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You know the term, "black sheep."
That's why you're here.
But what does it mean if you or someone you know is the black sheep of the family?
What can you actually do with that information?
Today, you're going to learn what this means for you AND what you can do with your newfound knowledge.
Baa baa, black sheep, let's go!
The Real Meaning of Black Sheep of the Family in Your Life
If you look online, you'll get all kinds of definitions for the term, "black sheep."
The truth is, there's no one, agreed-upon definition of the term.
The real meaning of it comes from your life experience.
A black sheep in a family is someone who has been ostracized.
In other words, they are left out. Forgotten. Blamed.
They are made to be the scapegoat when things go wrong.
Black sheep are easy to blame, according to others, and that's just not fair.
Because in any family, there are always lots of moving pieces. Everyone plays a role.
The black sheep just happens to have a negative role created by others.
Those last few words, "created by others," are key here.
The term black sheep is one that has to be given to you by others.
Believe it or not, there is great power in that.
Because anything that is foisted upon you without your permission is something that does not define you.
Who you are at your core comes from you, not anyone else.
What to Do if You Are a Black Sheep (AKA Why it's Good to Be the Black Sheep of the Family as a Child)
If you think that you are the black sheep of your family of origin, it's not time to hang your head and despair.
There are many people who have received this label in life and turned out perfectly fine.
In fact, being a black sheep has its advantages. Here are a few.
1. As a black sheep, you have a different perspective than your other family members.
2. Because you have unique experiences, you can provide unique value in the world.
3. Whereas other people might have a tendency to conform, black sheep know what it's like to fight and thrive on their own. Use this to your advantage.
4. You don't have to stay with your family of origin forever. You can build your own family, your chosen family.
5. You are no longer a child who has to blindly accept what you are told. Simply realizing this is so powerful.
6. But you can embrace your inner child to identify the wrongs that were done to you and resolve to help others move through and past what you experienced.
How to Reframe the Black Sheep Role as an Opportunity
By now, you should be seeing how your role as an outcast is not the one that has to stick around.
You have the power to change it.
You can relabel your label.
It's all up to you.
Dysfunctional families benefit from having someone to blame.
They blame one--or many--of the family members as a way to absolve their own guilt and hide from their own bad behavior.
As a marginalized family member, you have a set of experiences that others don't, and this is precisely what you can use to your advantage.
Here's how to take your life experience as a black sheep and make sense of it:
1. Make a list of the experiences you have in your life that you consider "black sheep" experiences.
2. Looking at that list, think about the role that each family member played in each of the experiences.
3. Create two columns to group your thoughts.
4. Name one column, "good" and one column "bad."
5. Now start to put various behaviors and actions from you and your family in either column.
6. The process of labeling behaviors good or bad is intentionally a challenging one and will force you to analyze how your black sheep status has influenced your thinking.
7. Make note of any patterns that emerge.
8. Identify any thoughts about people, especially yourself, that you weren't expecting.
9. Ask yourself, "What is most surprising or unexpected?"
10. Now ask, "Am I say the person as I was a child?"
Why did I have you go through all of this?
So that you can get some distance from the world that has been created for you.
In the end, "black sheep of the family" is just a phrase.
Words only have value when we all agree that there is shared meaning.
Fortunately for you, "black sheep of the family" has no universal meaning.
That's why you must analyze your family of origin and the experiences you had as part of it.
That's why you must decide if it's time to build your own family, a chosen one, or resolve to heal old wounds with your family of origin.
Only you can decide what your path will be.
There are no perfect families and never will be.
Adult children have the power to realize this.
If your birth family called you a black sheep, so be it.
That's what they had to do feel whatever they needed to feel at the time.
But your family dynamic, past or present, does not have to determine how you feel about yourself today in the here and now.
Be whatever kind of sheep you want to be.
Or don't be one at all.
Create your own meaning.