6 Sad Reasons Why A Family Creates A Black Sheep

I’m the black sheep of my family,”

said the young man who sat before me in my therapy office. I tried to imagine this adorable, sad young man being the “black sheep” of anything. I couldn’t.

Generally considered the outcast of the family, the black sheep is typically assumed to be an oddball. Furthermore, the rest of the family believes that the black sheep brought this upon himself.

It is true that sometimes the black sheep is indeed “odd” by anyone’s standards (sometimes the result of a hidden mental illness). Or she may be a sociopath who violates the family’s boundaries and care, so that the family has to exclude her to rightfully protect themselves.

But surprisingly, very seldom is either of these scenarios actually the case. Many, many black sheep are lovable folks with much to offer their families and the world. In fact, they are often the best and brightest. They may be the most creative of the family, or the one with the most powerful emotions.

In truth, the world is full of black sheep. Think hard. Does your family have one? This question is not as easy to answer as it may seem, for many black sheep are not physically excluded from the family. For most, it’s much more subtle. The exclusion is emotional. 

Three Signs That Your Family Has a Black Sheep: 

  1. One member often, over a long period of time, seems hurt or angry for no apparent reason.
  2. One person is often, and on a long-term basis, talked about negatively behind his back. “He’s so annoying,” “What a weirdo/disappointment/loser/fill in the blank.”
  3. One member is subtly not invited to certain family occasions or left out of the loop on family news. 

So if most black sheep aren’t actually weirdos who brought their exclusion upon themselves, what would cause a family to treat one of their own this way? The real cause does not lie within any individual family member. No. Instead it’s a product of family dynamics.

Here are the sources that I see most often.

The Six Top Family Dynamics Which Result in a Black Sheep:

  1. The child who has the least in common with the parents. This child sticks out because of his personality, temperament or interests. The parents are baffled by him and inadvertently treat him differently, which spreads to the siblings.
  2. The best and the brightest. This child threatens to outperform or outshine one or both of the parents. Either consciously or unconsciously, the parents sabotage her to hold her back. This way, they won’t lose her and they won’t have to feel badly about themselves in comparison to her.
  3. The child most prone to depression or anxiety. The child with intense or dark feelings or thoughts which the parents cannot understand may frighten them. At a loss about how to help, they may just keep him at a distance.
  4. Sibling rivalry. In this family, there is simply not enough attention or love to go around. One or both of the parents is limited in some way; by mental illness, personality disorder, or substance abuse for example. The siblings must jockey for whatever they can get.
  5. A parent who despises himself deep down. This parent can appear to be quite loving of her children, so she can be difficult to spot. But she is unable to tolerate certain aspects of herself, so she projects those traits onto a chosen child, and despises him instead. It is an unconscious coping mechanism that happens outside of the parent’s awareness.
  6. Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN): the child who is the most invisible. In this family, all of the children may get the subtle (or not-so-subtle) message that their feelings don’t matter. But one is better at hiding his own needs, feelings, and self than the others. This child literally disappears from the family’s radar screen and is ignored. He becomes persona non grata. He is the one who matters the least.

With any of the six causes above, the excluded or targeted child senses early on that he must be different, bad or inferior. In a case of self-fulfilling prophecy, he learns to play his role in the family. Often, he plays it very well.

What should you do if you recognize your family in these words? It is indeed difficult to turn around entrenched family dynamics like these.  But you can make a difference:

Choose to see your family through a more complex lens.

Ask yourself: Is this right? Is this the person that I want to be? Is this how I want to treat my sibling or child?

Share this article with chosen members of your family.

Look at your black sheep with fresh eyes and notice what you’ve never seen before.

Open your heart and your little section of the family circle.

Let your black sheep know that you reclaim him.

If you are a Black Sheep:

You are right to be baffled and confused. Nothing is as simple as it has always seemed. Know that you have value. And it is not your fault. Watch for a future post: Message to the Black Sheep of the World.

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, how and why it happens, and how it affects all of the children in the family see Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships 

This article was originally published on Psychcentral.com and has been republished here with the permission of the author and PsychCentral


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Dee - July 1, 2020 Reply

I’m the black sheep because I was “the gifted one.” My narc mother hyperfixated on me because I was her only daughter and made me practice piano for 2hrs a day. I was artistic and good at school. My older brothers ganged up on me all the time. My parents ignored me unless it was to hit me for doing wrong or to criticize me to try harder towards goals they set.

My oldest brother molested me for well over a decade from the age of 4. My parents found out eventually and didnt get either of us therapy and the abuse simply continued. They eventually kicked my brother out. Parents just kept it hush hush to protect their reputation.

When that all came out 2 decades later my parents blamed me for stirring the pot and trying to ruin my oldest brother’s life and marriage, while I tried to deal with the trauma in my 20s and worry that my nieces will face the same abuse. My middle brother, when he found out, tried to start a brawl with the oldest at my grandfather’s funeral while I desperately tried to calm him down cause it wasnt the time, nor place.

I am perpetually having to be the bigger more mature person in all these relationships. I am judged by my extended family as well because I was apparently a brat who acted out as a child (wonder why!) and they all still hold the same opinions of me despite my personality changing drastically after I began to heal emotionally.

I hold them all at arms length to protect myself emotionally but we still have contact. Its constantly a struggle knowing I have virtually no support and everyone judges me based off impressions I made as a mouthy 6 yr old. Only my immediate family and close friends know of the extreme abuse.

    Jonice - July 1, 2020 Reply

    Dear Dee, I’m sorry you’ve been through all this. Being in a position where you have to be the bigger person is very challenging, but at least it’s a positive challenge, requiring you to manage your feelings and respond with thought and care. Just be sure to honor your feelings along the way.

Max - June 29, 2020 Reply

My mom used to say I had “self-induced” middle child syndrome. But not only am I a middle child but I am also the only one with a different father.

