When Favoritism is Bullying's Backhanded Friend

It's either happened to you or you've seen it yourself, a family that plays favorites among the members. It can be settle or extreme. You know it when you see it, but it can be hard to describe in general terms. Situations from snubbing to outright insults are all par for the course in family favoritism. It's the elephant in the room and yet the favored person and those giving this preferential treatment swear this is not the case. From an anecdotal standpoint, what is family favoritism, and what are some of its effects? Here are some examples.


This favoritism concept first became known to me when I was six years old. I was at a rare family reunion and my teenaged cousin was serving lunch. My father at every turn was making hateful comments, calling her "thunder thighs" and "pizzas face" as she politely served him, my other siblings joined in on this taunting. She could obviously hear them as she handed each their plate. She was being a gracious hostess, and my family might as well have spit in her face. Her parents were there too and didn't bother to stop this abuse. According to them, her hair was too curly and her thighs were too thick. All the while if you so much as side-eyed her drunkard brother, a young adult who would undress my barbies and keep them in his bedroom, a world of condemnation awaited you. Even as a small child, I knew our families were acting terribly, I just didn't have the words to place it.


Favoritism can be so ingrained into a family's dynamic that it can be unknown to the abused person. A Christmas party revealed a lot about a friend when his mom gave him diet pills for a present to "fix his ghetto booty" and his sister got a used BMW. He was so happy that he "got what he needed" that he didn't even question why his equally proportioned sister got a $26,000.00 car and he got a $40.00 bottle of a possible heart attack inducer. They all hugged, and I sat there totally shocked by what they called "normal." It occurred to me at that moment that in some cases, monetary tallies could be a reliable indicator of if a person is on the outside of the family's clique. After all the saying is "follow the money" although slightly out of context, it is a marker of who is the most cared for.


School bullying is only so far of a departure from favoritism as it is a change of venue and cast, but little else. The teacher picks favorites too, as do other students. Ever say something snarky in class and get reprimanded, but when the popular kid does far worse, they are cheered? The truth is that people will do what they can get away with and in the case of the unloved, they can get away with nothing because their every breath is scrutinized for error. Favoritism isn't just getting more tangible things, it is also, getting away with more too. A loved child can get bad grades and still be praised, an unloved child can get high marks and be criticized nonetheless. The unloved person be they young or old, will never appease those they seek to because the approval was never waiting to begin with. A way to check on your own level of acceptance is to catalog the amount of criticism you bear the brunt of in your own family compared to that of the other members, or the level of blame every set back you have comes with from those you are seeking comfort from. It will be a biased assessment as any subjective observation is, so bring a respected third party whenever possible.


The conclusion is this; if you feel like you are in a toxic environment whenever you are with any group of people, know you are an inherently damaged person just because the people around you are cold or cruel. My cousin deserved better. Her hair, complexion, and figure are beautiful and always were. My friend worked out every day and looked great, his mother should not have given him dangerous pep pills. He needed that car to get to work, his sister didn't need another newer car to take selfies in. Their family's encouraged feelings of insecurity and self-loathing, by nurturing negative interactions. My cousin and friend were so desperate for love that they took it all as okay when it wasn't. To anyone out there dealing with this, be good to yourself and don't give anyone a free pass to be cruel to you, especially if you live with them.