Just the tip: Let me be me

Carin McKenna Huber, Opinion Editor


The holiday season is stressful, especially when you’re young. It seems every member of your family has expectations of you: “How’s that job search going?” “When are you planning on getting married?” “You’ve put on a few pounds – should you be having seconds?” They mean well, and their comments are coming from a place of love, but that doesn’t make hearing them any less stressful or painful.

You don’t have to grin and bear it. You are entitled to set your own boundaries about what is or isn’t your family’s business.

Some family members, especially grandparents, may have difficulty understanding your objections. As elders, they think they have a stake in what you do with your life. But unless they are financially supporting you, your choices do not actually affect them.

Start by saying, “I’d prefer not to discuss that topic.” When your family member asks why, explain that the question makes you feel as though you’re not good enough the way you are. Briefly elaborate that you understand they don’t mean it that way, but that’s how it feels to hear, and you’d like to drop the subject now.

For some family members that will be enough, and they will realize this topic is off limits for you. For those who don’t stop, repeat your statement. Say to them, “I love you, and I know you love me. But it doesn’t feel like you do when you say such things. Please stop.”

If they persist even after this, walk away, even if it means leaving the dinner table. Walk away every time they bring up the subject again. This may confuse and hurt them. That’s okay. They will figure out that if they don’t bring that subject up, you won’t walk away.

Even so, the really stubborn ones will still occasionally find a way to mention the issue, citing their love and concern for you as a reason. But it should happen less often. Once it’s clear they at least understand that they’re broaching a taboo subject, just take their hand or give them a hug, tell them you love them too, and change the subject. It will let them know you understand where they’re coming from, and that you’re not angry with them.

With some people you just have to find an acceptable middle ground.