My parents are over critical of me and often talk down on me behind my back. Im the screw up in their eyes. I recently learned that they’re embarrassed to have my photos of me next to me siblings up because I “look like I struggle too much”. Seems like no matter what I do its never good enough.

    Jonice - June 30, 2020 Reply

    Dear Max, I’m so sorry you’re being treated this way. I hope you can try to stop trying to please your family and start pleasing yourself instead. You are what matters, and you deserve people in your life who can see you and love you for who you are. Go find them!

Karen - June 27, 2020 Reply

I’m proud to be the “Black Sheep”, without me my siblings couldn’t sleep at night! I would never want to be them. They are judgemental, narcissistic, pretentious, selfish and miserable. So, I am content with the hand I was dealt.

    Jonice - June 27, 2020 Reply

    You make an important point, Karen. Often, it’s the so-called black sheep who is the fortunate one.

Lisa - June 25, 2020 Reply

Ever since I was a toddler, I had to fight to be included in the fun my older brothers were having. I’m the black sheep bc I got bad grades and have learning disabilities. I got bullied every day and my parents did ZERO to stop it. It’s like they encouraged it. Now in present day, I’m not bullied but I’m ignored. Whenever there’s a family event, I never hear about it and when one brother visits the other, they totally forget that I exist. My sister in law does nothing to make me feel included. It’s like there’s a tension there like I should just get up and leave. As a result of this, I have little to do with them.

    Jonice - June 26, 2020 Reply

    Dear Lisa, I encourage you to focus on yourself, valuing and knowing and loving yourself since your family seems incapable of offering you what you deserve.

Sun - June 18, 2020 Reply

Thank you for the article!I am also the black sheep of the family. And from my experience, I can only add to this post- such family dynamics are very hard or practicly impossible to change. So my advice to all black sheeps- distance yourself and live your life withot this family, as continuing to communicate is only going to wear you out, and its very slim chance your family members will ever see you as this wounderful person you are…
My story fits well within these frameworks-I grew in highly dysfunctional home, even that it was considered by many a perfect family (no substance abuse, hard working, good parents, etc) so I was chosen by my mother to be black sheep and to be blamed for everything, as I was brightest, most sensitive, visualy different… my mother would often say I am not her child and neglected me in any way possible (for example, i was blamed for anything, what was wrong in our family, i was called fat and ugly-even if my waight was in fact on smaller size- once I was drowning, and she not only didnt rescue me, she even has no memory of such incident, she send me go shoping for family groceries by myselve, since I was 6, the bags I carried were oftentimes so heavy i chouldnt carry and shop assistans would go asking where are my parents, I had to take care for my younger siblings, even if i was just year or few older then them and couldnt take such responsability, and had to do this instead doing my homework, meeting my friens, etc of course she newer considered my needs, and i got punished for even expressing them, newer once she looked at my school tasks, needs and questions, she even managed to make me working instead of her, since I was 14, i still can not figure out why her job collegues newer did anything about that?,etc,etc) so naturally, that attitude was picked by my siblings, who were also calling me names, breaking my things, etc. Normally you would think after childhood and teenage years like that, one would cut away all ties with family and newer come back. But thats the sinister side of the black sheep-somehow you can not escape that easily, somehow you feel connected. And in my case, over the years, I tried to change my family dynamic and restart my relationship with adult siblings on more normal gruonds (as for my mother I somehow knew she is not going to change, so I learned how to avoid or minimise communication). And even if on the first glance my relationship with siblings seemed to be decent-not close, but not abusive, every difficult situation, every problem would create abusive response from their side, they go on as to humiliate me in front of other people. Besides I noticed, that they tend to somehow be ashamed of me, and see me as looser, ugly, worfless, all my jobs for them seemed to be a joke, all my acheivements were nothing, they ould use every ocasion to gossip about me, and so on-and keep in mind they think this about the person, who by our society standarts is considered a success-thought as beauty by most, worked in high position with goverment projects, owns business, presenting research results in international events, etc etc . So I come to very painful realisation, that if my siblings had courrage at least to come out and honestly say they hate me, we would have a chance to try to work out our relationship. But unfortunately, they stick so much to this hate, so they see me through a broken glass, probably becouse if they would be honest to themselves, they have to conclude they werent very nice siblings to be so abusive towards me, to say the least, and they of course think themselves as good people, so this abuse doasnt fit in such framework of good person.
So to conclude-after all troubles with family, soulsearching, self help books, therapy, etc etc-now I do live happy life the way I want it with the people, who see me as highly acomplished, bright, kind human being. And just becouse I am that, I tried to make my family relationships better. But if they choose to stay abusive, I can only respect that decision and go to live my life as far away from such people as possible. And the goid news:
Im not anymore in this family so im not anymore the black sheep! 🙂 be happy everyone!

    Karen - June 27, 2020 Reply

    I am the “Black Sheep” of my so called family! Thank God! I would rather be the “Black Sheep “, than to be anything like my brother and sister. They are judgemental, pretentious, narcissistic and miserable! Look all you so called “Black Sheeps”, your family needs you so that they can feel better about themselves! Bottom line! Embrace who you know that you are and not who they so want you to believe that you are!

      adam - June 27, 2020 Reply

      shit still hurts though when i try and keep in contact witht them and they still treat me like im not important or rarely text or call me but i will keep trying because i love em but pain is deep for the way they treat me

Rafi - June 11, 2020 Reply

I am the black sheep of my family.

My interests and achievements outglow everyone in my family because I am an overachiever, however, I feel like everyone on my mum’s side hates me even my sister has the power to leave me out of family events and gatherings and I begin to feel invisible again. It feels like no one can save me and at times my father was the only one that comforted me but he is no longer here. When my father passed away last month it just got worse and I noticed my mum only speaks about my sister and how proud she is with her as well as my gran and uncle. Last year they made me look bad in front of my father for getting sick because I overstudied so they broke my phone and forbid me from contacting my friends again. 🙁 🙁

At times I get back up and fight to be strong because I don’t expect life to be easy for me but sometimes find myself at a bottomless pit missing my dad and friends dearly. 🙁

Even though I am the most reliable one in my family, the one who does everything for my sister, mum, and uncle, in fact, everyone I just wished I felt loved and belonged.

Even though I forbid myself to show it I feel like these emotions sometimes numb me, even though I am secretly like this I know it’s not right to make my problems anyone elses because I still care for them not to stress them as well as I feel that no one will understand me.

Last time they shouted at me for being honest so I think it’s best I keep it to myself, I also wish I had my friends in the past but chances are they forgot about me or don’t see me as important to them anymore 🙁 like how they are still important to me even though it has been years since I saw them I wish I can tell them everything but I feel like I will be judged. 🙁

Sometimes I become paralyzed with all of my emotions, hopefully, I am still a fighter like my dad used to say.

    Jonice - June 14, 2020 Reply

    Dear Rafi, I’m so sorry you are going through this. Some families try to minimize, ostracize, or hold back their best and brightest lest they feel outshone by them. I encourage you to talk with a CEN therapist from the Find a CEN Therapist List. You deserve support and help to cope with your challenging family, find your voice and accept your true self for who you are.

Sue - June 5, 2020 Reply

I have come to accept that this is how it is. I have also come to accept that it is not my fault. In every dysfunctional family, there is a black sheep. I am it. I do not conform to the patterns set by my family. I do not revel in putting others down, believe material gain is the most important, and I am the only one who is sober. For many years I had blamed myself, believing that it was my fault that I did not fit in. Then, I earnestly looked at what I was so longing to fit- fit in with people only if I conform to what they want me to do, be, and say? No.

    Jonice - June 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear Sue, I’m glad you’ve been able to get the perspective you now how. Good work.

Alex - April 12, 2020 Reply

I started experiencing extremely vivid, painful, recurring nightmares of sexual abuse around the age of 12. Waking up sweating, panicking, screaming, kicking or punching things. The school I was in started to pull me almost daily into the office. When I started high school I was forced to obtain therapy from the school. And later forced to undergo sleep therapy studies in combination with therapist sessions and visits to psychologists and psychiatrists. At this time my father decided to stop paying my mother child support and claimed I was a mentally I’ll drug addict. My mom couldn’t afford to keep me in the house, and between school and therapy I wasn’t able to contribute financially. I begged my siblings to talk to my dad to settle any disputes because even then I knew for some reason my dad would listen to them more. I ended up homeless for my teenage years, and eventually ended up getting into University for Biology, and then double majored with my second in Astronomy Astrophysics. After school I worked as an environmental technician and eventually went on to construction and property development.

I believed my family would appreciate the struggles I went through and my odd path to relative success. But for some reason they still ignore me, exclude me from family occasions, even slander me any chance they get. My siblings live with their father even in their 30’s….I own my home on 5 acres yet I am 27……but still I am excluded, still I am slandered…My mother is the only one who talks to me. And my siblings just this year accused me of being a methamphetamine user to my mother in an attempt to have her mad with me, I marched straight to the police station myself and offered blood, urine, and hair. The officer in charge even thought it was highly odd that they would say such a false accusation.

My mom at a later point was discussing with me what she thinks is wrong with my older brother (7 years older and no job, assets, education, or passion in life). She brought the idea that he could have been sexually abused as a child (mind you, only the professionals knew the details of my nightmares at this time, I was always too embarrassed and ashamed to talk about details, let alone I’d start shaking crying and unable to speak if I start remembering).

I saw her asking me this as a red flag and decided share my nightmares with her just this year at 27. My mother then started crying…..apparently as a 4 year old I came crying to her saying that someone has stuck something inside of me and it hurt…. As she mentioned it and described the location, it was like a wave of memories came back…… Now she wants me to go to hypnosis or police or something because we believe there could be a sexual predator in our family as there was only family around at that time.

Sorry for the drawn out beginning, but I feel my story can help other black sheep that may be also struggling with a similar problem.

    Jonice - April 12, 2020 Reply

    Dear Alex, that is a lot to endure. Please put your focus on yourself, honoring your own experiences and feelings and get help for the abuse you went through as a child. It is entirely possible to heal the harm you have been through. All my best to you.

Star P - April 3, 2020 Reply


    Jonice - April 3, 2020 Reply

    Dear Star, thank you for sharing this beautiful sentiment. Your aunt Hope is an inspiration.

Steven J - April 2, 2020 Reply

Hurts to talk about this. Mind boggling and teeth clenching. They don’t see themselves as perpetrators or at fault in anyway. It’s always me,in they’re narrative,who is the antagonist. They have plotted against me and caused others to join their growing army of hatred. I hate them all and fantasize about destroying them and their greedy manipulating associates.

    Jonice - April 3, 2020 Reply

    Dear Steven, I’m so sorry your family treats yoou this way! It must be awful for you. I’m going to share with you my favorite saying which is: “The best revenge is living well.” Instead of focusing on retribution, I encourage you to turn all that energy around the other way and focus it on self-care and honoring your feelings and needs. Grow yourself and know that you have left them behind in your dust. If this anger continues to boil, I hope you will see a therapist for help and support with it. All my best wishes to you!

Catherin - February 7, 2020 Reply

I am (F) 2nd child of 4. 1 older (M), 1 younger (F), then last (M). I was picked on, pulled across the kitchen by my hair while told I didn’t clean right, same happened in bathroom. My siblings stood outside the window pointed and laughed. Tapped on the window and ran around outside. Both my parents beat me. I was thrown down stairs, punched, kicked, hit with boards, hose, had things broken over me, told I was a slut when I kissed a guy I knew at 15 (no tongue). I was quarantined inside while my siblings went out. My sister did drugs, had a sexual relationship and I did nothing. I am 57, have 5 successful and wonderful adult children. I wanted to have my own family, one that I didn’t get. I tried to reconnect with my family and did the pretending for 10 or more years. My siblings kids spit on mine and called them names, broke their toys (history repeats itself)? My brother’s daughter started drama with me and all my siblings jumped on board and I was kicked out after a lot of abuse. It’s been 5 years since I have talked to them, except for hear and there. My sister used to get the younger kids to tell me they hate me and family gatherings, and yet she acts like she is the perfect one. I told them recently to please just leave me alone. It hurts and I am not sure why, I was never accepted and always abused. All 5 of my kids are successful and we have a great relationship. 4 are moved out and my daughter is going to graduate in a couple months. My younger brother never had kids, my sister one, my oldest brother 4. My sisters kid is a bully and has been in some trouble, but not much. All of my brothers kids have anger issues, start fights, been in trouble with the law. They are close to 30 now and 1 of them has straightened out, the other 3 still get into trouble. I talk to my parents all the time and we go out. I have been married 15 years and they seem to accept me when I have a spouse, not when it is just me. Me and my spouse get along fantastic. I have been married 3 times and was hit and abused in my other 2 marriages. So I figure I am healing since my husband now is someone I thought I would never have, supportive and thinks I am good. I would like to know how to get rid of the pain.

    Jonice - February 12, 2020 Reply

    Dear Catherin, the pain caused by our family of origin is difficult to manage. You have your pain for good reasons! Please see a therapist to help you process the abuse you experienced as a child and also in your previous marriages.

      M. Makuye - April 5, 2020 Reply

      Dear Dr. Webb,
      First, thank you for exploring and revealing this actually very severe and distressing problem. Having attempted to respond to what we correctly sense as devaluation, since teen years, I do notice that it had and has seemed to cause extreme resentment, disfavor, and anger when I brought such behaviors up, trying to change them.
      I have always striven to avoid being accusatory, while directly approaching the behaviors.

      Reading here that others have encountered such truly terrible behaviors , as admitted and faced by ALL the others on this comment page, I feel desperately compassionate – I HAD thought that the situations of neglect combined with rage response when healthier emotional relationship is proposed, was far more common than has ever previously been addressed.

      The demand by those accepting familial avoidance and brutality, that we continue to suffer it in silence, leads to all those failings of creativity, love, happiness you’ve outlined in the “FIve Steps…” article.
      I could recite a simlar litany of abuse and wrongs, as the people who have been so hurt in this column, but long ago, tried to both physically and emotinally distance myself from that family, and as is my personality, attempt to focus on the issue in an attemt to hela all involved, when I do encounter any of them.
      It has not been successful, only leading to greater fragmentation. Even though one is involved in the health industry, another, my elder brother, relocated to the other sid of the world on his boat, but eriodically returning, angrily reflects blame, just as does anyone using history – stopping utterly before the period at which they had intimately pursued damage to those younger (just as did his alcoholic father, whose life was one of total denial of responsibility or care or love, merely periodically using my overly religious mother’s sense of guilt to reattach, until she could no longer stomach him – this resulted in her moving entirely across the continent four times! Following his immense psychological abuse and rage, often directed at her for seeking to protect her children from his irrationalities, I knew there was no hope for him, as he protected his abuse through that exteriorization of ALL responsibility and blame, and ceased any direct exposure to any of them until he died)

      I used to believe that the horrors described by those reaching out to you , as in the terribly distressing comments we see, were healable, and so pursued psychology as an undergrad.
      After a few years, including one in which I facilitated therapy, I found that so many males mirrored the denial, explosive deflection, blame their victims, project, and , if skilled, induce projective identification.
      So I went on to less manipulative species, researching the normal behaviors and cognitions of other animals.
      Oddly, in the present US culture, the consequences of what you’ve outlined, have become cultural norms, and we are in quite a hellish storm as a result of this acceptance, wherethrough most use rage and violence to retain this terrible norm.
      And, yes, this norm has and does result in the devastation of entire lives, once so promising.

      I am no longer so optimistic that it can be healed without some outside forceful change, as the most vile and violent means are used to maintain the intimate abnormality

        Jonice - April 5, 2020 Reply

        Dear M., hopefully, we will be able to change the world a little at a time. We all must do what we can, starting first with ourselves. Thank you for sharing.

Valerie - January 28, 2020 Reply

I have always been the Black Sheep. I am the oldest and have a sister a year younger. I believe that I have always been the stronger one, and my sister was always the one that needed my parent’s approval. I have always had a strong will and stood my ground. Being a Black sheep isn’t always bad. However, because of that, I did always feel less loved by my Mom. As I got older, I realized that wasn’t true, but that emotional hurt did have an impact on me my whole life.

    Jonice - January 29, 2020 Reply

    Dear Valerie, I know that impact does stay with you. The best thing you can do is face it, recognize it for what it is, and work hard to value yourself and your true lovability.

Sally - January 8, 2020 Reply

I guess I am the unofficial black sheep of the family and goodness if I know why. Our parents have passed. I have sisters. I am invited to nothing. I am the topic for conversation for them, their families and gossip with them and mutual friends. I am the conservative one..the youngest. I have experienced troubles in My marriage, I used to talk to sisters to vent or share.. I did not want anything fixed by them or them to give or help with anything. I wanted no advice just an ear. My husband doesn’t help because he has so many quirks and is eccentric. They don’t like him. I guess their loyalty to me is love..I don’t know. I was caregiver to one of our parents..after passing, that’s when things just went south. No clue.

I have racked my brains trying to figure all this out..I went to a counselor, I know I’m not perfect, I own my faults..I feel like a failure but counselor said “it seems your family has failed you..not you failing them”

I just miss family.

    Jonice - January 10, 2020 Reply

    i’m sorry, Sally, this seems very painful. Please do listen to your counselor.

