What to Do When Loved Ones Aren’t Cheering for You


in Personal Growth

If you are on the path of embracing your possibilities, whether that means ditching your expensive education to try something in a completely different field (been there and done that) or pouring your heart into a nascent business while conscientiously handling the responsibilities of your day job (been there and done that), you may have already discovered that it can be a rocky road – especially when it comes to getting support from those who love you.

Although it seems like those who love you should be your greatest supporters, cheering you on and telling you that you can do it, often the exact opposite occurs.

You get looks that blister. Silences that burn. Words that scald.

Words that make you feel like you are crazy for wanting what you want. Words that make you feel like you are doing something wrong. Words that suggest entire worlds are going to fall apart.

Not exactly what you would hope for when you are bravely striking out to craft a live you love.

I’ve done many things in my life to honor my possibilities. I’ve made significant career changes. I’ve started businesses. I’ve taken leaps where there was no foreseeable net. Each time, words like these have joined me on the journey:

  • Quit living in a fantasy land.
  • Now that you are over (fill-in-the-blank-age), you might want to start getting serious about what you are going to do with your life.
  • What gives you the confidence to think you could run your own business??
  • You are selfish.
  • You are self-centered.
  • What are you thinking?
  • Grow up.
  • Get a state job. It’s safe and secure.
  • You can’t throw away that good education.
  • Don’t be a quitter. Just stick it out.
  • You need to be responsible.

Feeling the love? Hearing the cheers? Sensing the support? Probably not so much.

Pursuing my own possibilities has, at times, been uncomfortable. It has been untidy and messy. It has been incredibly muddy and unclear. It has been fraught with unanticipated challenges. It has achieved less-than-perfect results.

Looking in from the outside, my loved ones must have thought my choices were completely wacky. And, to be honest, sometimes they appeared so. They were made without specific plans or an idea of exactly where I was going or what I was doing – which is hardly the model proposed by most career and business advisers.

Instead, my choices were made by listening to the authentic whispers of my heart.

Whispers that only I could hear. Whispers that required me to trust that I knew what I was doing.

And, it has worked out OK.

Sometimes better than OK.

Most of the time, pretty damn good.

Which makes sense, right? With all great experiments, you’ll have successes – some so-so and some simply spectacular. You’ll also have failures – minor ones that barely cause you to wince and incredibly painful ones that cause you to wonder if you’ll live to see another day.

But you wouldn’t have anything, success or failure, if you didn’t start. If you didn’t try.

Your efforts to embrace your possibilities may not be perfect. You may take some hits – big ones and small ones – but odds are you will still be standing at the end of the day. I’d call that a success.

Which brings us back us back to the question of why loved ones feel compelled to send us on our journeys accompanied by unkind words.

Obviously, because they are afraid. They are afraid we will get hurt. They are afraid of risk itself. They are afraid because they’ve been burned when reaching for their own dreams. They are afraid of what changes in us means for them and the status quo.

So they say unkind things born of fear.

Fear produces incendiary words to consume the dream and the dreamer in an effort to keep everyone safe.

The next time you are offered scalding words by those who love you most, apply a soothing balm and carry on.

Thank them and wish them well.

Understand they may not be as daring as you are.

Acknowledge they may be distracted by their own fears and projecting them onto you.

Believe their motivation is to do you a kindness and to protect you from harm.

Know what they say is really about them and how they view the world.

Imagine they are really saying, “I love you. I’ll be there to catch you if you fall.”

Ask them to think kindly of you and the life you are choosing to lead.

Remember you are an amazing, courageous and capable.

You can do it. Can you hear the cheers???

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Rita@thissortaoldlife.com May 27, 2012 at
Andrea Olson May 28, 2012 at

I’m cheering you on, Rita. Thanks for commenting!


Ronna May 27, 2012 at

This is so counterintuitive, isn’t it? We pursue a life that is full of passion and heart and at least hoped-for joy and yet others cause us to hesitate…or at least to get tangled in their snares. How to love them AND stay true to our own heart’s whispers…

The key, it seems to me, is being surrounded by others who hear the whispers too. You are one of those for me, Andrea. Thank you.
Ronna recently posted..One small stroke changes everything.


Andrea Olson May 28, 2012 at

Yes … it is so important to find support from those who “get” it. Thank you, my friend!


Nikki May 29, 2012 at

Hi Andrea,

I absolutely needed to read this today… About to make a leap of my own, but my beau thinks I should continue on the “secure” path I am currently on… I tell him it’s soul destroying… But my guess is that that’s coming over as melodramatic. *sigh


Andrea Olson May 30, 2012 at

I get it! Take care. I’m cheering for you no matter what you choose. :)


Lorrie Jones June 6, 2012 at

I have been on retreat and am just reading this. Thank you, Andrea! I can still hear the hurtful words “who do you think you are??” Though the words stung and were from a very close relative, I have been able to ask myself that very question: “who DO I think I am?” and have watched the answer(s) unfold. As far as the close relative…maybe she reacted out of fear…and perhaps a wish that she, herself, had stepped out of her safety zone..or at least considered it. When I respond rather than react, I can sense her frightened heart, at age 91, and feel compassion and send her love. Thank you for this wonderful, tender offering, my friend.


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