Family is a big word, and one which means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some, it’s a lifelong commitment to looking out for one another and supporting one another. For others, it’s chaos and torment of the highest degree. Our families are complicated and they aren’t made any easier by the pace of the changing world. Sometimes, it’s necessary to make a break from the people who raised us and build a chosen family of our own.
Some families are born and some are chosen.
As children, our families form the base of our world and the first reference point by which we learn to see ourselves in the world. They’re important, and they mark the first big developmental lessons and milestones we reach along the way. Not all families take care of their own, though, and not all families love their members for who they authentically are. While we’re all born with some kind of family, they are not always the people with us at the finish line.
Some families are born to us, and some families are chosen by us. That’s just the way life works. We’re not always going to get along with our families, or agree on the ways in which they see the world. That’s okay. Solid connection is built on far more than that. Do you and your family find it impossible to understand one another? Chosen family can help us deal with this.
The people we choose to surround ourselves with should see us as we are and value us for that and that alone. They don’t want us to become something that we aren’t. They don’t want us to change to earn their love, or prove ourselves worthy of their attention. We can choose people who see us, and who love us anyway. People who are natural carers and natural supporters. That choice relies on our own awareness of self, though, as well as the courage to do what is right.
The qualities you should look for in your chosen family.
Building a chosen family isn’t a matter of letting just anyone into our lives. This is just as reckless as staying enmeshed with a biological family who are dangerous or toxic. When it comes to the chosen family you surround yourself with, there are some core characteristics you should always look for.
Caring people make great chosen family members, as they know how to be there for us, and they know how to care about our wellbeing from genuine place. The carer is that friend who wants you to thrive and / or find success and abundance in this life. They don’t care what you give them; they care only that you know you’re supported and loved.
A sense of humor
It’s no secret that times are dark right now. A sense of humor is invaluable. Do the people around you laugh easily and often? Are they always looking for a brighter side to the situation or commotion? This can be a real gift when it comes to recharging your batteries and finding that last shred of strength you needed to keep going.
Honest and open
Good communication is yet another cornerstone of a healthy relationship, but many of us struggle with this in our families. We have to communicate our emotions and we have to be safe in stating how we feel. Beyond that, happy and healthy relationships require that the other people involved are willing to be open as well. It’s a two-way street and a characteristic we should seek in our chosen family members.
Judgmental and controlling behavior is one of the most common reasons that the family unit fractures as we know it. We have to be free to live authentically and in line with our truth. Seek chosen family that doesn’t judge who you are or the decisions you make for your life. Seek those who will always encourage you to do what they think is authentically best. Avoid those who make you feel small for pursuing your happiness or interests.
When building a life that is filled with relationships that are rewarding and fulfilling, it’s imperative that we seek those who have similar alignments to our own. That is, they should want the same things in life, or they should be going in the same general direction. These are the people who are able to build one another up rather than tear one another down. They are those who are seeking to improve their lives — rather than settling for the same old hurts and disappointments.
Emotional awareness is a major part of personal growth, and one of the best gifts we can give to ourselves and our relationships. Emotional awareness helps you recognize and manage your emotions, while also coming to understand them in others. Those who are aware of their emotions come to see the world for what it really is and aren’t ashamed of how they feel. Surrounding ourselves with emotionally aware people improves the way we see ourselves and the world around us.
How to build a chosen family of your own.
You don’t have to accept a dysfunctional family, or loved ones who hurt you or make you feel small. It’s possible to make the conscious decision to build a family that’s intentional and chosen. You’re allowed to surround yourself with people who love you as you are, and this is how you’re going to do it.
1. Figure out who you are
Before you can go out into the world and find people who appreciate you for who you are, you need to spend some time figuring out who that person is. Living in the midst of dysfunction or trauma can cause you to separate from self or the things you enjoy out of a need for self-preservation. You need to realize that self again so you can realize who they are and what they want to be surrounded by.
It’s time for you to get clear on what means the most for your future. Get a journal and use a few clear pages to really explore where you’re at and where you ultimately want to be. Explore and question every aspect of your life. What do you want from your career? Your home life? How do you want to be treated by others?
