A Better Life / Featured / Practices

3 Steps to Confidently Survive Family Drama, Pressure, and Put-downs

Will you be arming up and building the defenses to take on challenging family Mojo over the holidays?

We’ve all been there…

Either we are dishing it out or we are the receiver.

Neither is any fun.

So what to do when you are hit square in the head with the “boundary pushing” Grandma Eddie, or perhaps the well intended Aunty Mae prying about career, relationships, and anything else she can push her opinion on you with.

What to do when you find yourself  being “called out” out because you are not married, coupled up, pregnant or not doing what “they” think is best for you. Even more, your internal “people pleaser” meter going bonkers inside your head.

Frantically, you are trying to make everyone happy and put out the fires, and you may even find yourself shaking or exhausted, and completely overwhelmed.

Take it from a recovering “people pleaser” (aka no personal boundaries):

If you are not creating clarity with your own values and needs, you will be finding yourself in arguments or resentments because you are taking everything everyone says very personal. Not very empowering is it?


Taking Family Time from Dread to Success

Whatever the “it” thing is in your family dynamic, you can transform your experience.

Imagine, just for a moment, being thrown right in the thick of it. But instead of freaking out, getting riled, getting defensive, or becoming the martyr… imagine coming from a place of personal strength.

The jabs that would have pierced your heart, your self-confidence, or your precarious state of calm stay where they belong – with THEM.

  • Every offensive quirk of Uncle Joe
  • Every judgmental question of why you aren’t married or pregnant
  • Every temper tantrum or personality conflict
  • Every snarky comment from well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning family

Each and every one bounced off your own self-confidence and resolve.

And you know why?

Because you know who you are, where you’re going, your value, and that their issues are THEIR issues, not yours.

[Tweet “Know who you are, and that their issues are THEIR issues, not yours.”]

Start Standing up for “ME”

Here’s the first rule of thumb for “Standing up for ME!”

1. Awareness

Yep, be keenly aware of who you are and what’s important to you! Be vigilant in being aware of your own self-care needs, and when they are being invaded.

The first step is being aware so you can have the power to do something about it.

  • Are you feeling overwhelmed?
  • Are you feeling invaded?
  • Are you feeling unsafe?
  • Are you feeling disrespected?
  • Are you feeling compelled to keep the peace at the expense of yourself?

Keep taking a moment to acknowledge what is happening and what you are feeling. And be aware of what keeps happening so you can arrive prepared.

Sometimes, you even need to be aware of who you simply cannot continue a relationship with. Family is important, but so are you. No family is so important that they’re worth letting them tear you down.

2. Clarity

Next is to be deeply clear on who you are and where you’re going. The clearer you are, and the deeper you hold your values, the less swayed and emotionally affected you’ll become.

Really take the time to decide and feel deep in your heart:

  • The person you are and aspire to be
  • What you will and will not stand for
  • What your dreams and goals are (this does not have to be crazy making here, simply that you are clear)
  • What type of people you want and will allow in your life.
  • Who and what you really want to say YES or NO to before the situation comes up

The process I use with my clients is to create what I call your PCC – a guiding vision for yourself and your life.

It literally works to reset your brain, rewiring the neurological pathways that control your reactions, so that you build a heart and mind wired for confidence and the life you want.

Go through these questions, write your answers down, and keep them to remind yourself. Or go through creating your own PCC with a simple video walk-through with my Reset Your Compass course.

Take the time to really feel it.

[Tweet “The clearer & deeper your values, the less swayed & emotionally affected you’ll become.”]

With that clarity, you are building the confidence and self-assurance to walk into any family situation and not let it break you down. You aren’t letting people make you feel guilty, feel worthless, or feel unsafe and overwhelmed.

Creating your vision (your PCC) will also creates a much needed and wanted sense of purpose. So hear me out…

Even if you are unclear and feel you do not have a purpose, creating your PCC will help you work through them and get clear. As a result, you’ll create the self confidence you need when you are faced with the “boundary pushers” or the “well intenders.”

And with awareness and clarity, you can take the next step…

3. Take Action

You’ve built the foundation, now it’s time to act.

You’ll be acting from a place of clarity in yourself and your values, and you’ll have the awareness to know when you need to act.

Most of the time, we just act reactively.

It just happens – we get defensive, we lash out, we take in the painful jabs, we give into the pressures, we ignore the red flags and the flashing warning light of our personal fuel tank… and we crumble.

