Hi, I'm Madeline!

Hi, I'm Madeline!

I’m Madeline, the human behind Sit with Self. I am an accredited mental health social worker who uses an integrated approach targeting both the mind and body, grounded in self-compassion & self-awareness.

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Navigating family gatherings

Family gatherings are (almost) inevitable, and let’s be honest, they can be pretty challenging. Differences in opinion, dysfunctional dynamics, and small talk awkwardness are just some of the discomfort-inducing elements of seeing extended family. A little while ago, I asked my Instagram followers about the trickiest aspects of family get-togethers, and one common question stood out: Should I attend the family gathering even if it leaves me feeling ick? Trust me, I can absolutely relate to this sentiment!

On one hand, if you don’t show up, you might have to deal with the aftermath—criticism, disappointment, and even some anger. Those of us who tend to be people-pleasers (raise your hand!) will do anything to avoid those reactions by always putting others’ needs first. But seriously, what’s a person to do? It’s a tricky situation with no one-size-fits-all solution. But fear not! I’ve got a few tips up my sleeve that might help you navigate this tricky territory.

  • Tip 1: Making Authentic Decisions When it comes to family gatherings, it’s crucial to make decisions that align with your true Self. Instead of being driven by people-pleasing tendencies or avoidance, tap into your true desires. Take a moment to imagine your ideal family gathering. Visualise waking up on that day, feeling completely aligned with your values. Who’s present? What activities are you engaged in? What are you wearing? How do you carry yourself? Allow your imagination to run wild and gain clarity on what truly matters to you. While you may not be able to replicate every detail, you can incorporate or let go of certain elements to make it more authentic.
  • Tip 2: Managing Resentment If you do decide to attend the family gathering, it’s important to remember that it’s your choice as an independent, autonomous individual. No one is forcing you to go, even if family members express disappointment. Avoid falling into the resentment trap! Instead, shift your mindset from “They’re making me go” to “I’m choosing to attend.” This shift in perspective can significantly impact how you experience the gathering.
  • Tip 3: Effective Communication As an autonomous adult, you have the right to establish boundaries or even opt-out of the family gathering altogether. The key is to communicate your needs effectively. Use “I feel” statements to express your emotions and what you require. For instance, you can say something like, “When I spend the entire day at the gathering, I feel overwhelmed. This year, I need to prioritise my well-being, so I wanted to let you know that I’ll only be staying for a couple of hours.” By using “I feel” and “I need” statements, you steer clear of blame and defensiveness while clearly articulating your boundaries.
  • Tip 4: Embracing Self-Compassion Let’s face it: Even if you communicate perfectly, some family members may still react negatively. That’s okay! Dealing with disappointment and criticism can stir up those vulnerable parts within us, carrying old wounds and painful beliefs. But here’s the good news: You possess the power to provide ultimate care and love to those parts. Imagine embracing them warmly, whispering all the things you wished to hear as a child. Remind yourself that you are enough and deserving of love, just as you are.

Family gatherings can be a whirlwind of emotions, but by embracing your authentic Self, setting boundaries, communicating openly, and practicing self-compassion, you can navigate these events with confidence and clarity. Remember, you have the right to make choices that align with your well-being while still maintaining meaningful connections with your loved ones. So go out there, give something new a try and embrace discomfort.