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I can’t be “me” around family

Do I have to risk losing them just to speak my mind?

Compromise can be hard says our elder—but it may be worth it to keep the peace.

Dear EWC:

When I was a child, I was separated from my parents. In my early teen years, I got to reunite with my mom and began living with her again. This was probably the happiest thing to happen to me in my life so far. I’m terrified of losing contact with my mom again.

My family and I hold very different views. They don’t see eye-to-eye with me on anything, and because of that, I find it very difficult to be myself. I’m 20 years old now, and I find it difficult to speak up on anything I believe in or care about because I know they will judge me for it. They might even argue with me or enforce physical punishments, like not allowing my little sister to visit me. It deeply saddens me to know that they don’t support me when I speak out on something they don’t believe in. And knowing they might restrict contact, I choose to hide parts of myself. I choose to hide my religion/spirituality, who my friends are, what I do in my free time, what my beliefs are, what I want in life—not because these things are bad or wrong, but because they don’t align with what my family wants from me. I don’t know what to do. It feels like I have to pick a side, I can either be myself and lose my family, or I can keep my family and hide myself.

Salvador replies:

Sometimes, difficult compromises are the route to go because of the big picture. At this point in your life, you have to decide what is more important to you—to
express your views or not have contact with your loved ones. Some people decide to keep their views to themselves, to maintain a good relationship with family; some go the other way.

At some point in your life, you will have to decide when you want to express your real views. Maybe you want to wait until your little sister is old enough to make her own decisions so that you can associate with her without the family interfering.

You do not necessarily have to pick a side regarding your personal views. During times when conversations cover topics that you do not agree with, be evasive. Don’t express an “agree” or “disagree.” Some people discreetly leave a conversation to do something else.

So, I can’t recommend what you should do. Only you can decide what is more important in your life: family or freedom of expression. Either way, you will find people who support you or not. So don’t try to get an answer that will please everybody because you will not have one.

Letter #: 460098
Category: Family

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