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What Does Family Mean to You?

September 7, 2022

Family on a boardwalk

Introduction: What Does Family Mean to You?

When you hear the word family, what comes to mind? What does family mean to you? For some, family is everything and they would do anything for them. Others have a difficult relationship with their family or maybe they don’t have one at all. Still others decide that family does not necessarily have to mean blood-related kin, but instead can be a group of people who care about each other and support each other. Families come in many forms. So, family means different things to different people.

Family having a dinner together

Who is Your Family?

What does family mean to you? Who do you consider your family? For some people, family are the people who have known you your whole life and who will always be there for you. Often, these people are blood-related to them. For others, family is whoever they choose to surround themselves with. These are the people who make you feel at home and accepted for who you are. Essentially, some people have a chosen family. Both types of families are important and have a significant impact on our lives.

Family together at a beach having fun

What is the Function of Family?

If you are questioning what does family mean to you, then you may also be wondering why do we form our lives around our family? What is the function of family?

Our Loved Ones Provides Safety

Traditionally, a family is a unit of society that provides safety and security. The family is the basic social institution from which all other institutions are built. Additionally, the family is the first group to which a child belongs and it is the first source of protection, love, and nurture. The family provides a sense of belonging and identity. It is a place of refuge in times of trouble and a source of support in times of need. Families can be large or small, but they all provide a sense of safety and security. So what does family mean to you?

Happy family making dinner together thinking about what does family mean

Family Builds You Up

No matter what type of family you have, they play an important role in your life. Family provides us with a sense of belonging and support. They are the people we can rely on when things get tough and who will celebrate our successes with us. Our family is a source of strength and love that helps us through both good and bad times. Often, our family provides us with the support we need to simply go through the day.

A Foundation for Other Relationships

What does family mean to you? For many people, family is a foundation for other relationships. After all, a healthy family builds you up. They build up your confidence so that you may go out into the world without being broken down. Family teaches you how to love and be loved. Ideally, with family, you learn how to set boundaries and ask for help. Additionally, with family, you learn how to form attachments to other people. In other words, with family support, we learn how to form strong, healthy bonds and maintain them. Essentially, your family provides you with the tools you need to build your relationships with other people.

Woman carrying her baby thinking about when life gets hard it means you just leveled up

The Truth about Our Loved Ones

So, what does family mean to you? Is it perfect? No – of course not. But, no one ever really tells you how hard having a family can be. It’s not all happy holidays and Sunday dinners. Families can be messy, complicated, and sometimes downright difficult. They may even break you down. This is especially true for families that have toxic members that go unchecked. As you can imagine, this greatly affects a person’s social, emotional, and physical development. 

For example, if you are a person who suffers from anxiety, it is possible that your family has been a factor in its development. For example, if you grew up with perfectionist parents or an alcoholic parent, you may have developed anxiety as a way to protect yourself against the judgment of others. The same can be said about people-pleasing tendencies. 

Thus, for people who have difficult families, answering the question “what does family mean to you,” is not so simple. 

Girl sick of her parents arguing with her

Family Breaks You Down

What does family mean to you? Does it mean hell? Do you enjoy being around family? If you struggle with your family, know that you are alone. After all, not everybody has a healthy family. Here are some ways the family breaks you down.

Crushing Your Confidence

So, how can family break you down? Sadly, in every possible way you can imagine. They may crush your confidence so that you are self-conscious and hate every aspect of yourself. Family often does this by making fun of you, your appearance, your job, and your likes and hobbies. Of course, families often joke around with each other. However, if it becomes a pattern where your family constantly tears you down, then it is an issue that must be addressed. 

Invalidating Emotions

Furthermore, your family may invalidate your emotions. They may say you are too sensitive without taking into consideration how they hurt you. This can cause you to either shut down your emotions or simply feel self-conscious about having feelings at all. Either way, this often negatively impacts you as you learn to navigate your adulthood. 

Boy tired of his parents arguing

Abuse and Control

At times, family can be downright abusive. Whether it is physical, verbal, or emotional, abuse can change a person’s brain chemistry to the point where they rarely feel safe. Of course, therapy and healing helps. Moreover, family is often covertly abusive. For example, parents or other people may try to take away your agency by exerting strict control over what you wear and what you eat. Other times, members of your family may be narcissistic in that they rarely accept responsibility for their faults or often try to induce guilt in other members of the family for trying to hold them accountable.

Your Experience is Valid

What does family mean to you? Is family associated with sadness, shame, fear, and the like? No matter your situation with your family, know that your experience with your family and your feelings about it are completely valid. If you have a difficult relationship with your family, know that you are not alone. Moreover, take what you can from your family – even if that just means life lessons. Perhaps you had an abusive parent, and you decide you never want to treat another human being like they did. Learn from their mistakes and apply them in your own life. Heal from them.

Help is Available

If you struggle with your family, then consider seeing a therapist about it. Often, a therapist can help you find the solutions that fit your specific family. Some people decide their family takes too much of a toll on them, so they cut them out of their life. Other people decide they simply need some more boundaries. Whatever you situation may be, know that there is help out there for you.

Mom and daughter in the field enjoying the sunlight

Chosen Family

What does family mean to you? Blood relatives or friends or both? In our modern world, the traditional family unit is no longer the only option. More and more people are choosing to create their own families, with friends or loved ones who they feel closer to than blood relatives. This chosen family can provide the same support and love as a traditional family, and for many people, they can be even stronger bonds.

Whether it’s because of distance, estrangement, or simply because they’ve never had a close relationship with their blood relatives, more and more people are finding themselves looking outside of the traditional family unit for support. And that’s okay! There’s no shame in creating your own family, with people who you choose to be in your life.

Family trying to keep everybody together

Conclusion: What Does Family Mean to You

In conclusion, family means different things to different people. For some, family is everything and they would do anything for their family members. For others, family is the people who you can count on when you need them the most.  Others may see family as a burden and something to be avoided. So, what does family mean to you? Regardless of your situation, know that you are not alone.