    Rose - February 28, 2020 Reply

    Sounds like my story.
    I am the youngest and was told they don’t like my husband whom I love since the day we’ve met.That hurt me terribly.I guess they don’t like me either.
    We’re in our 60’s and 70’s and it’s very sad to be left out and forgotten by family.

BB - January 8, 2020 Reply

I’m the black sheep. Ever since I can remember, my mother treated me like I was a nothing, as if I didn’t matter while my two brothers were put on a pedestal and could do no wrong. She was overly critical of me, not affectionate, and physically abusive. She especially loved to humiliate me in front of others.

I didn’t feel loved or valued.

She continued to treat me this way even after I was an adult, refusing to recognize my achievements and excluding me from family events. And when my husband and I moved back home following his stint in the military, she even treated my three kids like this, putting my brother’s kids on a pedestal while ignoring mine.

I had to put some distance between us for my children’s welfare. We were estranged for more than 20 years, and during that time, she turned most of the family against me. But after my brother died two years ago, I let her back into my life. I felt sorry for her as she was 82, frail, and in poor health. I decided that I wanted to be there for her in the end, felt it was my duty.

Our relationship didn’t change much. I was still excluded from the inner circle, and she didn’t seem to care about my life or my kids. She never asked about us and only talked about herself. I realized that she would never be the loving mother I’d always wanted her to be, that what was broken couldn’t be fixed.

She even kept the news from me when she was very ill.

Now, she’s in the hospital dying, and I’m having to deal with a lifetime of abuse, which has affected me negatively in countless ways. I do love her as she’s my mother, and I’m grieving badly, but I realize that she also caused me a huge amount of pain.

I’m there for her though, even paying for her funeral as no one else in the family can afford to or even chip in.

So why did she hate me so much? I think very differently from her–even from an early age, I always kind of felt like I didn’t belong with my family. But I think the brunt of her motive was jealousy as she was always very competitive with me. I believe she was afraid that I’d outdo her. And I have. I’ve struggled all of my life to prove her wrong, and I’ve had great success with my artwork and writing.

Sadly, my mother has never seen any of it.

    Catherine - February 7, 2020 Reply

    Your situation sounds a lot like mine. I always thought, even at a young age that my mom was jealous of me. I was abused by my parents and my siblings and my siblings siblings were abused by their kids. One of their kids lied about something I said and all my siblings just jumped on board and attacked me without even getting my side. When I showed them a text from the sibling that lied, admitting she made it up. My siblings yelled at me and asked me why I just don’t leave it alone???? No validation, again I was to blame for pointing out I never did anything and had proof. From then on I have stayed away.

Aisha - January 6, 2020 Reply

Hi an interesting post! My world has been turned upside down by the death of my mother 2 months ago. We’ve always been a close family and mum always helped keep us grounded and together. My father is devastated and I haven’t wanted to leave him by himself in the house as it felt too brutal. I was caring for mum during her illness and I miss her so badly. I feel numb for the most part, but the overwhelming feeling I’m getting is that of deep insecurity and a sense that my father and siblings are aloof and exclusive. I’m an alcoholic in recovery, I’ve relapsed since the death and I understand that this causes friction, but I feel like nothing I do is good enough and that my grief is completely overlooked. My son and partner are persona non gratas in this family so are not allowed in the house this impacting the upset and loneliness I feel. I’m so insecure and absolutely emotionally exhausted, I check in with my siblings frequently, I never get any concern about how I’m getting on apart from snide remarks about my drinking, my circumstances and my children.
I’m lost and confused and angry

    Jonice - January 10, 2020 Reply

    Dear Aisha, I am so sorry you’re going through all this. Can you seek a therapist near you to help you with this? I think you really need some support and help. My condolences on the loss of your mother.

Stephanie - January 6, 2020 Reply

I was sexually abused by my older brother for ten years of my childhood, and he devoted his childhood and adulthood to dividing our family and extended family by controlling, manipulating, lying, and deceiving everyone. And it has worked. Just about everyone in our family hates me. There have been times when my parents almost hated me and never spoke to me again over something he lied about. And my husband (now ex) got in on the action, too, when he was cheating on me with my “best friend” Kim, and my brother was screwing her too. When I found out about my friend, I told her to take a hike and at that point she made up all kinds of things about me that my brother and ex-husband spread about me throughout the town, the church, and our family (both mine and his). My entire family disowned me, I was hated at church and ended up quitting, and I think my ex even told this bullshit to our three sons (I overheard him one night telling them all kinds of other stuff). I have a son who has hated me since about the time those rumors started getting spread. He hasn’t talked to me in five years, and he’s never told me why. With the exception of my mother and one person I used to work with, no one has ever bothered to talk to me about any of the rumors and try to get at the truth. But my brother has even done a stint in prison and is a proven pathological liar, but they would rather support him and my ex-husband. My aunt even told me that she supports my ex-husband over me, they absolutely don’t believe me, and everyone has taken his side and my brother’s side. I can’t begin to tell you how damaging this has been to me, and I feel for all the people who have written comments because they are going through something like it themselves. It’s awful to be the black sheep and not fit in to your own family or church or community, but there is absolutely nothing I can do about it except continue to try to hold my head up high because I know the truth, and just go on with my life. I ended up moving away and that’s made it a lot easier. But to everyone else out there who is the black sheep of their family, just know you’re not alone. And to the author, thank you for this article.

    Jonice - January 10, 2020 Reply

    I’m so very sorry that happened to you. And I want to tell you that you are not alone either, Stephanie.

A. - January 6, 2020 Reply

I consider myself a black sheep, but not so much for the reasons mentioned above. I consider myself as such because my “family”, with whom I’ve severed contact, refuse to acknowledge the truth – mother is a narcissist and the golden child son is her flying monkey. There are many family secrets, and I’m the only one willing to tell the truth. As a result, I’ve been ostracized throughout the years (“2. One person is often, and on a long-term basis, talked about negatively behind his back.”) despite my numerous efforts over the years to try keeping the “family” together. I severed ties for good 12.31.2019.

