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with Dana Belletiere, LICSW, MSED

Black Sheep: When Our People Are Not Our People


We kind of land wherever we land in this life, and it doesn’t always make a great deal of sense.

We are born to certain people, in particular neighborhoods, in cities or suburbs, into cultures and value and religious systems, and we don’t really get a whole lot of say in the matter. We just sort of end up somewhere, and sometimes, the people with whom we’ve landed aren’t really Our People. 

As a therapist, I am frequently confronted with the problem of the “Black Sheep” in the family system – the individuals who feel that the people in their family or community don’t really like, understand, or accept them for who they are. These individuals feel different, either because of their own internal processes (“I don’t think I belong here”) or the way they have been treated by family and community (“We don’t think you belong here”).

Either way, the experience of being an outsider can be deeply unsettling, when people discover they are a part of a system that doesn’t feel like “home” to them.

Take Time To Grieve

Within this experience, there is often an intense desire for acceptance and connection, even (especially) from people who have rejected us. And, of course this is so!

It is normal to want to be connected to, accepted, and loved by our parents and other family and community members. This is something we look for from childhood to help us feel safe and secure. It fair to grieve the absence of that love and acceptance, or the experience of love looking differently than we might expect or hope for. Sometimes it takes us a long time to acknowledge that loss, and begin to cope with it. That is okay.

The Chosen Family

There is great liberation in recognizing that the systems into which we are born are not static; and they are not necessarily the systems that we will end up in later on. The idea of adopting a “chosen family” lends relief to those of us who feel that we might never fit in within the confines of our original systems. There’s a place for us! We can create new groups for ourselves, full of people who love and accept us in ways that feel right and true, and provide for some of the needs that our original systems may not have addressed.

The Beauty of the Black Sheep

Finally, we can be confident that we have something important, unique, and useful to offer to the world, even if it’s different than what our original systems might have wanted for us.

I’ve found that individuals who identify as a “Black Sheep” in their families are often highly resilient, creative, and empathetic. They are doing the work of learning to love and accept themselves; those that fit naturally into their systems are never pushed to do this work. Those of us that do this work are better for it – we are more in touch with ourselves, more truly able to identify what we do and do not want out of this life, and more likely to actively pursue those things.

If you aren’t currently living in it, know that there is a system in which you belong. If you don’t already know Your People, have faith that they exist, and that you will find them if you try, and please do try!

You authentic Self is worth knowing. You have much to offer. Go find Your People!


Black Sheep: When Our People Are Not Our People

Dana Belletiere

I am a licensed therapist serving clients in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. In my practice, I focus on helping clients to shape their own narratives, accept and value all parts of themselves, and empower themselves to cultivate an authentic and meaningful life. Learn more about me and my practice on my website:

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APA Reference
Belletiere, D. (2019). Black Sheep: When Our People Are Not Our People. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Apr 2019
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