Every time you get around your family, you have to deal with snarky remarks about your weight, your job, your love life, or your style of dress, etc. The holidays coming up are already making you dread seeing your family members again, and if you struggle with depression, this can make it that much harder, so here are five strategies to cope.
1. First, realize that their criticism is masking their own insecurities.
When people are insecure, they often hide it by acting superior and trying to make others feel inferior. They could also be projecting their own faults and failures on you. Parents may still see you as an extension or reflection of themselves.
Also, parents and older relatives may want to give advice but fear you will rebuff it, so they may try to couch it in humor. You may have heard this plenty of times before, but it really is more about them and how they view their world -- you don't have to make it your reality.
2. Try talking to the major offenders.
If you have a feeling that the offenders care about you and what you think, then it would be worth attempting to have an open conversation with them beforehand about how their comments hurt you. It's wise to use a "When you say [joke about] … , I feel … , " statement to start the conversation. Be prepared to listen carefully for what they have to say and to reflect it back to them without judgment.
They may positively respond to this and work on doing better. Any attempts they make to be more sensitive should be acknowledged by you later. However, if they use this occasion to discount what you have to say and further criticize you, even telling you that 'you are just too sensitive,' it might be time to start avoiding them.
3. Be prepared with some verbal self defense.
You could try practicing some comebacks, but beware, snarky people have had a lot more practice at this kind of verbal abuse. You think you just responded with a great zinger, only to hear them come up with a more clever putdown of you that gets everyone laughing at your expense. It probably is in your best interest to either acknowledge or agree with the comment, and then either move on or change the subject. A little mild self-effacing humor may also work.
One strategy that many have found to be effective for hardcore putdown artists is to have the person repeat what they said. You might say "What?" or "Pardon?" and act distracted, then wait. The thing is, they can never say it as well the second time; it will sound flat. It may even make them pause a minute to think about how offensive what they were saying is. If you look them straight in the eyes as they repeat it, they may start looking for an easier target next time.
4. Consider having supportive friends over instead.
There's an old saying: "Friends are family you choose." If you don't want to face another family gathering this year, there's no law saying you have to. It could be more affirming to celebrate the holidays with friends, or you could also consider planning a small event with supportive family members instead.
5. Get counseling and support.
It can be very helpful to discuss these issues with a therapist. Just talking about them with an understanding person can lessen the sting of criticism. A counselor can help you to come up with more strategies to cope, and will also help you to build a strong positive self regard that would make you less vulnerable to the snarky-ness that goes around. Contact a center like Rainbow Pediatrics to learn more.