Do you feel like an outcast? Do you feel different, teased or even rejected? Being a black sheep in the family can be an emotional and psychological struggle.
Family dynamics can be complicated. Every family has a designated role for each member. And “the Black Sheep” is one such role that makes you feel ridiculed, isolated and neglected. As you become an outcast, you start to close yourself off from others and share less leading to a lot of trauma simmering inside. No one wants to be the black sheep in their family. We all want to be accepted and belong to our tribe… our family. However, being the black sheep means you will never experience that feeling of acceptance and belonging. But it can also come as a blessing in disguise.
Being the black sheep in the family
It certainly is emotionally and mentally taxing when you are the black sheep in the family. You are misunderstood and called “weird” because you look at things differently. But it’s not just your perspective on life, it could be any number of things that can make you the black sheep – your lifestyle, your choices, your decisions, your physical appearances or some specific traits – the list could go on and on.
Although your family members might not have directly rejected you or ridiculed you, you always felt this indescribable feeling that you were the black sheep. That you were different. Or maybe it was more direct. Maybe you were treated differently and were called out or even kicked out. Whether it was subtle or explicit, your family made sure you knew you were the one. That was your role in the family.
Elizabeth Dorrance Hall, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication at Utah State University, writes “Being the black sheep of the family is undeniably hard. Black sheep are treated differently, excluded, or disapproved of by the rest of the family. People are considered black sheep for a wide variety of reasons, including leaving the family religion, not following prescribed gender roles, having different values or beliefs than the rest of the family, or loving/marrying an “undesirable” partner.”
What is the black sheep?
The black sheep in the family usually refers to the ‘peculiar” member of the family who is a clear misfit. The black sheep is unlike the other members in the family unit and is considered to be the worst member as they are different. It is considered that the black sheep has a bad reputation and makes wrong decisions. They are the one who do not fit in with the rest of the family and do not follow the rules of the family.
However, this is far from the truth. A black sheep is simply a unique individual who is different from the others. They may be more sensitive, creative or even more risk-taking than the other family members. They may have different values, choices and lifestyle which makes them stand out. And perhaps this is why they experience a lot of struggles as they fail to blend in with their families or communities.
The term came into existence from the fact that black lambs or sheep are rare and considered less valuable compared to white sheep as their wool is harder to dye. During the 18th century, the word started taking a negative meaning and became a phrase that implies the odd one out in the family.
However, Elizabeth believes it is more appropriate to identify black sheep in the family as “marginalized family members.” She adds “We often talk about family as having a black sheep and a golden child as the two big roles among siblings, and it feels to a lot of people like someone needs to fill those roles.” Families tend to marginalize or alienate the members in the family who act and behave differently as families believe that criticizing them will make the black sheep realize their ‘mistake’ and “bring them back into the group.”