Family Photo

I had a fun Thanksgiving 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 scored the 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Family gatherings are the masterclass of personal development work. 

And meeting resistance to your growth is actually a really important part of the growth process.

So if you have been feeling pretty enlightened on your recent 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. 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 their connection to you.

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 your journey is waking dreams of their own which had gone dormant long ago.

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.

What you can do something about is how well nourished you are going into any conversations or family time which you find challenging.

Meditate, exercise, get a good night sleep.

Fill up on your favorite self-care strategies and love yourself well before you head into the festivities.

Don’t go hungry.

Love, Courtney

Originally Published November 2017

Courtney Pinkerton is a certified holistic life coach and the author of the Amazon bestseller, The Flourish Formula: An Overachiever’s Guide to Slowing Down & Accomplishing More. Courtney is a student and a teacher of the Enneagram who has helped hundreds of busy women (and a few inspiring men) slow down and accomplish and enjoy more in their life. She holds dual master’s degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is the creator of the flourish coaching methodology and the Flourish Formula for Families. After selling their house and all their belongings and spending a year adventuring in Nicaragua and being tutored by their neighbors in the art of slowing down and living more, Courtney and her husband Richard Amory and their three children are making a new home in Asheville, North Carolina.