At the end of the day, we hit our bed without an ounce of energy, rumbling with our own emotions, self-doubt. Even feeling worthless, a disappointment, or ready to burst into tears.

Your first act – choose to dedicate yourself to change.

Build your awareness. Build your clarity. And take action.

What to do Beforehand:

Be aware of what you are feeling, what you are worried about, and what you will find when you get there.

Get clear – review your values, your vision, and who you are. Review your PCC. If you don’t know, take some time to get clear and feel it. Say them out loud, imagine them a part of you, create a mantra – whatever it takes to internalize them deep inside and that works for you.

Have a plan of action – based on your awareness and values, what can you expect to face, and how will you choose to act in those situations?

[Tweet “Your first act – choose to dedicate yourself to change.”]


OK, maybe you’re still uneasy, but you are far more ready than you were! Trust me.

So let’s go!

Now You’re Thrown in the Thick of it

You arrive, and you’re with your family. Uncle Joe and Aunt Mae are testing you already…

Be aware of what is happening… what are they doing and how are they affecting you? What is your impulsive reaction as a result? Would it help you are make more pain or overwhelm?

Remember your values and your vision and which ones are being stepped on right now. Their problems are their problems. Remember your own values. Not everyone has to agree or even hear them. It’s your little secret they just don’t understand.

Choose to act with awareness and from your own values and vision….

For example, try these actions:

  • If you need a break – leave.
  • Take a breath when you feel compelled to do or feel something. Then choose to act in a way that aligns with your values and your needs.
  • Tell them they are making you uncomfortable and you’d like to drop the subject.
  • Choose to acknowledge who they are and where they come from with respect, but know that they’re not you and actively choose not to let what they say in.
  • “Uncle Joe, I love you but we have different beliefs on this subject and I’d like to talk about something else.”
  • “Aunt Mae, I know you want the best for me, but this is making me uncomfortable.”
  • Leave the conversation, or leave the room.
  • Take a moment to review your PCC, even if you use the bathroom as an excuse to do it!

Now, you’ve made it through. You didn’t kill anyone, that’s always a good sign.

Maybe you flew off the handle, let someone push you around, or someone still got in your head…. that’s okay.

It takes time to overcome these challenges. And it takes practice to build your awareness, clarity, and the right actions.

Our brains are wired from our past to react in a certain way. Changing those pathways doesn’t happen overnight anymore than you can lift 300lbs or drop a dress size overnight.

It takes practice. Keep going through these steps.

[Tweet “It takes time & practice to build your awareness, clarity, and right actions.”]

And after the night is done, go through them again:

  1. Be aware of what the challenges were and, most importantly, what positive steps you made, however small. Even if it was “I took a breath when I felt invaded”, then that is progress! It means you are becoming more aware.
  2. Again, review your PCC, who you are and what you stand for. Reinforce them instead of letting what happened today tear them down.
  3. Is there any small actions you can still take to help positively respond to what happened? Maybe there is someone you need to have a heart to heart with in private. Maybe you need to do an act of self-care and self-empowerment.

Action is the Number One Thing You can do for Creating Your Self-Esteem

And it is the number one way that you build those new neurological pathways in your brain to improve your life and build positive habits and reactions when faced with these kinds of challenges.

When a kid learns to ride a bit, they start of terrified and shaky. They need that helping hand to get going and give them safety.

But what really matters is the action they take to keep doing it.

Every time they act, riding that bike, they gain a little more confidence and self-esteem. They also improve their ability and their actions start to become more and more automatic.

[Tweet “Action is the number one thing you can do for creating your self-esteem”]

They fall down, and the more they get back up and act to ride again, the more confident they get and more they build those skills into their muscles and neuropathways. They become stronger and stronger.

Before you know it, they are flying!

And it all becomes automatic. They aren’t thinking… “okay, here’s how I balance, and here’s how I turn the wheel, and here’s how I pedal…”

Of course not! They just do it.

That is what can happen for you the more you put this into practice.

Taking action and creating your PCC will give you the tools to create purpose in your life and foster the self confidence to be flying through life with glee on your own bike.

And it only expands… being confident to ask for a raise or to find a better paying job you love. Standing up for yourself in intimate situations, and finding a better relationship with yourself and others. Going after that big dream you kept putting off for another year or someday… (someday syndrome is a whole other subject!)

Start today. Start with awareness.

And get the help you need to achieve it.

Now, share you biggest family gathering challenge with us in the comments below: