Open thread: Getting support from family and friends

Published by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 08:32 AM

This post is part of my Monday series on PBH for Grown-ups — you can see all of the posts here.

Okay, this is going to be an open thread because while I have things to say on this subject, I have little in the way of actual advice. (Or, to be more accurate, I have plenty of unproven advice, since I can pontificate on any subject at will.) So let’s provide some talking points and then open it up for discussion.

In generally, personally, I like to err on the side of self-sufficiency. When asked the question

How can I get my friends and family to support me as I grow and change?

I think, “Learn to live without it.” That’s not a hugging moment, I know. Pragmatism is one of my superpowers.

When I started my first company, I was 22. My friends were not super excited about my goals. Neither was my family. I heard a lot of variations on this: “Ugh, you work too hard! You should quit doing that and get a regular job so you can go out and have fun! You’re only 22! Lighten up!” And also this: “This isn’t why you went to college to get that valuable English Lit degree! Get a job and save some money! You can start a business in a few years, maybe, if things work out…”

That wasn’t very supportive. But, then again, why should they support me? How was my working 60 hours a week for very little money benefiting them?

When you decide to do something new, you are starting down a path of growth and change. In general, the people around you like you just the way you are. That’s why they’re friends with you. And if they’re related to you, then they’re very comfortable with you the way you are — you have a defined personality and a defined role in the family. Why would they want you to change and shake everything up? If you change, they might be forced to change, too. Your change is liable to shift the whole dynamic of the group. They can sense it in the air, like Disney animals before a forest fire.

If you change — if you seek something more out of life — there is a subtext of you being dissatisfied with the life you have now. No spouse wants to hear you say you are dissatisfied, ever. And your friends are thinking, “What’s wrong with how you are now? You’re just like me! So if you think you need to change, what you’re really saying is that *I* need to change. So, what? You think you’re better than me now?”

(Now, maybe you have a really supportive spouse and family and friends, in which case, see you next week. You are very lucky. No one wants to hear about that. Unless you magicked them that way, then please stay and detail your methods.)

For a lot of us, our desire to do something different — our growth and change — will be met not with flag-waving and excited jumping up and down but with resistance and maybe a little suspicion.

Your spouse may be a bit discombobulated by you wanting something different. You may have the sort of friends who say “well, good for you” while passively-aggressively torpedoing your efforts. (“I know you’re on a diet, but I baked us a cake” or “I know you want to write that book but I need you to come out with me tonight because I’m depressed about work”).

How to Get Support from Your Friends and Family: Unproven Advice

If you can sit down with your spouse and articulate your goals for your children — and if those goals include supporting them to explore their interests and develop their talents — then it shouldn’t be a big leap to applying the same support to each other. But you may have a spouse who is happy with things the way they are and nervous about you rewriting the script — because you changing changes everything: the family dynamic, the relationship, how you see yourself, how you see your spouse, how your spouse sees you. Acknowledge this to yourself: You changing might freak out the people you love. They may need time and help to adjust.

Be aware that you are doing something that has no clear value for them, therefore they may not enthusiastically get behind it, flag-wave, and etc. Not that everyone you know is a selfish bastard, but it’s pretty much built into our DNA to chase rewards and avoid punishment — and a big win for you offers no discernable reward for them and probably a little punishment.

Think about it:

- They like you the way you are now — or at least they’re used to you the way you are now.

- If you change, they might be forced to change, even a little, and that sounds not fun.

- If you grow, they might not feel good about themselves — you might look better or make more money or get a lot of attention.

- You may have awoken long-dormant feelings of competitiveness — they suddenly feel the need to knock you down a peg or two.

- They suffer from “there’s only so much pie” syndrome — if you get more, it means less for them.

- They suspect they’re going to have to give something up for you to get what you want.

- Your wanting something different for yourself makes them feel judged and criticized.

People think mostly about themselves. When you say “I want to go back to school,” they hear “I’m going to be smarter and better educated than you — and maybe make more money, too! MAYBE YOU CAN WORK FOR ME.”

