Dealing With Family Peer Pressure After a Diagnosis

How to respond to family members that pressure you

Man and father having conversation
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Being diagnosed with a disease or an illness is not always an easy situation to navigate. Most likely, you will experience a lot of different emotions, including anger, frustration, and even grief. And you may even feel somewhat overwhelmed by the decision-making process. But when you add family peer pressure to the mix, your experience can feel even more intense.

While family members are an important part of any treatment plan, they should empower you to make your own choices.

Sometimes, though, family members feel the need to take control of the situation. As a result, they may pressure you to follow a particular treatment plan or demand that you adjust your lifestyle in a certain way. While many family members are motivated by love and want what they feel is best for you, it is important that they realize that when it comes to your health, it is ultimately your decision. Be sure you make the decisions and choices that are best for you without pressure from the family.

If you do have some overzealous family members who seem to want to control your treatment plan, here are some ways to handle the situation with tact and love.

Recognize That Your Family Members Care and Want to Help

Most of the time, family members pressure you to make decisions or to follow particular treatment plans because they love you and want what they feel is best. But if you do not not feel what they are suggesting is right for you, do not feel pressured to follow their advice.

Instead, acknowledge their suggestions and thank them for their advice, but tell them you are going to go a different route with your treatment. Chances are they think they are helping by offering you suggestions, so try not to get angry or defensive.

Be Firm When Responding

If your family member challenges your decision or wants to argue his point, do not feel obligated to indulge this type of behavior.

Simply state that you are going a different route right now and you appreciate their advice.

Do not try to justify your viewpoint or explain all the research that you have done. This just prolongs the conversation and gives the false impression that the family member should have some say in your healthcare decisions. Ultimately, this is your life you are discussing and you need to make decisions that feel right for you.

Give Yourself Permission to Avoid Those Who Cannot Respect Your Boundaries

Right now, your focus should be on taking care of yourself. And if other family members are not making that possible either by pressuring you to do things differently or by questioning your decisions, then they are making things more challenging than they need to be.

It is absolutely acceptable to put some distance between you and anyone who is not supportive of what you are going through. Instead, surround yourself with people who respect your decisions and will not put added pressure on you to conform.

Focus on Taking Care of Yourself, Not Pleasing Others

People pleasing is unhealthy behavior that has no place in healthcare decision-making. Remember, you cannot please everyone, nor should you try.

Right now your focus should be on becoming a partner with your healthcare team and not worrying about whether or not family members like you or your choices.

If you struggle with people pleasing or you find it hard to say no to pushy family members, then work on developing your assertiveness skills. It is very healthy and empowering to say stand up for yourself and say no to decisions that are not in line with your treatment plan.

Identify Areas Where You Need Help and Ask for It

When you are diagnosed with a serious illness or a disease, it can make family members feel powerless and afraid. For this reason, many want to jump in and take over.

They do lots of research about your condition and offer unsolicited advice. One way to deal with this reaction is to redirect their desire to help you. Let them know what you really need.

For instance, if eating heart-healthy meals is an important part of your plan, then ask them to help you plan a monthly menu or do some meal prep for days that you do not feel like cooking. If you are no longer able to drive, then ask them to be available to take you to your appointments. Make a list of the things that would really help you out. Then when they pressure you to do something that is not part of your plan, say something like: "Thank you for your suggestions. But what I really need help with is getting to and from my chemotherapy appointments. Is that something you could help me with?"

Surround Yourself WIth People Who Empower and Support You

What you are going through is not easy and you need a solid support system. You need people in your life who will not only trust your decisions but also will empower you to advocate for yourself. What's more, a good support system will validate your feelings, show empathy and respect your choices.

Look for people who are not only kind but are also real and authentic. You are more likely to be yourself and let your guard down around people who do not feel the need to pretend. What's more, these friends will treat you as an equal and trust your decisions. They also are not afraid to speak their mind. They tell you when they disagree without pressuring you to change your course of action. 

In the end, you will feel much better about your situation when you can advocate for yourself both among your family members and your healthcare team. And you will become a better healthcare consumer.

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