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31 Lessons I Learned Travelling The World Alone

31 Lessons I Learned Travelling The World Alone
Over the past 18 months, I’ve travelled around the world to different cities and countries, including Paris, France; Munich, Germany; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Cusco, Peru; Medellin, Colombia; NYC, USA; and more.

All of these trips have been with me, myself, and I.

People talk about how great travelling alone is and why you need to try it. So, I finally mustered up the courage and set out to venture on my own.

Let me be upfront by telling you that travelling alone is not for everyone. For those brave enough to take on the challenge, the lessons learnt can be life changing. They were for me so far, and the journey has only just begun.

Here are 31 lessons you will learn while travelling alone.

1. You Hate Being Alone.

You step out of that airport and can’t help but feel nervous, lonely, and doubtful. This is how everyone feels at the beginning of their adventure — and only at the beginning.

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    2. You Love Being Alone.

    Being alone becomes a way of living and you have complete freedom to do what you want, when you want.

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      3. Experiences > Materials.

      The transition from living with a car, a home, and your own TV to a backpack makes you realize how much your possessions owned you. Experiences are life-lasting. Materials give you nothing but a bill.

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        4. Quality Beats Quantity.

        We live in a quantified world where the higher the number, the more it’s attributed to success — followers, bank accounts, houses. For some, this also applies to the number of places visited. However, it’s far better to spend 3 months in a city learning its culture, language, and creating lasting relationships than trying to hit 10 cities in 3 months.

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          5. Learn A New Language.

          It’s only when you travel to a foreign country that you realize how big the world truly is and how much of a bubble you’ve been living in.

          For example, if English is the only language you can understand, you’re only able to communicate with 12% of the world. The best way to understand the rest of the world and the amazing cultures out there is to learn a new language. Just by learning a popular language like Spanish or Mandarin, your reach and understanding of the world doubles.

          In the Internet era we live in today, there’s no excuse not to know another language. Take advantage of websites like Rype that provide unlimited one-on-one Spanish lessons online with a private teacher, anytime, anywhere.

          We’re entering a Multilingual era, and it’s up to you to take advantage of it.

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            6. You Learn To Love Yourself.

            Travelling alone gets lonely — there’s no doubt about it. Facing your inner thoughts and being comfortable and happy with who you are as a person will be one of the most valuable lessons you’ll learn.

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              7. You Stop Caring What Others Think About You

              There’s a big difference between outer confidence and inner confidence. Outer confidence can be faked and is hard to sustain. Inner confidence is being 100% comfortable in your own skin. Stop caring what other people think and have the confidence to do what you want, when you want.

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                8. Own Up To Your Success And Mistakes.

                When you’re travelling alone, there’s no one else that is there to help you make a decision. However that decision turns out, you need to own up to it.

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                  9. Trust Your Intuition.

                  Every day, you’re making small and big decisions. There will never be enough information to make the perfect decision, and the ability to trust your intuition is the key to survival.

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                    10. Home Is Where You Are.

                    Home starts to follow you wherever you go, with everything you own on your back.

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                      11. Blend Into The City.

                      If you’ve come all this way to visit a city, then be in it 100%. Speak the language, hang out with the locals, eat the food. Don’t be that person who clings to other foreigners.

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                        12. What’s Important In Your Life.

                        You hear the most fascinating life stories from people you meet. From rags to riches, near-death experiences, parents with cancer, the list goes on.

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                          13. Who’s Important In Your Life.

                          Being away for a period of time across the world makes you realize who the important people are in your life. We’re “burdened” by proximity throughout our lives, which makes it easy to develop artificial relationships solely from frequent interactions. Your real relationships are put to the test.

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                            14. Don’t Allow Your Phone To Bring You Back.

                            There’s something magical about travelling and being in a completely different city. You become more open-minded, your mindset shifts, and you can create the most meaningful relationships. Don’t allow your phone to take that away from you. Put it away.

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                              15. Be Weird.

                              Life is way too short to live in the confined limits of how society expects you to act in public. Embrace your natural weird side, because each of us has it. Take the risk.

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                                16. Don’t Delay Your Happiness.

                                There’s a difference between fulfillment and happiness. Fulfillment may be a life-long investment to master and earn, but you can choose to be happy here and now. Smile.

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                                  17. There’s So Much To Learn.

                                  There’s so much we don’t know about the world and the people that live here  —  culture, food, language. The list goes on. The truth is that most of us have been confined by the same part of the world, with the same mindset, for all our lives.

                                  As the saying goes, the more you know, the less you know.

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                                    18. Execution Beats All.

                                    You can talk all day about doing something, but without taking any action, it’s just talk. There are people in the world working 10x harder than we are at our normal jobs and getting paid 1/100th of our normal pay. Most of us don’t know what hard work means.

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                                      19. There’s No Such Thing As A Stranger.

                                      There’s something about meeting with a fellow traveller that immediately connects you with them. If anyone has stayed at an hostel, then you can relate to this.

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                                        20. Vulnerability Is Sexy.

                                        This took me a while to realize, but vulnerability is the sexiest thing a human being can show. Last week, I had a 3-hour non-stop conversation on my flight to Colombia, and the conversation got so intense she ended up tearing up. It was one of the most real moments I’ve experienced in a long time.

                                        It takes a next level of confidence to put yourself on the line for rejection or failure. Embrace humility.

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                                          21. See People For Who They Are.

                                          One of my favorite things about travelling is how people’s normal societal layers are uncovered physically and mentally. Everyone is dressed similarly, without the mask of a three-piece suit, and you’re judged solely on who you are as a person  —  nothing else.

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                                            22. Kill Them With Kindness.

