Dealing with Guilt Due to Our Family

July 9, 2020

Personal Growth, Relationships, Therapy

There is nobody that can touch our trigger points like our family. And nobody teaches us how to deal with our feelings of guilt that may arise with them! Family is one of those elements that we can’t wholly untie from. Either because of our genes, our upbringing, our future goals, our wounds, our values, our family never leaves us. 

Family is our first space of socialization. No matter how big, small, healthy, dysfunctional, or whoever is part of it, they will always have a role in shaping who we are as a person. 


Given this impact, it is normal for us to handle feelings of guilt when our goals, decisions, and for who we are, do not go according to what our family expects.


In certain circumstances, we create our pressure and that sense of guilt that we owe something to our family. Most of the time, however, our own family establishes that pressure within us either consciously or unconsciously. Whether through comments, gender roles, expectations they tell us about, or in discussions, our family lets us know their expectations for our lives.


And it is not an exaggeration to think that this can cause an existential crisis when we feel that our individuality is at risk. 


Within this experience, feelings of guilt and shame may develop. And the guilt regarding our families can be one of the most difficult to handle. Our culture can make us feel that we owe something to the people who brought us into this world.

On this entry, I share with you some suggestions and perspectives on how to handle this guilt:


  • The people who raised us aren’t perfect. Even though they may have good wishes for us, this does not mean that all their expectations must be met. We are not responsible for the happiness of the people who raised us, nor for fulfilling all their dreams. We can wish for a different lifestyle, and it is valid. 


  • There is no “right” time to become who we want to be. Sometimes our family can make us feel guilty for being a certain age and not meeting certain expectations they have. Life is not a competition, and you don’t deserve to feel like a failure.


  • You don’t have to be a son, daughter, brother or sister, or extraordinary person to “be enough”. You’re enough from the moment you were born. Nothing and no one has the power to make you feel otherwise. 


  • Whenever we are faced with feelings of guilt, repeat the phrase “This doesn’t belong to me”. Or you can tell yourself any phrase that provides a distance between your decisions and the emotions your family is provoking in you. Our family can be made up of beautiful people. But that doesn’t mean we must do everything they expect of us.


  • There will be times when we will have to learn to be our own family. Where we will have to be that parental figure, our caretaker, and offer ourselves care, support, and safety. There are times when our family will not be able to be there for us, either because it can’t or chooses not to. These experiences can be deeply painful. However, we will always have the opportunity to learn to extend that love, care, self-worth, and security to ourselves.

Disengaging from the impact and the power of our families is an ongoing process. 

However, it should not be a process that is exclusively difficult, filled with guilt and disappointment. Our family’s legacy carries with it positive, negative, and neutral elements. Every family carries a history that repeats or changes. Sometimes breaking patterns create these feelings of guilt brought on by our family. However, how you choose to relate to this history is your decision and your right. It has been given to you from the moment you first open your eyes in this world.

If you liked this entry, or you have any questions, please feel free to reach out!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *