken an interest.
  • CUT OUT THE NEGATIVITY – You know the type. That person. The one whose number you dread seeing on your callerID. The one who is always complaining about some aspect of their lives. The one that consistently sucks the energy right out of you, no matter how good of a day you were having. Cut them loose. They’re not doing you any good, and they’re letting out precious helium from your balloon.
  • Write a note to a few of the people in your life that matter most to you. Express your gratitude for the gifts that they bring to your life. Let them know that you want to be there for them the way that they have been there for you. Gratitude is so important, and so often overlooked

I am immeasurably grateful for the wonderful, kind, and loving people in my life. Some of them are recent additions that I’ve only know for a few months. Some of them have been around since the day I was born. These are people who can make me feel at ease by simply walking into the room. Wherever I am, whatever we’re doing together, I know that everything will be okay because they are nearby. What I’ve discovered over the years is that these people will always have my back no matter what the situation. If the world came crashing down tomorrow, they would have my back. There is something incredibly comforting in that knowledge. Additionally, I know that these people have been, and will continue to be, my loudest cheering section when I accomplish my dreams.

By identifying strong, supportive people and cultivating those relationships, you can put yourself in an excellent position to achieve your goals. You cannot choose the family into which you are born. You CAN choose the people in your life who become your family as an adult.

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  • commented 2013-11-30 16:56:38 -0800
    Thank you

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