I don’t know if you’d consider my description as a black sheep, but it sure feels like it. I’m working through it on my own, and am currently seeking a new therapist. Thanks for this post.

    Jonice - January 6, 2020 Reply

    Dear A, you sound like you are very different from the rest of your family, and that does set you up for a black sheep role. You sound like a strong person and I hope you’ll start therapy as planned.

      Eve - February 6, 2020 Reply

      Who is the blacl Sheep your talking about me or one of my grandchildren or kids?

        Jonice - February 6, 2020 Reply

        Hi Eve, it depends on your situation. Only you can answer that.

    Julie - January 8, 2020 Reply

    Wow. What you’ve commented sound like my situation exactly. It’s been so frustrating trying to get my mother and siblings to see the truth about what they’ve done to other family members, but they won’t admit it. My husband, mostly, and I have been made out to be the bad guys. We will try to rest in the fact that God knows all about it and He can take care of it. I’m just struggling to deal with it all. Not only have I lost a parent in March of ‘19, but now I’ve ‘lost’ five more family members. I’m so sad.

Rene - January 4, 2020 Reply

I am not sure if I’m really „the“ black sheep. Our family is dysfunctional as hell.
My mother is very insecure and she tries to be supportive but every time she’s not pleased with something she belittles me in front of my siblings or talks with them or her ”friends” behind my back. Afterwards, she tells me that it’s not her but me. I’m just so cold towards her and I never talk to her about my feelings. Well, just saying but how can I talk to her about my feelings when she doesn’t show them herself. She tells us that she strives for harmony and that talking about things just gives it more meaning and makes it worse. She talks about the problems of other people but not our own. To others she makes it seem as if we’re a happy family even though we had some misfortunes. We’re not. My mother and my father despise each other but there’s one thing they love more than badmouthing one another. It’s telling their children (mostly me) that they’re like the ”other” parent when they’ve gone out of insults. Still to them, I’m the problem child. My father prefers my sister because she’s got such a sunny personality and my mother likes my brother the best because he’s very depended on her and is a dreamer by heart. So that makes me the child that has problems connecting with them at the same level. I’m very responsible and have always been. My older sister had gotten very sick when she was little and had, therefore, been their priority. I understood that and I tried to support them. I am/was very independent and I just didn’t show love in the same way they did. Fake kisses and empty ”I love you’s” didn’t cut it. I wanted my actions to speak louder than my words. I tried to show them, my love, in my own way but they never understood. It doesn’t matter what I do or what I say, I’ll always be the oddball. The one who doesn’t appreciate them. The one that thinks to much. Yeah, basically ”a” black sheep. I don’t know if my siblings feel the same.

I tried to change it but the pattern persists. Anyhow, I’m not going to let myself wallow in self-pity. I’m going to get my degree and live my life to the fullest extent.

    Jonice - January 4, 2020 Reply

    Dear Rene, your family dynamic sounds very trying indeed. I am so glad you are turning your attention away from the family that cannot support you and focusing on yourself, your well-being and your future.

Jane - January 4, 2020 Reply

I am the black sheep. From an early age I’ve been treated differently by both my parents. Sibling rivalry also adds to the equation, as I have a sister who has always been extremely insecure and has succeeded in carreling my siblings, leaving me out of the family. It hurts, a lot, even though I’m an adult. I know in my head there’s nothing I can do to change how they treat me; however, it still greatly pains my heart. I do all I can to accept that they are spiritually sick and often wrong, but the sting of being excluded and made to feel like I’m nothing continues. I keep praying God will bring people into my life who will love me and be there for me; as I’ve sadly come to accept, my family will not be.

    Jonice - January 4, 2020 Reply

    Dear Jane, it is so painful to be excluded by your family. I hope you will actively seek people to have a mutually loving and supportive relationship with you.

Braxton - December 30, 2019 Reply

I’m the black sheep of my family and really for no apparent reason I’ve given my parents the least grief compared to my sibling never been to jail was a scholar in school never was in trouble besides a school fight in the 4th grade I’m 26 now have kept a job since I was 14 and really just go about my own business but every thing I seem todo isnt “right” I’ve always been a smart a wise kid and have always been able to read adults well and known not everybody is perfect even thought they want to give off that image as ibe gotten older in my own mind I see myself as the “Dr. Phil” of my family but no one wants to hear out the black sheep of the family even though we (at least in my case) have the answers the family may need, I’ve also seen alot in my youth that made me grow up fast from sexual abuse from my older sibling which has never been disclosed to gang violence as to growing up in the inner city amd even more that’s to much to write but I’m always told “I havent lived enough” although I’ve honestly been through more than anybody in the immediate household reading this article made feel that I’m not alone and I’m glad I came across it thank you.

MELISSA - December 29, 2019 Reply

I do not want my son to feel excluded. He is 19 and for the past 3 years he never wants to do anything with us as a family. He and his older sister used to be close, but he chooses to spend his free time away from us and claims he just doesn’t fit in. I don’t understand if it is just an age/ stage or what. When we’re on family vacations and it is just the 5 off us, then we all have great times together and seem close like old times.

    JL - January 29, 2020 Reply

    I think it’s very insightful of you to want to address this issue in your family. I also have a child who sets himself apart and I worry about him. I am the black sheep of my family and it is very painful. I think the solution is to just make sure YOUR relationship with him is good. You can’t control the group, but you can make sure he feels loved and has a good relationship with you. If one of my parents had done this, my siblings might have followed the example. Or at least I would have had someone I felt connected to. I am not an expert, just my personal view.

      Jonice - January 29, 2020 Reply

      JL, thank you for the wise words you offer Melissa.

