How To Cope With Being A Family “Black Sheep”


For many people, close family ties are at the peak of their highest priorities; healthy family dynamics foster emotional bonds, offer nurturing and support during difficult times, and are the basis of many incredible experiences and memories. However, we do not have the choice of which family we are born (or adopted) into, and who we are as individuals may cause conflict with unpleasant family members for various reasons. Whether these unhealthy dynamics manifest during childhood or later adulthood, being considered a "black sheep" can significantly alter a person's outlook on life and themselves.

1. Acknowledge judgemental attitudes are part of human nature.

Humans are social "pack" creatures; our families are no exception. People are known to gravitate towards others like them based on common similarities. Your family may ostracize you if you are unique in a particular regard that's not understood or socially accepted. This may not be done with harmful intent either - it can quickly happen even when that person isn't aware they're doing it. It's crucial not to internalize this as a personal flaw, as it can lead to self-criticism fueled by low self-esteem. After all, you can't control how others think, and those who genuinely like you will accept you as is.

2. Foster your own "family" (it doesn't have to be blood-related).

If you have friends, colleagues, a partner, or even pets who are significant parts of your life, strengthening your relationships with them can significantly reinforce your sense of value. Confiding in them will allow you to sort through your feelings as a black sheep and help you understand the importance of embracing your individuality. In addition, these individuals may be going through or have gone through a similar experience and can foster a stronger mutual bond.

3. Learn to embrace being a black sheep.

While realizing the truth of where you stand in your family can cause a harsh sting, much like betrayal and heartbreak, over time, the emotional pain can subside if you healthily channel your mindset. You will eventually have some peace of mind knowing they aren't sticking around faking a relationship or being dishonest about how they feel toward you. This can be a highly liberating life lesson as you learn the value of genuine bonds (even just a few) and understand you don't need the approval of others to be a wholesome individual.

4. If cutting complete contact isn't possible, maintain firm boundaries.

You may be unable to keep your distance from ostracizing family members immediately, which is perfectly reasonable. For example, financial obligations, such as paying off debt, may take priority. In such a case, it's best to keep interactions on a need-to basis to avoid unnecessary drama and keep your emotional well-being in check. On the other hand, do not seek retaliation against them for being cast out, ask questions regarding their motives, or attempt to seek closure.