First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Have you ever told your dreams to someone only to see them crushed under the weight of criticism?
It’s even more disheartening when your parents or siblings do it. They’re the people who should support you no matter what. Instead, they kill your dreams with their words:
“You can’t quit your job to start your own business. What if you fail and end up homeless?”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying your hobbies, honey, but don’t let them distract you from the important things in life, like climbing up the corporate ladder and buying a house.”
“How the heck can you many money following your passion? Get real and get a proper job.”
I’ve got all this and worse when I proudly announced to my family I was moving to London to become a freelance writer. Or when I later pivoted to become a Life Purpose coach.
No one believed I would have the guts to do it. Or that I would actually succeed. Heck, for a long time I didn’t believe it either.
How can you believe in your dreams when the people who know and love you the most put you down, too?
Here are a few strategies to deal with unsupportive family members (and anyone else who doesn’t approve of your dreams):
1. Share Your Why
When you decide to follow your dreams and carve a different path for yourself, you will change. And that’s unsettling for people.
Remember that your loved ones are used to you being a certain way. If all of a sudden, you start acting in a different way than what they’re used to, they may act out of fear of losing the “old” you they know and love.
They may be scared that, as you grow and evolve, you may leave them behind and forget about them.
They may even feel rejected. If, for example, you’re the first one in your family to start your own business, they may fear you’re criticising the way they’ve been living their life and everything they taught you.
Listen to what they have to say and then, instead of attacking them or defending your choice, simply explain to them why you made it.
Maybe you want to start a business so you can be better able to provide for your family. Or you’ve quit your job to work from home so you can have a flexible schedule and spend more time with them.
People are more likely to get on board if they understand why you’re doing something.
2. It’s Their Issue. Not Yours.
The hurtful things people say tell more about them than about you.
When I told my family I wanted to become a freelance writer, they didn’t understand why I wanted to give up the security of a steady paycheck.
My family values safety, security, comfort. They can’t handle the anxiety of not knowing exactly how much they will make every month.
That’s their issue. Not mine. I knew I could handle the uncertainty, even if everyone around me thought I was crazy.
When someone criticises you, it’s rarely personal. They’re expressing their own insecurities, fears, and anxieties – and they’ve got nothing to do with you.
The exception? If someone has been there and done that, listen. If you want to start a business like you dad and he tells you your business plan isn’t viable, listen to him. He’s talking from personal experience, not fear.
3. Show, Don’t Tell
If talking about your dreams doesn’t get your family on board, show them.
Invite your loved ones to an event you’re hosting. Share the link to a guest post you’ve written. Show them your Youtube channel. Read them the testimonials your clients have left you.
People are often scared of what they don’t know. Getting them involved in what you’re doing helps them understand your choice and get excited it.
P.S. Don’t get disappointed if people decline your invite. They’ll get around in their own time.
4. Tell Your Dreams Only To Those Who Will Support You
As a multi-passionate entrepreneur, I’ve always had more dreams than I could turn into reality.
At first, I’d enthusiastically shared them with everyone around me. It didn’t take me long to realise it was a bad idea.
Most people can only see the negatives. “That’s a cool idea, Giorgia, but be realistic. You’re not rich/talented/educated/whatever enough to make it happen.”
I know this tells a lot more about themselves and how they see the world than me and my abilities to make my dreams come true.
But I wouldn’t be human if the constant negativity didn’t get to me sometimes – especially when it comes to family members who should support you no matter what.
It’s futile to tell them to be less negative (trust me, I’ve tried). So, now, I just don’t tell them about my goals. I share my dreams only with the few people who I know will support and encourage me in my decision.
If I reach my goal, the critics are pleasantly surprised. If I don’t, they never have to know. 🙂
FYI, this doesn’t mean they never criticise me. If someone truly loves you and supports you, they won’t hesitate to give you constructive feedback.
5. Cut Them Loose
Most people are unsupportive simply because that’s how they were raised. Growing up, no one ever encouraged them to follow their dreams. It was too risky.
These people love you. They have a different mindset than you and see the world in a different way, but you know they’ll always be there when you need them.
You don’t need to tell them your dreams until you’ve made them come true, but you do need them in your life.
It’s when your family members are abusive that you need to cut them out of your life. You don’t need to put up with other people’s bullshit just because you’re related to them.
Want to make sure you’re pursuing the right dream? Click on the button below to subscribe to my newsletter and receive the Purpose Finder Worksheet.
Over to you, now. How do you deal with unsupportive family members? Share your experience in the comments below.