ToddRundgrenIsAwesome - December 28, 2019 Reply

I know my parents, one more than the other (but not much more) neglected me emotionally (not physically by any means). I was the black sheep and my siblings picked up on it and went with it and…now here we are 30+ years later. I get it, it happens (although it shouldn’t). I have emotional issues because of it and I am in therapy. All that is me. However…

…the part I am having the most trouble with is not “how could this happen?” or “why me?” but “I’m almost 40, how the h*** didn’t I realize this before?” I mean, I know I was being treated differently (to put it mildly) than the rest of the family, but my parents always gaslighted everything…even to the point of denying things 3 minutes later. My own father (who wasn’t perfect for reasons all his own) recently told me that my mother wasn’t very loving towards me (starting like days after birth). He wasn’t trying to throw her under the bus and was very careful how he worded everything and he admitted his own mistakes. I was well cared for physically. Always, clothed, fed, and housed…but emotionally “oh, knock it off,” and so on. Once even tol my mother I loved her (8 or so years old) and she told me to knock it off. To this day (starting with a decision made right then and there at the age of 8) still to this day have never told my mother I loved her (without a very awkward “Iyeah, …lo..ove..you..too” in return that she’s never noticed wasn’t said sincerely). The point is…I was gaslighted and now feel like maybe none of what I remember happened and I’m just an ungrateful child who’s looking to blame s*it I caused in my life on other people. Yeah, well, I didn’t throw myself on the floor of my bedroom or threaten to throw me in the river or to shoot me with a shot gun. Doesn’t even matter that they didn’t even own a gun. But gaslighting = “did that really happen or not?” …and you go on wondering if you’re just a spoiled idiot (even severely mentally ill to the point of experiencing memories that didn’t happen) or really do have reason to be emotionally hurt.

I do have issues with bad relationships and the whole “if I just do the one right thing then everything will be fixed” issue and I blame women when it comers to relationships for things my mom did. Like “all women just want money and no money equals single forever and I’m single because I’m not a millionaire.” Totally what I saw in my mother based on how she projected herself (without even knowing it, I’m sure). My dad even once asked why I was dating because I had no money. I do have money, but not like he does. I’m constantly angry (although sometimes I do laugh and smile and don’t usually show the anger outwardly) and I constantly live in a minor state of fight or flight. I’m aware of my surrounds in public and always check to make sure who entered the room…even when I don’t really care…”something else I need to possibly deal with.” In public, nothing usually is anything I need to be concerned with. Also, I’m constantly in the “one more thing…one more…” state of mind. And, I feel like everything everyone does is because of their hatred of me (my dad blames even stuff that wasn’t possible for me to have caused and as an adult my siblings admitted to purposely breaking rules to watch me get punished for it). But, guess what…none of it ever happened. Yeah, well Mom and Dad then why do I remember it? All of it? Huh?

But (which is my biggest issue) why would I not realize this until I was almost 40? Like I wasn’t seeing things right there in front of my face. I did have resentful, awkward, feelings towards my parents, like being around them as an adult was weird for no reason and I felt something strong toward them that wasn’t exactly love. I respect my father, but cannot deal with my mother continually ignoring how I feel (no matter what I feel) and always listing the reasons that any important decision I make is wrong…like I have zero self awareness. I have issues with it, sure, but I’m far from zero (I do recognize myself in the mirror).

But why did it take me so long to even begin to understand any of it? …to break through the “my family isn’t perfect but nowhere as bad (mostly, but not all) as I remember them being” facade? And how do I get over the guilt? Neither parent was 100% bad and did do nice things that I do appreciate, but how do I separate (and continue to appreciate) those things from the things that hurt me?

And why do I feel like because I didn’t recognize it at the time it happened then that negates it having happened? And how do I let that go so I can begin healing?

    Jonice - December 29, 2019 Reply

    Dear Todd, it is very hard to see what went wrong in our childhoods, and few parents are completely bad. They just make mistakes, or have blind spots, or were abused themselves but do some things right. It makes it so hard to see what went wrong. Please seek out a CEN therapist off of my list. Or enroll in the Fuel Up For Life program if you can. You deserve to heal from this.

Nm - December 24, 2019 Reply

I ticked off everything on your list . I grew up with a mother who hated me so much she used to hold my funeral in front of me. I’m actually having flashbacks because Trump reminds me so much of her . You couldn’t disagree with her either about anything , liking a color, music or a movie that she didn’t like for example .i got screamed at for days for buying a 45 record with my own money . I finally figured out that she was a problem when I as a very young woman, watched One flew over the cuckoos nest -she acted just like nurse Ratched .Add in sexual hysteria like Carrie’s mother and you got my mother .Father was more inclined to beat us and scream at us because he was in a bad mood when he deigned to come home about once a week. He would always disrupt your plans . Have a hobby you liked. He’d forbid it just because. Want to hang with a bestie . I remember my sister getting grounded for a week just for that . Both had arbitrary ridiculous rules and my fathers violent sadistic behavior blighted my elementary school years. I remember shaking in terror when he was in the house. It wasn’t until later when I got that top ten list of abusive behaviors from
A DV place. That’s when I understood why I was so messed up emotionally. Mom routinely did 9 of them and dad did all ten ( I wasn’t sexually abused by him)

Rodney - December 22, 2019 Reply

I feel as though I’m a black sheep, because I was born out of wedlock during a time when it was looked down upon. My grandparents raised me, and I called my mom by her first name. Never knew or have met my father. The holidays are tough because I love my family but feel strange and uncomfortable when I’m around. A feeling like they really don’t want me there. It’s confusing because I don’t know if it’s just me or if it’s really happening. The last couple of holidays I’ve attended. Though things went well. As long as I praise and talk about how great they are, and keep myself out of the conversation. I feel bad when I pull away, but just as bad or even worst when I see them. My mother is getting older now and I feel obligated. Is it wrong of me, to not want to see them again. Only time I hear from anyone, is when a family member has died, they have something new that they want to show me, or if they need help moving. Why would I want to keep putting myself thru this.

