By: Maddy Rambeau (@lourambeau)
The word “family” can mean many different things to each individual. Typically when someone refers to their family, people take it to mean their household (mother, father, siblings, etc..). Which is rightfully so considering the Webster Dictionary definition of family is “ group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head.”
owever, our generation has taken the word “family” to a different level of meaning. Best friends casually call each other “sisters” or “brothers” even though they lack any familial relation. I have a canvas hanging on my wall right now that has a quote about sisters, but it was a gift from my best friend not my sister. A shortened version of family, “fam,” became popular through the internet and is used between close friends.
We consider good friends as “a part of the family.” So, we use the word family to express closeness among our friends. Referring to someone as a part of your family is a sign of love. Family equals love. Family equals comfort. Family equals support. What does this mean for our biological family? What if our household members don’t treat us as well as our best friend, whom we refer to as family, does? Does this mean that even though we are biologically related to them, we can consider them to not be our “family”? Surely an abusive father, unaccepting mother, or bullying sibling couldn’t possibly equate to the ideas of love, comfort, and support that family has come to represent. This concept is freeing for those of us who suffer from mistreatment of any kind from our household “family.”
Let’s break the barriers of our so called families. Family is not blood. Family is not who you live with. Family is not someone who harms you. Those things don’t define family, which is now a term entirely different from the textbook definition. Family is love. Family is comfort. Family is support. If your members of your household do love, accept, and support you then of course they are family, but if your biological “family” abuses you, mistreats you, or doesn’t accept you, then it is perfectly okay to consider them to not be your family. This doesn’t erase them from being biologically related to you, but it is instrumental to realize that the people who tear you down are not the people who you should consider your closest allies or your family.
By making this distinction, people whose “family” isn’t loving or supportive can feel so much better about themselves. It is damaging to one’s mental health to consider someone as family when their actions so often reflect something entirely opposite from the family ideals of love, support, and acceptance. This concept could greatly help those who: struggle with mental health issues and an unsupportive “family,” are part of the LGBTQA+ community and a homophobic “family,” are continually hurt by their abusive “family.” and many other situations that are so often made worse by our “family” members. Let this empower you to go beyond the textbook definition of family and to realize who is truly a part of your family. This is for those of you whose “families” are indeed not family at all.