This was first published on KSL.COM
There are a few people in my husband's family that are constantly causing drama with us. It seems like we can do nothing right. We try making efforts, but it is always met with either being ignored or twisting our words into something we never did or said. When we decide to remove ourselves from the situation they get offended by that. It has also forced my in-laws to take sides. I believe my children should have a relationship their grandparents, but this side taking is depriving them of that. I feel like I can't stand up for myself either, because it only makes it worse, but I don't want to continue letting them treat me like I am not worth anything. I am having a hard time not letting all this affect me. What can I do? After so many efforts of "being the bigger person" it gets really emotionally exhausting.
I want you to understand why people behave like this. People cause drama and get offended because they are scared of one or both of these things:
1. They might be afraid of failure (scared they aren’t good enough), which means they probably feel threatened by you at some level and because they are afraid, they may subconsciously need to paint you as the bad guy in order to feel better. Or they have so much fear they are inadequate that they are just offended by anything and everything that anyone does that makes them feel anything less than perfect. But understand this is about them and how they feel about themselves (with or without you).
2. They might be afraid of loss. This means they are afraid of being taken from, walked on or mistreated. They are basically very afraid their life won’t be what they want it to be (and anything you do could trigger this on some level). People who have great fear of loss are almost impossible not to offend. They can see mistreatment even when it isn’t there. Again, this is a problem they own with or without you. You just trigger it.
I want you to understand about these fears because it’s important to understand their real problem isn’t about you — it’s about themselves. They aren’t conscious enough to realize this though and they would rather believe the problem is you. But you can see the truth, which will at least make their criticism and drama easier to take.
When people are determined to cast you as a bad person and/or create drama, or be offended, you basically have four options:
First, you must get in trust about your value. This means understanding no one can change or diminish your value in any way no matter what they say or do — because your value (and the value of all human beings) is infinite and absolute and cannot change. At least you can choose to believe this and claim it as your truth and perspective if you want to. When you choose to trust this idea is truth, you are then bulletproof. No matter what happens, your intrinsic value stays the same. No matter what anyone does or says, you are the same you with the same worth.
Second, you must trust God and/or the universe that this journey and everything that happens to you in it is always your perfect classroom. This situation with your relatives is no exception. It is in your life to serve your education and growth in some way. There is something about this mess that is going to make you stronger, wiser or more loving. When you see this mess as your perfect class, you will resist it less and greet it with more curiosity and wisdom. Ask yourself constantly what this moment could be here for that is positive. Then, focus on that.
Once you are choosing trust about your value and your journey, you should be free of your own fears of failure and loss, and in a state where you are more capable of love.
Now, you get to choose love towards either God, yourself or others in this moment. Love will take away your fear and frustration. You can either choose to love God enough to let him lead you into this moment the way he would want you to handle it, or choose to love yourself enough to remove yourself (kindly) and do something that makes you happy, or focus on being as kind, validating, caring and compassionate towards these people as possible — not because they deserve it, but because it is who you have decided to be. Kill them with kindness. Literally meet every offended, dramatic, whiny, complaining, victim experience with just apologies, grace, compassion and kindness.
This is not about being a doormat though. Doormats are weak. They don’t stand up for themselves or walk away because they are loving, they do it because they are scared. They are weak and just call it loving. That is not where you want to be.
Instead, you want to respond with strength and love. You don’t need to defend yourself here or be hurt, because you understand no one can hurt you because your value is absolute. Since you are bulletproof there is nothing to defend. Here, you come from a place of strength, trust, fearlessness and truth. You show up strong and loving at the same time.
When you show up this way, people can feel your strength and your love — and they can’t help but respect you more. When you get angry, play the victim or avoid the family, these are fear reactions and in the end people can feel your fear and they lose respect for you.
I have written many articles on how to deal with toxic people in the past, you can click on this link to read some of them. They will give you some other ideas for coping with these difficult family members, but the most important thing is to focus on changing the way you experience these situations (because you can rarely change other people’s behavior anyway.) Sometimes you can have mutually validating conversations and resolve issues, but if the other people are so scared they aren’t rational, this usually doesn’t work.
Just focus on becoming wiser, stronger and more loving yourself, because chances are pretty good that is why the universe has put you there.
Hang in there — you can do it.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.