This weekend I’ve gone back to my childhood home in North Wales to spend the weekend with my parents. My nana has also made the journey from Liverpool at 89 and my brother came up from London on a rare weekend off.
As I sat on the train on a Friday evening, after a long and tiring week, I suddenly realised, I was going home, and that meant I became ‘daughter’, ‘sister’ and ‘granddaughter’. I was leaving my ‘girlfriend’, ‘manager’, ‘trainee counsellor’ and ‘individual’ status at Euston station.
This got me thinking, do I really change that much depending on who I’m with? Does it even matter if I do? And how does it make me feel, as a person?
The answer is yes, I do change to a certain degree. As I’ve grown up and found my own way, I’d like to think I change less than I used to, but I’m aware I tend to be more stressed around my stressed parents, and revert to needing to ask their advice over everything I do when I’m home.
My brother, being much older than me, has never made me feel like I have to be anything different although I do feel a little judged at times. He can be very frank and this leaves me somewhat sensitive around him, as his opinion seems to matter a lot to me. Despite us not growing up in the same house, I look up to him.
My nana and I have always had a good relationship, she allows people to follow their own path. She might comment on the safety of it occasionally, but generally she lets you find your own way.
So are these labels that I’ve given myself a help or a hindrance? Although you might argue that I didn’t give them to myself, they are the labels given to me by the people in my life, I would beg to differ.
It is I who decided to accept and act up to those roles. I fell into them at some point or other, and whether that was a conscious or unconscious choice I’m not sure, but choice it definitely was.
‘You’ is the one thing you have control over. People can do whatever they want around you, and treat you in certain ways, put you in boxes etc, but it is only you who chooses to play up to the role. Maybe you wear that jumper your mum loves when you see her, even though you hate it, or go fishing with your dad to make him happy.
You’re not forced to do these things, you do them to ‘keep the peace’. By doing them, you fall nicely into their perception of you as ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ or whatever, and this makes them happy.
To be honest, I see nothing wrong with this, as long as it doesn’t make you miserable.
There is a fine line between doing stuff for other people and doing it at the expense of your own happiness. Doing so much for other people that you neglect yourself, or even worse, forgot who you truly are, is devastating on your self-esteem and will ultimately make you a sad person to be around, then all your hard working making people happy will have been for nothing as your unhappiness starts to rub off on them.
So next time you’re around family, make a choice. Know who you are, and how you might adapt that in the current situation, remembering always who you are and your needs.