You are stretching and challenging yourself. Obviously what you’re doing is going to stretch and challenge the people around you — whether they like it or not. You are facing fears and taking risks — those people are being dragged along for the ride and they are vicariously having to face fears and take risks, whether they’re comfortable with it or not. You are choosing this for yourself — they didn’t choose it.

Maybe it would help to show the other person the clear advantages that await. To your spouse: “I’ll be working on this a few evenings a week so I won’t complain about how much X-Box Live you’re playing.” To your friends: “I’ll totally let you ride in my limo.”

Maybe it’s best to share your goals incrementally. Rather than saying, “I plan to be a bestselling author and live in a mansion made of gold,” you could say, “Writing makes me feel happier and less likely to stab someone with a fork, so I’m going to try to do it a little more often.”

Try not to run yourself down — because sure as shootin’ someone is going to hear that and apply it to themselves. (Remember the rule: People think mostly about themselves.) If you say, “I hate being fat and out of shape,” they hear “She thinks I’m fat and out of shape — and she hates me!” If you say, “I hate just lying around on the couch watching stupid reality TV,” they think “But I love reality TV — she thinks I’m stupid and my life is stupid.”

Instead of expecting everyone to enthusiastically sign up for whatever it is you want to do, accept that you’ll probably make some new friends specific to that interest. You’ll find a writing friend or two or three. You’ll find someone to walk with. You’ll meet people who care about this thing that you care about. So you don’t have to try to force your friends and family to care about it.

“Surround yourself with people who have ambitious plans, meaningful purposes, and big goals. Even if their goals are different from yours — and they probably will be — you’ll feed off their energy, and they’ll feed off yours. — Jeff Haden

When we get excited about making positive changes in our lives, sometimes we start sharing all our great feelings with the people around us — and instead of being inspired, they feel criticized. So maybe don’t drag your soapbox around for handy sermons on whatever it is you’re excited about. They’re your friends, not your audience. They’re your loved ones, not your followers.

When you do need support, be very clear and specific. Do you really need your spouse to believe 100% in your historical romance novel? Or would it be enough if s/he took the kids to the park for two hours every Sunday so you can write? Instead of getting angry and upset that he or she isn’t “supporting you,” ask for something that would make you feel supported.

Instead of resenting your loved ones for not cheerleading you, find a few new friends who actually want to talk about photography or writing or starting a new business for hours on end. Look for people who share your enthusiasm and build a community where you can support each other. That doesn’t mean dumping your old friends — actually, finding new friends to whom you can safely vent your passion may allow your old friendships to stay healthy.

Remember that you are modeling for your children not only how to grow, change, learn, make, and do, but how to build a support system for yourself. That support system includes your environment, your habits, your routines, and your relationships.

If your child has a bunch of friends from soccer and he’s interested in filmmaking, would you want him to squelch that interest because his friends aren’t into it? Or would you encourage him to keep his old friends but make some new friends around that new interest? You are showing your child how to connect with people who have similar interests and make supportive friendships — but also how to maintain good relationships even when you don’t have every single thing in common.

Build yourself a support system. Learn to support yourself. Ask your spouse for very specific (and reasonable) things that will help you make progress. Allow your friends and family time to adjust to the new you. Don’t expect them to care about what you care about, and don’t be negative about your old life and your old interests. Let them see you happy, but don’t preach to them about your new passion — wait until they ask, then share.

So what do you think? Are your spouse, family, and friends supportive of your goals? Do you have suggestions or ideas to share for getting them on board? Please share your thoughts!

54 comments

Comment by underthebigbluesky on March 25, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Well, I thought this one was easy for me in that A. I don't have a spouse and B. the kids are begging for the changes I want to make.

But thinking more about it. My family is okay on the business end of my plans but I'm not sure yet what they would think about me quitting my job being sole breadwinner for my little family of three and I've yet to broach them on the subject of homeschooling for these very reasons you've listed here.

