Letter to our Agony Aunt

Dear Patricia Marie,

My mother is from a working class family, but went to university and managed to secure a very good job where she met my upper-class father. I had a privileged upbringing which makes me feel awkward around my mum's family.
This was never too much of a problem growing up, but now that I am a young adult it seems to be affecting me more. My cousins are much closer to each other than to me, partly because our interests and tastes are so different. They make fun of my ‘posh' accent, hobbies, etc. I'm sure it's meant as a joke, but actually it really upsets me. I worry that they think I consider myself superior.
When I'm with them I change my accent and keep quiet about my lifestyle. Is it unhealthy to feel like you have to be a different person around your family, and can I make them stop teasing me without appearing whiny? I know that I am very privileged compared to them and shouldn't complain, but it is really distressing me.

Patricia Marie says...

Social class prejudice is still very much in evidence today, although perhaps less openly expressed than it used to be. It is an unfortunate fact that society can make sweeping assumptions about people based solely on their accents.

Class differences need to be acknowledged and interpreted without judgement, so that these differences can be enjoyed and appreciated.

There may be an element of jealousy from your cousins, or it could just be that they would love to accept you into the family circle, but that your reluctance to share your life experiences and feelings makes you seem unapproachable. If you could open up to them, you might all start to enjoy each other's company and greatly improve the relationship between you.

One of the most common mistakes we can make when we feel we don't belong, is to try and fit in. You are who you are. No more, no less. Counselling could help you establish what specifically triggers your current feelings, and also increase your self esteem, making it easier for you not to take your cousins comments to heart.

You are unique, and will hopefully in time realise that your acceptance by others should not be the basis of your happiness. I suggest you put more importance on the relationships you do have that enhance your happiness, rather than considering changing yourself to suit others. Embrace who you are, and you should start to feel more joyful and fulfilled in your life. We may never escape all judgment and discrimination, but we can learn to value ourselves. Remember, nobody can make you feel bad about yourself unless you allow this.

BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) 01455 883300 www.bacp.co.uk
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Patricia Marie, our Agony Aunt, wants to hear your problems, dilemmas, and quarrels. Just email them to patricia.marie@lady.co.uk