It’s the “Most Wanted” family member, whose picture shows up in the social media post. It’s the Goth child with spiked hair, multiple body piercings, and cringe-worthy body modifications. It’s the gay uncle, who brings his younger boyfriend to the family New Year’s party, and is “all over him” to the point you need to tell them to “get a room!” It’s the addict who comes to the family reunion drunk and staggers around, spilling his or her drink on the guests…
At some point a relative has disciplined a child by saying they don’t want them to “turn out” like you. Your name alone is a cautionary tale. When your family gathers around the holiday table for the traditional feast, you are that one person who is conspicuous by either absence or presence. With your colorful love life or your brushes with the law, you are the family member who doesn’t quite fit in. You are the “Black Sheep”.
Male or female, rich or poor, married or single, young or old, or alcoholic – the Black Sheep is often the object of ridicule, pity, envy, awe, fear, scorn, embarrassment or secret admiration, for as the proverb goes: “There is a black sheep in every fold. Yet, the black sheep is an important if often unwelcome guest.”
In most families, there is at least one creative, sensitive, or risk seeking spiritual person, who simply doesn’t share the lifestyle decisions of other family members. While they often share many common characteristics in personality, physical appearance, and occasionally even in occupation, these members are different from the rest. It’s not about who’s right or wrong, but rather a question of moving beyond comparisons and competition, so that each family member gets support for his or her unique journey in life.
Early in life I learned a very important truth: our families can either make, or break us. They can inspire us to be the people we are today, and depending on our role within our family, we can either feel a deep sense of acceptance, or a deep feeling of rejection pervading our lives. We all value ambition, effort, and laboring toward our goals, yet it was in my vision for the outcome of my own life, that I departed from my family. My journey as the Black Sheep has been a tumultuous one full of denial, anger and acceptance. When I first “broke” with the family mold, there was certain exhilaration to it. I like who I am. Whilst my family might feel more comfortable if my lifestyle was more aligned to theirs, it wouldn’t make me happy. I would be unhappy living their lifestyle, just as they would be unhappy living mine.
If you are/were the Black Sheep in your family, you were most likely chosen as the “trouble maker” or “problem child” due to your status within the family. You are maligned, misunderstood, and marginalized. Being the Black Sheep of your family does not stem merely from your own personality, views, and goals; you are the Black Sheep in your family due to the environment in which you were raised. An important part of human development is becoming your own person. For some people, this can mean estrangement from their families. That can be an undesirable path, but in some cases it is necessary for healthy psychological development. Your family might always pose highly critical questions at times when they don’t understand why you’re doing something, because you do have what you believe to be very valid reasons for making decisions in the way that you do. When you’re always on guard among family, standing up for yourself, and trying to fit in, it can be exhausting. Unless you’re hurting members of your family you shouldn’t have to constantly explain or justify your lifestyle or choices, even the most basic ones. What your family needs to realize is that you have a different vision for your future, and that doesn’t make you a failure or any less.
A lot of the time family members are just trying to help, they just might not necessarily be going about it the right way. Whilst they see it as helping and offering advice on your side of the fence, it feels like criticism. In this situation, it is important to recognize when family members are trying to help you. If you need their help by all means take it and thank them. Appreciate the fact that they offered their time and energy to assist you. Express your gratitude. If you don’t need their help, politely thank them for offering, decline and move on. It can be difficult to hold your ground and stick to what you believe in when you are bombarded by criticism and ridicule from people you love. From strangers criticism can be easily disregarded. From family members it can really hurt.
Resigned to your status as the odd one out, many wear the label proudly and distance themselves from the group that devalues them. People with different lifestyles often want to convert you around to their way of thinking. For whatever reason, they think their way of life is better. Sometimes you need to be crystal clear with people about what it is you want and what makes you happy. Let people know that you are happy with your life.
Researchers have found just one Black Sheep appears in a family every 97 years on average, or once in three generations. Accept your flaws, as part of life’s journey, and appreciate the characteristics that make you unique. The Black Sheep is just misunderstood. They’re not afraid to think outside the flock and risk the judgment of others. They will gladly suffer the family scorn before they will compromise their beliefs. They are living their personal truth openly and willfully and for that they deserve to be respected.