That is why I've taken the I'm not going to mention the full plan until we get there approach. I've said yes, I'm pursuing writing and photography and hope to do a book and would love to teach, but not, I want to wrap this all in a grand scheme to do it as my own business. My best guess is to wait until it's in the process, do it part-time for a year or two and then spring it on them, okay, now this is all I plan on doing next year.

Then once we pass that hurdle come up with....oh and by the way, I'm going to start homeschooling my kids. Luckily my family are pretty open-minded that even if they have reservations they will at least play along. My hope is it all works out, so I don't have to listen to "i told you so's".

I'm not recommending this plan, it's just the best I've come up with yet.

Yet......thanks to this place and a lot of others, I've found people who are encouraging of my goals (praise to the internet Gods) and that gives me the fuel to keep going, pushing, trying, doing.

My guess is that you form your tribe of cheerleaders, your go-to's who say "Yes, you can do it!!" or "Go make it happen" or "In my experience this worked....". Those people may or may not be the people closest to you.

Then for the naysayers I say give it to them in bits. Little bits if necessary and explain how important it is each step along the way. Even though my girls are already "sold" on the idea of my owning my own business and homeschooling I'm not sure how they will deal with some of the requirements it will pull from us (finances especially). I just keep reminding them that in order to get to where we want to be we will have to give and take a little. Not so many toys or needless purchases will equal more time together at home to do the things we want to do but don't have time for now.

At times single motherhood is an asset in situations like these, no one else to get the buy in from. However, it puts the stakes at a much higher level.

I guess like anything the best thing is to be honest. This is what I want, please help me in anyway you can even if it means just not being negative and then reach out to the cheerleaders when you need the pick me up.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 10:09 AM

 

My hope is it all works out, so I don't have to listen to "i told you so's".

we need to come back to this, because i think it’s a big mental roadblock for a lot of people. who wants that? nobody.

My guess is that you form your tribe of cheerleaders, your go-to's who say "Yes, you can do it!!" or "Go make it happen" or "In my experience this worked....". Those people may or may not be the people closest to you.

this. because really, the cheerleaders in life are probably a particular kind of person. it’s as silly to expect your loved ones to all be cheerleaders as it would be to expect them all to have blue eyes.

Even though my girls are already "sold" on the idea of my owning my own business and homeschooling I'm not sure how they will deal with some of the requirements it will pull from us (finances especially). I just keep reminding them that in order to get to where we want to be we will have to give and take a little.

i think this has been a huge great thing for our family. i can remember one of my sons when they were young asking if we could do X and i said automatically that we couldn’t afford it; he replied, “YES, we can.” so i stopped and said, “yes, you’re right, we can afford it — *if* we don’t do a, b, and c.” being self-employed, working and learning at home — these things mean being very deliberate about your choices. i think our sons have a really good idea now (as teens) what it takes to be self-employed, independent, and self-sustaining. and they both plan to be self-employed themselves, so they must be okay with it! :)

At times single motherhood is an asset in situations like these, no one else to get the buy in from. However, it puts the stakes at a much higher level.

you don’t need anyone’s permission but i’m guessing it makes buy-in from family and friends even more important.

Comment by Natalie on March 25, 2013 at 10:38 AM

I think one of the lessons I've had to learn (and keep reminding myself) is that not all of your friends will be into all of your passions. When I find something new that I love (say, Art Club for the kids), and I talk about it, I'm always a little surprised that all of my friends don't love the idea as much as I do. But, there's probably one of my friends who would enjoy it, or someone who's in Art Club who would be my new friend, and really, that's probably good enough.

It also helps to be confident enough in your choices that you don't need other people to always agree with you, but a little support when you're down isn't too much to ask from your friends and family.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 11:09 AM

 

I'm always a little surprised that all of my friends don't love the idea as much as I do. But, there's probably one of my friends who would enjoy it, or someone who's in Art Club who would be my new friend, and really, that's probably good enough.

*that* is a realistic expectation — always a good way to go!

i have had times when i was sure a friend of mine would love something i had found — and i was wrong. i have had to teach myself to let other people find their own path and not browbeat them into taking mine.