                                            It’s easier to react with frustration than respond with kindness. Choose the latter, you won’t regret it.

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                                              23. Bring Books.

                                              Enhancing your already-open mind with books will do wonders for your creativity. With the amount of layovers, flights, transportation, and unwinding time you’ll have , you can easily read 1 book a week. Check out our top 10 books to read recommended by Barack Obama and Steve Jobs.

                                               
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                                                24. Spontaneity Becomes A Way Of Living.

                                                Unexpected moments will arise during your travels, and your spontaneity muscles will grow.

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                                                  25. Alone Isn’t The Answer.

                                                  If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

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                                                    26. Live For Random Acts Of Kindness.

                                                    It’s the easiest, yet most powerful way to make the world smile.

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                                                      27. You Cringe At #Firstworldproblems.

                                                      It’s hard to empathize with people complaining about losing their restaurant reservations or getting a middle seat on a plane when you meet people who are making less than $5/day while supporting their families.

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                                                        28. Invest In Yourself.

                                                        Travelling alone is one of the few times in your life where your number one goal is to take care of yourself. Be OK with that because you won’t get this moment back.

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                                                          29. Have A Purpose.

                                                          Have a purpose bigger than yourself and your personal goals in life. It’s purpose that empowers us to get through the grind and the obstacles that come our way. The realization that you’re not doing this for yourself, that there are others counting on you, will drive you.

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                                                            30. Stand For Something, Or Stand For Nothing.

                                                            Be bold enough to stand up for what you believe in, but have the humility to know that you don’t have all the answers.

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                                                              31. We’re All Human.

                                                              The irony of travelling is that we set out to explore different cultures, different foods, different people, yet what we come back to realize is that we’re all just the same.

                                                              Poor, rich, famous, Asian, Black, White, Latino  —  we’re all playing the same game of life. At the end of the day, we all want love, validation, respect, and security for our future.

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                                                                Sean Kim

                                                                Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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                                                                Last Updated on November 11, 2019

                                                                Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

                                                                Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

                                                                A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

                                                                You know how this looks:

                                                                • Parents constantly comparing children.
                                                                • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
                                                                • Domestic violence.
                                                                • Adultery…
                                                                • And many others.

                                                                For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

                                                                Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

                                                                Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

                                                                This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

                                                                In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

                                                                If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

                                                                How to fix a dysfunctional family

                                                                In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

                                                                And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

                                                                Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

                                                                It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

                                                                Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

                                                                Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

                                                                There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

                                                                Dysfunctional… Or just average?

                                                                Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

                                                                The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

                                                                You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

                                                                A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

                                                                Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

                                                                Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

                                                                • Unrealistic expectations
                                                                • Lack of interest and time spent together
                                                                • Sexism
                                                                • Utilitarianism
                                                                • Lack of empathy
                                                                • Unequal or unfair treatment
                                                                • Disrespect towards boundaries
                                                                • Control Issues
                                                                • Jealousy
                                                                • Verbal and physical abuse
                                                                • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

                                                                You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

                                                                If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

                                                                Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

                                                                How to turn it around

                                                                When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

                                                                But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

                                                                One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

                                                                We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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                                                                As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

                                                                What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

                                                                Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

                                                                Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

                                                                Correction is possible

                                                                In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

                                                                Verbalize it.

                                                                All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

                                                                Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

                                                                This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

                                                                But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

                                                                So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

                                                                Putting it to work in real life

                                                                In real life it would be something like this:

                                                                “OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

                                                                Or:

                                                                “Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

                                                                Or:

                                                                “Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

                                                                As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

                                                                This is what you have to remember:

                                                                1-Stop.

                                                                2-Why it’s wrong?

                                                                3-What you need.

                                                                And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

                                                                It’s a family thing

                                                                A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

                                                                Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

                                                                In other words, you will need cooperation…

                                                                So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

                                                                Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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                                                                We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

                                                                You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

                                                                It’s not a free-for-all battle

                                                                In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

                                                                No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

                                                                Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

                                                                And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

                                                                The method

                                                                1. Drop the ego

                                                                Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

                                                                You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

                                                                Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

                                                                What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

                                                                It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

                                                                After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

                                                                Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

                                                                Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

                                                                Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

                                                                And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

                                                                You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

                                                                2. Not blame, but responsibility

                                                                When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

                                                                But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

                                                                When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

                                                                What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

                                                                Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

                                                                As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

                                                                You will do something like this:

                                                                “Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

                                                                I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

                                                                You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

                                                                I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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                                                                It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

                                                                What happened here?

                                                                We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

                                                                We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

                                                                We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

                                                                And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

                                                                You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

                                                                This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

                                                                3. Doing the work

                                                                What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

                                                                This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

                                                                Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

                                                                If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

                                                                It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

                                                                “When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

                                                                I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

                                                                But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

                                                                You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

                                                                Love is all you need

                                                                You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

                                                                That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

                                                                And what happens if it simply is not there?

                                                                What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

                                                                What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

                                                                There is only one thing you can do:

                                                                To break away.

                                                                Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

                                                                There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

                                                                “We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

                                                                If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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                                                                Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

                                                                You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

                                                                Putting distance

                                                                So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

                                                                What do I mean?

                                                                Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

                                                                Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

                                                                Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

                                                                Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

                                                                They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

                                                                Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

                                                                I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

                                                                I choose my peace of mind.

                                                                And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

                                                                Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

                                                                Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

                                                                How to prevent it

                                                                There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

                                                                • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
                                                                • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

                                                                Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

                                                                You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

                                                                Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

                                                                Priorities and clear thought

                                                                You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

                                                                You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

                                                                You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

                                                                Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

                                                                If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

                                                                And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

                                                                Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

                                                                But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

                                                                Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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