Personal Development

3 Keys to Keep Your Own Independence Around Your Family

Do you ever feel like you’re so disconnected from your family of origin that you don’t even know them anymore, or more commonly — they don’t know you?

So much time passes between visits — children are born, personal development happens, promotions are earned, and not to mention the number of PSC moves that take place.

In honor of Independence Day and the 2-year anniversary of my move back home…I wanted to celebrate and share with my military community how I managed to survive reintegration!

After recently moving back to my hometown of Dallas and getting the newsflash that this is HOME, again…I freaked out a little bit (OK, I freaked out a lot)!

Boy oh boy has it been a whirlwind experience and I’m thankful for all those years of personal development and counseling! LOL I felt like a stranger in my own “home” town, so to cope with the feelings of “not fitting in” I would often tell myself, “this is just another duty station, that’s why you don’t know anyone.” This helped me compensate for not knowing how to get to my cousin’s house from the freeway and the need to use my GPS for everything, but it offered little value at the family dinners.

It felt as though every time I opened my mouth, I was “re-introducing” myself to a relative that I once knew so well. Sure, they know the ‘me’ that I was and I know the person they once were…but we don’t know the people that we ARE today.

I always felt like I was bragging about my life and my adventures, all the places I’d traveled and lived…you know the stuff a large percentage of people NEVER get to experience. Someone would ask me where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to and I would answer it as sincerely as possible.

No matter what I did or said, it came off as show boating, so I started responding, “I’ve been great, how about you?” When the big question of, “Where have you been and what have you been up to,” was asked I would simply reply, “Oh, serving my country, but now I’m home,” trying my best to change the subject.

Here are 3 things I learned to master in an effort to maintain my Independence within my family of origin, that I believe they will help you as well: 

1. Be willing to let go of your image for the greater good.

This principle is one that I have had to apply in various groups of people over the years, not just family. When it comes to the group known as your family, you have to be willing to let go of the attachment to your image and ego and give your family the opportunity and time to find their way around this new, evolved version of you.

Bringing up your new enlightened sense of self, your world travels, your accomplishments and all the other amazing things you get to do, all at once may not only overwhelm their senses (because after all, they thought they knew you), but it can also seem as though you are self-centered.

Introduce your new-found self to your family, incrementally…it’s more palatable and easier to digest. In time, they will realize that you, at your core, are the same person they remember — just more well rounded.

2. Don’t feel guilty about leaving.

I’m sure you’ve learned a lot from your family and the environment you grew up in, some good and some not so good. Many of those lessons have shaped the person you are today. However, no one specific environment can provide a person with all the tools necessary to be successful. Sometimes, you have to take up your roots and plant them elsewhere in order to reach that next level type growth.

The military may have been a bulldozer of sorts, picked you up and planted you many other places, which has also added to your growth and development. I personally consider this type of plucking and replanting as a privilege that very few get to experience, though many would love to. Often times the one that “got away” will have a tendency to feel guilty about leaving and while guilt is a USELESS emotion, adding little to no value…it’s a strong one.

Find a way to embrace and accept all of your experiences and understand that the good, the bad, the ugly has helped shape and make you the amazing person you are today…guilt free. 

3. Build guardrails around your mind…not your heart.

We often carry family of origin stuff throughout or lives, whether we want to or not. Some of the things we carry around with us are good and some not so good. Most of my military friends notice these things in their families after they’ve been away for a while and then return.

Yes, Aunt Mary is still up to her same antics, cousin Joe is still doing what he’s always done and don’t get me started on Uncle Roy! The worst thing I see people do is attempt to “save” their families from themselves by pointing out the error of their ways. They build walls up in an effort to be different, but what they essentially do is alienate their loved ones.

It’s OK to protect the progress you’ve made and refuse to be pulled back into the quicksand you escaped, but be careful not to shut your loved ones out by judging who they are not, as it relates to who you think they should be.

Let’s be honest, families are complicated and yours is no different. Figure out a way to be with your family, share your adventures with them, love and accept them for who they are…all while maintaining your independence within the group!

As I mentioned earlier, I moved back to my home of Dallas after almost 20 years! This was an exciting time for my family and me and I was glad that my son would get to be with his family. This was also scary for me, because I wasn’t sure what triggers would come up for me (and there were lots).

I used these tools and a few others to help me reunite with my family, protect my progress and maintain my sense of self.

If you are finding yourself in a similar situation and don’t mind sharing, please tell us how you have managed the integration between who you are within your family of origin and who you are today.

You may also enjoy: Becoming M.O.R.E., How to Take Courageous Action Everyday

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