It also helps to be confident enough in your choices that you don't need other people to always agree with you, but a little support when you're down isn't too much to ask from your friends and family.

true, but sometimes when you’re down, that’s when the less supportive can say things like “i tried to tell you…”

Comment by dawn on March 25, 2013 at 11:45 AM

"Ask your spouse for very specific (and reasonable) things that will help you make progress."

YES! my dh, like many, i think, is a problem-solver. the moment i mention something i am just considering doing, he wants to jump in and make it happen, but HIS way. that's too much for me, and it doesn't help me - it hinders. even after being together over 25 years, we cannot read each others' minds and so we need to explicitly tell each other precisely what we want and need in terms of support. often, it happens in iterations - i take a guess at what i need, i ask for it, he tries to interpret what i mean and provide it, i find that it's not helpful after all, we revisit, argue, discuss, compromise, and, every once in a while, we get to a place where we can both feel good. the process is messy but effective enough to make it worthwhile doing.

"...don’t be negative about your old life and your old interests."

i would add here, don't be negative about the parts that are currently difficult, either. i don't mean that you cannot complain, just be particular and choosy regarding the people to whom you complain. if we are lucky, our family and friends actually WANT us to be happy, and so, when they hear from us that there are so many roadblocks or that we are tired or when we wonder out loud to them if this was a good decision after all, they will rush to tell us that it's the change we are making that makes us unhappy, so we should abandon the change. they think they are being helpful and supportive, but they are not, and it leaves everyone feeling resentful and alone. we can circumvent this by not using them as sounding boards. instead, we can locate and make good use of mentors outside of our circles of family and friends to work with us on problem solving and venting frustration and overcoming obstacles.

(we are already doing this by finding each other on sites like this!)

"Let them see you happy, but don’t preach to them about your new passion — wait until they ask, then share."

amen to that, too! it is so disheartening to share something you are really excited about, only to have silence on the other end of the phone or a weak smile and a "that's nice" (or much worse, which i care not to remember and describe).

i really, really like the model that i have found within la leche league in all the groups i have been in across the country, "providing education, information, encouragement, and support to those who are INTERESTED or WANT..." and so i strive to use that in my interactions with friends and family. my sincere hope is that the success of my personal endeavors, no matter the size, will foster genuine curiosity. i try (and fail, and try again) to answer the questions being asked and not overwhelm others with my passionate responses. my biggest cheerleaders are the ones who pick up on that passion and respond with a commensurate level of enthusiasm.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 11:56 AM

 

often, it happens in iterations - i take a guess at what i need, i ask for it, he tries to interpret what i mean and provide it, i find that it's not helpful after all, we revisit, argue, discuss, compromise, and, every once in a while, we get to a place where we can both feel good. the process is messy but effective enough to make it worthwhile doing.

love this description!

be particular and choosy regarding the people to whom you complain.

very good advice.

i really, really like the model that i have found within la leche league in all the groups i have been in across the country, "providing education, information, encouragement, and support to those who are INTERESTED or WANT..."

that is an excellent model. i think it’s tough with friends and family because we already feel such a strong connection and maybe we assume whatever we love, they will also love.

my sincere hope is that the success of my personal endeavors, no matter the size, will foster genuine curiosity.

i think sometimes others aren’t interested because they just don’t want to do the work involved. homeschooling, self-employment, exercise, diet — really, everything worth doing takes a lot of work. even when people like the results, once you start talking about what you did to get those results, most of them tune out!

great thoughts, dawn, thank you so much for sharing! :)

Comment by shelli : mamaof... on March 25, 2013 at 06:05 PM

(It's me again...Just now reading comments.) Dawn, I really appreciate this description of you working/arguing with your husband over things. I can relate so much!

And I agree, Lori, that so many people just aren't interested in doing the work. It makes me sad (especially when I see people making such bad decisions and digging themselves into negative places), and yet I try to understand them by thinking about the things some people I know are really into that I am utterly uninterested in...things that aren't necessarily bad and may help the other person, but I'm just not into.

