I want to leave my bullying family business – but I’m trapped by the security

11 Mar 2024

 "I’ve been living my life to please my family and keep up appearances.

I want to leave my family business, with its bullying ways, but I feel trapped by the security and I don’t want to let them down."

James, 35

How hard it must be to balance out the conflicting emotions from your situation, which might include guilt at how you feel, frustration at your lack of autonomy, resentment that you’ve been groomed for greatness and gratitude at not having to start at the bottom of any career ladder like your peers – and the lifestyle this affords you.

Many people born into a family business, especially when your parents or grandparents have started something innovative that’s brought your family out of poverty and often helped the wider community, are left in a predicament. On the one hand, how do you live up to the expectation that you’ll be like your parents or grandparents and share the same values to continue their work in a very different world?

On the other hand, you might find yourself questioning whether you’re allowed to follow different ideas, values and ways of operating? Are you ‘allowed’ to do better than your parents or grandparents in business? On some level, we want the blessing of our elders and being a successful individual in your own right can feel like a betrayal of your family.


It’s worth identifying exactly the feelings that this pressure imposes upon you. Do you feel restricted in how you represent yourself and are seen in public? Do you feel you ‘‘‘should’ wear certain clothes? You also might feel yourself questioning whether your family’s love is conditional. This all adds a sense  of obligation to life; I worked with a minor aristocrat who temporarily lived abroad to explore who he really is and escape societal pressures and family expectations.