Explore too the things which interest you or bring you passion. Sharing interest with our friends and loved ones is important, and it allows us to bond on deeper and more meaningful levels. You need to figure out exactly who you are so you can find those who are want exactly what you’re putting out into the universe. This stage requires brutal honesty, or else it risks being ineffective. You need to admit what you want from every aspect of self.
2. Get clear on your essentials
Once you know who you are, you’ll be equipped to get a handle on what you want in those you surround yourself with. What kind of family do you want to build for yourself? What space do you want it to possess in your life? Getting to the bottom of these answers requires that we start at the beginning and look back at where we came from (so we can figure out where we’re going).
Consider the family you came from. What features did you love about your family? What situations or experiences drove you away from them? Compare what you had to the ideal vision of what you want. From this place we can form a picture of the type of people we need in our lives.
Really focus on how you want to feel around the people you surround yourself with. Match their integrity with your own; align your values and the directions you’re taking in life. We are raised up when we elevate the quality of the people we love. Stop settling and get clear on your essentials. Picture the perfect family for you and then know you are deserving enough to have that.
3. Set boundaries for yourself
Healthy families are largely determined by their boundaries, as well as their love for one another. We use boundaries to communicate our expectations to others, but we also use them to create space for ourselves. Our boundaries aren’t just about fending others off or drawing the line between us and them, however. We also have to set boundaries for ourselves in order to ensure we’re not settling for less than we deserve.
Start setting some limits for yourself. Look at the patterns of connection you use with others. Do you keep falling into the same traps with toxic friends, or family members who take advantage of your opportunities or sensitivity?
You have to make the decision to draw a line between yourself and the mistakes you keep making. Analyze your patterns and question where they come from, then commit to never consciously making that decision again. Question your relationships with new chosen family before they have a chance to take root — and be honest. Are you going back to someone who is toxic for you, or are you investing in the right person to support and love you?
4. Connect with those who match-up
There is no point in building a chosen family that doesn’t align with your values or the path you’re taking in life. We are only as good as the life we choose to build for ourselves. That includes the friends and family that fill the space around us. We need to align at the core of who we are with those closest to us. We should share the same core vision, and we should want the best for one another.
You don’t need to have the same jobs, the same families, or even the same superficial needs in life. Family transcends superficialities like this. A true chosen family is one that is united in love, mutual respect, and a desire to see the other person thrive.
Instead of surrounding yourself with people who take from you, find those who want to build you up. Look for those who are seeking the same peace and contentment in life, and you will find that peace and that contentment in your relationships. Don’t pursue people with chaos in their hearts and in their minds. Match up what you want for the future (and the way you treat one another) and the rest will fall into place.
5. Lean into who you are
At the end of the day, there can be no truly happy chosen family without authenticity and transparency. Not only do we have to be honest and real with the people we bring in our lives — we have to be honest and real with ourselves. You need to lean into who you really are, and become the person that allows you to be fulfilled, at peace, and happy with yourself.
Now that you know who you are and you’re beginning to build a sense of your social self, it’s time to lean fully into who you are. You need to give it everything you’ve got and become the person you were always waiting to be.
Follow the pursuits that bring you happiness and excitement. Get engaged in the things that thrill you, and through that you will find the people who are meant to be in your life. Chase your meaning. Chase the right career and the right friends. Your chosen family will come to you when you’re ready. Lean into who you are and what you want your life to be to let them in.
Putting it all together…
Our families are complex and dynamic, with a lot of different personalities and a lot of different beliefs. Although we may love the family which brings us into the world, our relationships with them are not always healthy or long-lasting. When the family we grow up with isn’t the right fit, we can build ourselves a chosen family instead.
Figure out who you are and what you want from your life. This is an essential first step in figuring out who we want to be surrounded by. Focus on the qualities you want in the chosen family you build up around you. You deserve to be surrounded by the people who want to see you thrive, and you can be. Set boundaries for yourself and stop settling for the subpar connections that are making you miserable and stressed. Align yourself with those who match-up with your sense of integrity and the direction you’re going in life. Lean into who you are, and bond with those who know who they are as well. While our birth families may not turn out like we want them to, our chosen families can. Find the love you’re seeking and learn to appreciate it in an entirely new form.