How To Cope When You Are The

Black Sheep Of The Family

The human brain is built to be connected and to feel like a part of a community.

In other words, developing a relationship with people whom we feel are caring and close over time.

When the basic need to belong isn’t satisfied, it can give to conditions such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, and jealousy.

Families are a source of belonging for many people. Sadly, however, black sheep are often cast away by their families or disapproved of by them.

Being the black sheep of the family is a form of marginalization. People who are “on the margins,” survive the sting of a gaggle or society. As a result, they are rejected and have little influence on the group. They are stigmatized as deviants and feel compelled to separate themselves from the group both psychologically and physically. When an individual is treated as an outcast within their own family, they can have difficulty retaining their identity. Furthermore, rejection can lead to a host of severe effects, including aggression, diminished intellectual performance, emotional numbness, and detachment.

Family members who are marginalized face unique challenges. While marginalization occurs over time, turning-point events, like getting arrested, may mark pivotal shifts in family relationships. As black sheep, they may also be experiencing ambiguous loss, including physical presence but emotional absence at family functions. Furthermore, marginalized family members have low status in their families, which contributes to ongoing stress and the need for coping strategies. All in all, and unsurprisingly, being the black sheep is a deeply painful experience.

1. Seek support elsewhere.

Find social support from others including genuine, loving, and inclusive family members. Make your own adopted family and family members via social networks. Spend the holidays with them and share the things that families are supposed to do with your adopted kin.

2. Create new boundaries.

Boundaries are a protective measure. By reducing exposure to your family you are giving yourself the opportunity for a fresh start or to move forward. Create physical distance from your family. Create your own environment so that you won’t feel like you have to work to get somebody’s acceptance.

Limit family members’ access to your personal information. Keep things very surface level: “How’s school?” “Oh, school’s great.” “Everything good at home?” “Oh, it’s good.” this is often a technique within the service of self-protectiveness.

3. (Re)build your life.

Rebuilding might mean focusing on (re)framing your life, for instance obtaining a college degree or becoming self-sufficient which doesn’t take away how profoundly painful it is to be the black sheep. It is important to remember that.

Reframe the marginalization, find positive meaning in your experience as the black sheep. This will ultimately make you stronger. Be proud of who you are.

4. Downplay your lived experience of marginalization.

You’re always going to try to understand your experience as the black sheep. Diminish the influence of your family relationships to change the meaning of your marginalized experience. Basically, you no longer have a family.

5. Live authentically despite disapproval.

Live an authentic life and be true to yourself in the face of disapproval from your family. Redirect your pain towards achieving productive goals defending yourself against the black sheep status. Be proud of your stigma. You know exactly what to do to be completely accepted by your family and you can do that, however, it will never be enough.



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