Women and feminine-presenting people often get the message that they should apologize for their very existence. So, it can be hard to realize there are many things you don't have to apologize for — not to anyone, but especially not to your family. When your family has done a lot for you, it can feel like you need to accommodate their every wish. But once you're an adult, you have no obligation to do what makes your parents, siblings, or relatives happy. And often, if you try to, you end up unhappy yourself, which is ultimately what they don't want. (Or at least, it's what they don't want if they really care about you — toxic family members may be another proverbial can of worms entirely.)
My attitude about apologizing to my family changed a lot when I learned about the concept of emotional care-taking — feeling responsible for ensuring that someone else feels good. This sense of responsibility can lead people to sacrifice their own well-being so that their parents can sleep safe and sound, their grandparents will approve of them, their siblings won't feel overshadowed, or whatever it is. Once you learn to identify emotional care-taking behaviors, you become better at differentiating what you want from what you believe others want. The latter has a tricky way of disguising itself as the former.
Here are a few things you don't ever have to apologize to your family for, no matter how much they or anyone else might guilt you about it.
1. Being Awesome
Women and feminine-presenting people often feel like they have to shrink themselves or dumb themselves down in order to please other people, and sometimes, these people are their family members. After all, it can feel like we're not supposed to have more success or happiness than our family members, especially older ones. Another useful concept in thinking about this is the mother wound: Many women feel obliged to diminish themselves so their moms don't resent them for having better lives than they were afforded. In addition, growing up, we're often taught — sometimes by our families — that if we acknowledge how awesome we are, we're arrogant. But in order to progress to your highest potential, you need to own your awesomeness, so nobody has the right to make you apologize for it, explicitly or through your behavior.
2. Declining Invitations
We're lucky if our families want to spend time with us, but that doesn't mean we should spend time with them unless we truly want to. When our families invite us for visits or vacations, we can be thankful for the invitation, but we're always free to say no. When you're doing what you truly want, not what you think your family wants, you end up only spending time with them when you're truly happy to do so, and that makes the time higher quality for you and them. As I once learned at a cuddle party, if it's not a "hell yes," it's a "no."
3. Being Your Outrageous Self
Sometimes, our families don't really get us, so we don't feel like we can be our selves around them. And if you think your family might actually treat you poorly after you reveal certain things about yourself, that may be a valid reason to hide those things from them if you so wish. But you shouldn't feel like you have to. Their judgment is not your problem. Your family should want to see you blossom into the fullest, most exuberant individual you can be, even if that means making them uncomfortable.
4. Disagreeing With Them
Anyone still have this irrational feeling that your parents must always be right about everything? So do I, but once you're an adult, it's no longer really valid. Sure, they may know more about certain things than you, but as a fully functioning grownup, you also know more about certain things than them. If you disagree with them, you have the right to express that unapologetically; what's more, they don't have the right to act like they know better or like their opinion is right just because they're your parents.
5. Ignoring Their Advice
I'm going to say this again because it can really take a while to sink in: Your parents can be wrong. Therefore, it's your decision whether or not to take their advice. If you're trying to make a decision, your family's advice should only be a factor insofar as you think it is good. You don't, however, have to consider their advice just so that they can have the knowledge that you've considered it or so they won't be upset that you've ignored them.
6. Not Picking Up Their Calls
Remember, you are never on call for anyone unless you are actually a doctor or another kind of professional who is on call for work. You are not obliged to pick up the phone for your family unless there is literally an emergency. Of course, completely disappearing may warrant an apology (unless you have a good reason to do so, like protecting your mental health), but in general, if someone guilts you for not being immediately available at all times, that's their issue.
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