Happy Friday! I have something tender to talk with you about today – families and your personal growth or evolution.

First of all lets just name the truth shall we?

Hanging out with family (or with any humans for that matter) is not always sweetness and light.

It’s not always autumn sun streaming through the windows, kids frolicking, leaves fluttering and coffee and pumpkin pie smells.

In fact, if you are going through a big personal growth spurt, family gatherings can be really rough.

Yet as is true of every challenge – understanding what is going on (and remembering you are not crazy and alone) can make it so much easier.

So first of all, a caveat:

If your family is genuinely physically or otherwise abusive, an elegant exit and firm boundaries (alongside lining up lots of support for yourself) may be the best way to support your own healing and growth. Please take care of yourself.

But for many of the women I work with the struggle is more subtle – a sense of not being able to show up and be seen for who they really are by their families of origin. Or feeling like there is simply not space for them to evolve and shift in the ways they desire and still remain connected. Instead they feel met with resistance at every turn — and the pressure to go back to normal or to follow the (often unspoken) rules of the tribe.

This can cut, for sure.

So in honor of Thanksgiving in the US and the start to the holiday season – I want to start a new series sharing strategies for preserving yourself and keeping your growth and momentum even around folks who you may feel “just don’t get it.”

Strategy #1: Don’t Go Hungry 

I had a fun Thanksgiving yesterday hosted by new friends in a beautiful colonial home. They threw open their doors to all the expat/American folks in Granada and dozens of us came together in their patio courtyard for a lively potluck among the palm trees. It was really tasty and my husband and I were so grateful to not have to try to cook a turkey in our tiny kitchen and to be able to introduce visiting family, his sister and dad, to more of our community. I even managed to score the super elusive family photo. (Don’t mind Perl, I made her wear a dress.)

But I broke a cardinal rule for myself and came to the party hungry. The gathering started at 3PM but we didn’t really eat until after 5PM and by that time I was seriously ready to gnaw off my arm.

Similarly it doesn’t serve you to head to family gatherings hungry for approval from your parents, your siblings or other relatives. Now of course don’t go and be a robot or totally frozen inside, but I am pointing out how much pressure it can take off you (and them) if you don’t really expect your family to be excited about your new low-sugar diet/Chi Gong practice/Enneagram course and how it has all changed your life. 

In fact I encourage you to feel totally empowered to hold all that goodness inside. Seriously, you don’t have to share it. In fact, as Brene Brown reminds us, people have to earn your vulnerability. Think of all that is stirring and shifting inside you as a glorious secret, a new way of living which is opening you wide to life. And filled from the inside out, it can be easier to simply practice the art of listening. Strange things can happen when you don’t need the people in your life to validate your choices. It can present an opportunity to use all those powerful awareness techniques and simply be present to others: Knots can untangle. Ways can open. Ease can find you.

Now please don’t ignore your own needs and go to extremes (which can trigger our inner martyr). So if someone is talking nonstop and it exhausts you, feel free to share some of your own thoughts or simply excuse yourself to get a drink of water or head to the bathroom for a tapathon. (Tapping = acupressure and a powerful DIY strategy for draining stress from your body.)

In fact tapping, meditation, and other soul food and conscious body movement before you go is another way to really fill yourself up. You can get detailed how-tos on all of these practices in my new book The Flourish Formula.

Meeting resistance to your growth is actually a really important part of the growth process. So look for more strategies from me next week. But for now remember: Family gatherings are the masterclass of personal development work. If you have been feeling pretty enlightened on your recent yoga retreat but find you are climbing out of your skin sitting next to Aunt Margaret — know that this experience is 100% normal. To be expected even. So have some compassion for yourself.

Similarly, you growing and changing can provoke all kinds of things in the hearts and minds of people who know you. Maybe they are afraid they are losing you or their connection. Maybe they feel like you are so advanced you don’t need them anymore. Maybe they are just busy inside of their own pain and confusion or perhaps you changing wakes them up to dreams of their own which had long ago gone dormant. All of this can be uncomfortable. So hold them with compassion too.

Yet here is the thing: you can’t do anything about your family or any one else’s reaction to you. You can’t even really know what it is.

But what you can do something about is how well nourished you are going into any conversations or family time which you find challenging. So in addition to the mindbody + meditation practices I mention above, now is the time likewise to fill up on conversations with chosen family — with those friends who get you easily and your tribe of like-minded people similarly committed to expanding.

In fact I created my 8 step Flourish Coaching Program to be such a community. A greenhouse of growth, where you can talk about the deep and true things without needing to be any different than you are. The women who fill this community are incredibly honest and supportive and the tools I teach (like tapping and meditation and the Enneagram) help you create your inner scaffolding for support. I’d love to talk to you more about it. I have one complimentary Discovery Session remaining for next week — and more in December. So whether you are new here or are a previous client interested in a booster of support, I hope you will say yes to this opportunity and schedule your call here.

Love and all the good,



Courtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual master's degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School and is the author of The Flourish Formula: An Overachiever's Guide to Slowing Down and Accomplishing More and creator of the 8-Step Flourish Coaching Program. Courtney helps busy women unlock their greatest gifts and thrive in their personal lives. In the summer of 2017 she followed a long time dream and moved to Nicaragua with her husband Richard Amory (they met in Nicaragua in the Peace Corps) and their three children where together they are exploring volcanic islands, colonial cities and beaches. They have made their home in Granada where they are being tutored by their neighbors in the art of slowing down and living more. Interested to learn more? Each month Courtney offers a handful of complimentary Flourish Assessment Calls for new or potential clients. You can schedule one here.

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