Would you agree in saying that we’re our worst selves to the people we love the most? Anytime I’d ask that question in the Life Skills courses I used to teach, everyone would whole-heartedly agree. Why is that though? Why do we treat our loved ones the worst again and again? If we’re aware of it, why do we keep doing it? I think it’s because we’re so comfortable, maybe a little TOO comfortable, with the ones we love most. We know that we can treat them poorly and they’ll still love and forgive us. We can run over them and take out our frustrations on them because they ‘KNOW’ us. We let our guard down and our manners and consideration vanish, all while we repeatedly make excuses to justify our words and actions…
But what if that’s not true? Even if it is true, do you really want to be the kind of person that makes other people feel like they’ve got to walk on eggshells when you’re around? Why take advantage of their unconditional love for you?
The ones closest to us extend the most grace to us, so why do we trample over it like it’s something we deserve an endless amount of?
The Why Behind It All
I used to be that way, too. (still sometimes am…hey, I’m working on it!) I was always entitled to my feelings like my family should adjust their attitudes to accommodate mine. Typically, I would be my worst after a long day. My go-to excuse for my family was that I was worn out from the day from being ‘on.’ It’s not that I was being fake to everyone else, I just put forth my ~best~ self for others because they don’t know me like that.
I would have thoughts like:
Sound familiar? When you’re thinking like that all day, it’s going to get exhausting, so when you’re finally home in your safe space you just want to turn ‘off,’ relax and recharge. Putting effort into anything feels emotionally draining. Wait..am I making another excuse for myself?! Nonetheless, by the time I would get home to my favorite people, I was too tired to continue putting forth my best self and found that I had a low tolerance for any of their quirks or habits. In the words of Alex Lickerman M.D from Psychology Today,
I believe that’s true because, in the case of strangers or acquaintances, we either don’t notice their quirks or know that we won’t be around them long enough for their irritating habits to even matter, so we just suck it up.
No matter how good our excuse is as to why our loved ones get the short end of the stick, when it comes to having a healthy relationship with them, we’ve got to cut out this habit of neglect. That’s what it is, after all, emotional neglect; which is actually a form of abuse! Geez. It keeps getting worse. Whether it be impatience that leads to lashing out or passive-aggressiveness, it is all unhealthy and damaging. But, the good news is we can make a new normal as to how we treat our loved ones.
How do we do that, though? Well for starters, by putting the following methods into practice:
How to Treat Our Loved Ones Better
1.) Implement Self-Awareness
You’re already somewhat self-aware if you think about how ‘outsiders’ see you, so what’s the difference when it comes to the relationships that matter most? What happens to our self-awareness when we get around the ones we love? I think it goes right back to being in ‘off’ mode. Being self-aware takes effort, so, for the sake of our closest relationships, we’ve got to learn how to stay in ‘on’ mode without it being so emotionally draining. After all, our loved ones deserve our best!
Typically when we’re emotionally drained and in ‘off’ mode, we focus on our loved ones’ flaws or shortcomings, get testy, and end up saying things we don’t mean.
Since self-awareness involves the ability to focus on yourself in an objective way, start by asking yourself these questions in terms of your loved ones:
- How do my actions, reactions, and words come across to them?
- Am I bitter, resentful, coarse, or rude and make excuses for it?
- What about the words I say? Are they negative and harmful, but I label them as honest and straightforward?
- How about the delivery of those words?
- What is my body language like?
- How must they feel when they witness me being ‘on’ in front of others?
Those kinds of questions can be pretty eye-opening once you take the time to really sit down and start evaluating yourself. It’s a tough task, but if you worry about what ‘others’ think of you, you should be familiar with evaluating yourself, right?
We’ve got to work on ourselves first and stop making excuses for our lack of effort or impatience. Be your own accountability partner and hold yourself to the standard you hold your loved ones to.
How to Implement
A key factor in improving your self-awareness is asking yourself some follow-up questions that will get your perspective shifting.
Instead of asking yourself ‘why’ questions…
- Why do I feel this way?
- Why do I snap at them?
- Why do I take out my frustrations on them?
…that are usually ineffective when it comes to solving a problem and will typically leave you feeling justified…
Ask yourself ‘what’ questions:
- What are the steps I can take to improve?
- What am I going to do about my bad attitude?
- What do I want to be known for?
If you can’t help but to ask yourself the ‘why’ questions, maybe for every ‘why’ question you ask, have a ‘what’ question to follow. ‘What’ questions produce a call-to-action attitude and allow you to see yourself more clearly.
2.) Show Love and Respect
Love and respect go hand-in-hand with self-awareness. Do you love and respect yourself and whoever it is you’re talking to?
If your family is getting the worst version of you, do you think you deserve their love and respect? Undoubtedly, they love you unconditionally, but is your bad attitude and lack of effort wearing thin on that unconditional love?… Just something to consider and maybe give you a little motivation to give it to them because after all…the best way to receive love and respect is to give it to others.
3.) Remember The Golden Rule
Okay, okay. I know this is elementary, but we learned it young because it’s such an essential rule to life! It’s applicable to everyone in every stage of life. I know you already know it, but in case you forgot:
“Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
I’d like to add:
- No matter what.
- Even if it’s difficult.
- Even if you have a great excuse.
- Even if they don’t deserve your best.
- Even if they know you’re just in a bad mood and don’t mean whatever you said that was uncalled for etc.
Remember it. Recite it. Live by it.
*Preaching to myself here, too.*
4.) Practice Gratitude
When you catch yourself feeling irritated towards a loved one, stop right there and think about all the things you love about them. Imagine your life without them. Try to picture how different things would be and what a void there would be without them. Soon after, you’ll find that their heavy breathing, smacking, or habit of leaving the milk out (again) isn’t a big deal at all. Why sweat the small stuff? If they were gone, we’d long for all the annoyances to come back just so we’d have them by our side.
If you recognize that, for the most part, your family is getting the less-than-dazzling version of yourself, you can change it. You can’t be 100% your best self all the time, but you can find a balance.
- Implement Self-Awareness
- Show Love and Respect
- Remember The Golden Rule
- Practice Gratitude
Referring to the beginning of this post regarding being ‘on,’ I’d like to say that I think most of us consciously, or even subconsciously, read our audience. We don’t say certain things in front of certain people, or completely let loose because we know (or don’t know) how they’ll react to it. Summed up, we’re just not comfortable yet; and I think that’s okay. In no way does that make you fake. I see that as being considerate and polite.
Now take that consideration and politeness to your family and start treating them right! They deserve the best version of you more than anyone else! All you have to do is decide, start practicing, and you’ll get results! If I can do it, so can you.
SarahAugust 14, 2020
Good stuff! My poor husband. 😅 This one jabbed me in the gut!
canliFebruary 1, 2021
I love it whenever people come together and share views. Great site, keep it up! Carlin Clayton Deth
dizilerFebruary 9, 2021
Very good blog post. Really thank you! Really Cool. Deanne Poul Celka Fernandina Gaby Donnell