We don’t want to believe that the people closest to us are going to do things to hurt us. Sure, maybe sometimes we don’t see eye to eye, but would they really go out of their way to make us feel bad about ourselves? Well, quite possibly, but it’s not usually on purpose. The way things are intended aren’t always the way they come across, and it’s hard to really understand the motivation behind the way someone is.

We’ve laid out 8 things that most family members say at some point, and what they really mean. How many have you heard? How many have you said?


“You’re too good for him/her.”

What they mean: “I’m concerned that your partner doesn’t bring you enough happiness.”

What you hear: “Your emotions are not as important as my judgment over your relationship.”

This one comes from a place of genuine love and concern, and usually comes from a close friend or family member who thinks they know you. They’re worried about your relationship, for whatever reason, and they think that your judgment is clouded. While this is sometimes true, it needs to be presented carefully – otherwise it’ll fall on deaf (and annoyed) ears.


“Are you really going to eat all that?”

What they mean: “I’m worried about the health and fitness expectations I have for you.”

What you hear: “Your health requires my validation – you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Children, teens, and young adults who suffer from body image issues almost always have a family member who encouraged the disordered thinking – and disordered thinking leads to disordered behaviors. I would like to say, from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has ever been fat-shamed by anyone else… You are so much more than your measurements, I promise.


“Why can’t you be more like _____?”

What they mean: “Your sister/brother/cousin seems to be more successful than you are. Maybe you should ask them for some advice.”

What you hear: “You are not good enough. I’d rather you were someone else instead.”

No one deserves to live in someone else’s shadow – including you. One of the most wonderful things about human beings is that we are all unique in so many ways. When we turn everything into a competition, we rob ourselves of our individuality. We destroy the very thing that makes us amazing.


“Your job isn’t good enough for you.”

What they mean: “I think you should have a different job that makes more money or gives you better perks.”

What you hear: “Your job satisfaction doesn’t matter – you need to adhere to my definition of success.”

Not everyone has the same qualifiers for satisfaction, and people are always going to pass judgment on the decisions you’ve made for yourself. That doesn’t mean you need to stick to their qualifiers, though – figure out what makes you happy, and handle your business. (Even if that means working minimum wage so you can put food on the table – a universally good job is hard to come by.)


“Are you really going like that?”

What they mean: “I’m not comfortable with the way you look right now.”

What you hear: “Your style/fashion/makeup choices aren’t good enough.”

No one likes being told what they can or should wear, and no one likes hearing that they don’t look nice. When someone undermines the choices you’ve made with your appearance – or even worse, the things about your appearance that weren’t a choice – you have the right to completely ignore them. Be your own kind of gorgeous, and find people who celebrate your gorgeousness with you.


“If you don’t _____, I’m going to _______.”

What they mean: “This thing is important enough to me that I will threaten you to make sure it happens.”

What you hear: “My control over this demand is more important to me than your happiness or sense of safety.”

Threats, ultimatums, and demands are never good for a relationship – no matter what kind of relationship that is. When the people close to you start making statements like this, they’re not showing “tough love”, they’re exhibiting control over you. It’s entirely appropriate to refuse these demands, particularly if the threat directly affects your safety, your livelihood, or your other relationships.


“I don’t care.”

What they mean: “It doesn’t matter what the reason is, my argument does not change.”

What you hear: “You don’t matter.”

This one usually comes up in an argument, when we’re already prone to saying things we don’t really mean. That doesn’t excuse it, but it should help to soften the blow at least a little. When someone tells you that they don’t care, believe them – they don’t.


“I don’t want to hear it.”

What they mean: See “I don’t care.”

What you hear: “The things you have to say are unimportant.”

In some ways, this is just an extension of “I don’t care,” above. But, it also tells a child (or young adult) that your thoughts don’t mean as much as someone else’s – someone you care deeply about. Approval from the people closest to us helps to build our self-worth, and while it is possible to build it up yourself, it’s a lot harder.


“If you just tried a little harder…”

What they mean: “I think you’re not living up to your fullest potential.”

What you hear: “If this is the best you can do, you’re not good enough.”

One of the most depressing feelings we encounter in life is the feeling that we are inadequate. We all get these feelings from time to time, but there are certain things that definitely make the feelings worse. When someone says that you should just try harder, they’re assuming that you’re not already trying as hard as you can. If you are already trying your hardest (which is impossible to see from the outside), you can start to feel like you’ll never be good enough.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.