    Jonice - December 29, 2019 Reply

    Dear Rodney, why indeed? It’s because our brains push us back toward our family for approval and love. Please try to fight that and look elsewhere for those things. It is painful and takes work but you can do it.

Elise - December 21, 2019 Reply

I am the family black sheep and my mother has managed to turn both my grown up children against me. I have no one. Most of the time I carry on regardless but feel very very hurt and upset having learned today my WHOLE family have been invited to my Son and his girlfriend’s house for Christmas day whilst I’m left on my own. I feel so close to breaking down. There’s nothing I can do.

    Jonice - December 29, 2019 Reply

    I am so sorry, Elise. That must be very painful. Please use this forum for support and also I encourage you to talk to a therapist for help figuring out what’s going on and cope with it.

    Ann - February 2, 2020 Reply

    Elise, I’m very sorry to hear that you’re going through the same type of rejection as I am. My mother seems to have turned the whole family against me, including one of my grown children. Just discovered that she has gossiped about all my failures to my Aunts and Uncles all of my life, and is still doing so. She just told my uncle that I committed fraud after receiving my disability, saying there’s nothing wrong with me. She talked bad about me to my children when they were younger, teaching them to disrespect me. They’re now 21 and 22. My son completely ignores my calls and texts ( he moved in with her for financial reasons a few yrs ago ), and my 22 yr old daughter, talks down to me, very argumentative and disrespectful. Im sure it’s because of the way my mother talked about me to them when they were young, because my daughter is the one who told me so a few years ago. She said she was always getting in trouble for defending me as my mom was always talking bad about me. I’m feeling so rejected by my son. We were very close until he went to live with my mom. I feel I’ve lost him. He says he isn’t mad at me, just busy..but with him completely ignoring me, feels like a death. My daughter calls a lot, but she abuses me emotionally a lot of the time. I feel hated by my most of my family, and looked down upon by my brother because I’m not married, and because I’m not wealthy, like them. They make me feel like a loser, that I’m not important and It’s very obvious. I’m excluded a lot, and when I’m included, I’m disrespected openly by my step-dad. I internalize my anger when he treats me like crap, as to keep the peace. Should I just stay away from my family ? The more I reach out to them, the more they reject me. I’m so angry at my step-dad, I just want to tell him off. The others just look the other way. He treats everyone else like royalty. Treats me like dirt. Anyone have any suggestions ?

Donna - December 20, 2019 Reply

I am the major black sheep in a large family clan where I am never invited. I learned to get along alone however recently my marriage turned incredibly sour when my husband became ill with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. So I am forced to be on my own again and my family (due to my black sheep role) are invisible for support. They have simply turned their collective back on me, right when I need family support the most. Who wouldn’t need family support going through a divorce when there’s illness involved? I’m really blown away by materialistic interests to the point where really good, honest people are shunned. I helped two sisters through their divorces. I cooked, cleaned, and laundered my way through childhood so my mother could go back to work and become a judge. I have given so much in the past and now is my time of need. No one, absolutely no one from that family will even so much as pick up the phone.

    Jonice - December 20, 2019 Reply

    Dear Donna, I hope you will turn your focus away from your unsupportive family and toward making new friends. Friends can be a wonderful support system.

m - December 18, 2019 Reply

I have a different exsperense than most of you I was shown alot of attention as a child more than my other siblings. I think this was because I almost died during childberth and was sick for while. Now that I am older and my parents have passed away my twin brother and his family have been treating me like the black sheep seem to enjoy antagonizing me. It started soon after mother passed. I have come to realize it’s not so bad being the black sheep if you can avoid the other sheep and the wolves dressed in sheeps clothing. Sometimes I miss them but I only have to think of there dirty deeds to dismiss thoes feelings.

Andrew - December 16, 2019 Reply

I am the black sheep of my family. I am 14 now and I lost my dad at 10. I have 3 sisters and my mom. My mom never cares to listen to me about my issues in school and makes me attend a class that does the same thing over and over when I have it down. I am failing in school. I took a test and I have very high anxiety and depression. I don’t have any friends that like to hang out with me and I don’t have a dad to help me become a man. I have learned everything so far from 10 to now by myself. One of my sisters, who is 20, bosses me around and treats our family dog better than me. Our dog hates me and every time I come home, she growls and runs away from me. I am very lonely and I have ADHD, a little short and long term memory loss. Only very important things like losing my dad is what I remember. No-one wants to stick up for me and I can’t do anything about it. I have no interests in anything and I will get shortness of breath, my legs will go out, I will get severe head blackouts. Like my eyes close almost all the way and I get a pounding in my head and feel sick, then it goes away. This get’s worse every day. I have no way to share or bring out my feelings. And so I try not to, but I do take it out on my family. I have anger issues too. I can’t do anything to get these feelings away. I’m not brave enough to let the Emotional Abuse people know. I told them I accidentally clicked on the page. But my family absolutely hates me. They say, “no we don’t”. But actions speak louder than words. They think I’m some dumb, immature little kid, but if they only knew how smart I am. They think I don’t know what they are doing, but I do.

    Jonice - December 20, 2019 Reply

    Dear Andrew, I am so sorry you are going through this, and you absolutely must talk with an adult about this. Please go talk to your guidance counselor at school. This is not an OK way for you to be living and you need help and support.

Amadolark - December 16, 2019 Reply

I am a black sheep. I left my family when I was 14. I went to college and made a life for myself. I married and had my own family to love. My family sought out my youngest son and filled him with lies about me. They turned him against me and now he is dead. I literally ran away from them but they still seek me out just to cause me pain. I don’t know what else to do.

    Jonice - December 20, 2019 Reply

    Dear Amadolark, please seek out a therapist. This situation requires help and support.

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