It's important to keep an open mind so that you can support what works for other people.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 07:16 PM

 

It's important to keep an open mind so that you can support what works for other people.

agreed — and i think when you have found your own happiness, that’s a lot easier. that’s part of the problem, i think — the people least likely to give you support are the people who are most likely to be stuck/unhappy themselves. you changing puts them in an extra-awkward position and they don’t like it.

people who are doers, people who are busy creating and sharing — those people are the most likely to give you a genuine thumbs-up. they have nothing to prove and nothing to be jealous about.

Comment by dawn suzette on March 25, 2013 at 11:53 AM

You bring up some great points Lori.
I have found that I have had so many ideas and things I have started that I have not completed that it has undermined that confidence of those closest to me.
Now that I am on a really solid track to competing some of those projects I am finding the "proof is in the puddling" concept applies. I have been diligent about setting a schedule and working each day during *my* time. The time I am creating. The results are starting to show and those who *I* am looking toward for support, and I have to say a bit if approval, are noticing the difference in me and my outlook... And how that in turn benefits them! :-)
That said, I have learned enough to know that everyone is caught up in their own world and I can't expect a lot of cheerleading from them. I do love your point about asking for what you need, time being a big one!
I am in love with the support I find in my online community. Always, but Especially with the recent move and now being so far away from those super supportive *in real life* friends it took me four years to find!
The thing that amazes me about building an online community is that it would be nearly impossible to find all those people hanging out at your local coffee shop, yet they can be there for you over your morning coffee or evening tea. It is an awesome feeling to know there are others out there who think the things you like are neat and cool and can geek out with you over yarn or organizing your art supplies. Love that!
Okay... I could write more but I have to go feed little people. Catch up later.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 12:39 PM

 

I have found that I have had so many ideas and things I have started that I have not completed that it has undermined that confidence of those closest to me.

that makes sense — and i think it erodes our confidence in ourselves as well!

i have had someone close to me criticize me for not finishing something i started, but i felt as thought i’d gotten a lot out of the experience and had learned enough to realize i didn’t want to take it further. people on the outside aren’t always going to get that — they think you’re just making excuses. i suppose this is another reason why it’s good to share incrementally.

Now that I am on a really solid track to competing some of those projects I am finding the "proof is in the puddling" concept applies!

i have also noticed people more readily support you when you’re already successful. kind of like the bank being willing to lend you money as long as you don’t need it. ;o)

I am in love with the support I find in my online community. Always, but Especially with the recent move and now being so far away from those super supportive *in real life* friends it took me four years to find!

The thing that amazes me about building an online community is that it would be nearly impossible to find all those people hanging out at your local coffee shop, yet they can be there for you over your morning coffee or evening tea.

the portability of the online community — a whole other benefit i hadn’t even thought of! :)

thanks for your thoughts, dawn! xoxoxo

Comment by dawn suzette on March 25, 2013 at 01:10 PM

Yes. That idea that you can get something out of an activity or idea before you "complete" it is so foreign in our culture. We are set up, I can only guess from schooling, that you MUST complete to get the benefits. Get the "paper" to move forward. Interesting to keep that thinking in mind!

As nomadic as my life has turned out to be it has been awesome to have a "portable" community!

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 01:36 PM

 

That idea that you can get something out of an activity or idea before you "complete" it is so foreign in our culture.

this is something i have really experienced in my own life — if you are busy doing, trying a lot of things, having experiences, etc., then you aren’t always going to go forward with everything. and you’re right, it’s a cultural or societal thing — we place a high value on “not quitting.” but if you have a LOT of ideas, it’s only important that you take *some* of them to completion — not all of them. and knowing when to quit — good quitting — is a skill. people who soldier on and end up finishing something they don’t enjoy are just wasting time.

Comment by shelli : mamaof... on March 25, 2013 at 06:16 PM

I agree that sometimes it's okay to quit. When I was in Japan, I had the option to stay for 1- 2- or 3 years. But a lot of the participants in the program stayed more than a year, so making the decision to stay only one year felt kinda like quitting. But I really thought about it and realized that 1 year was enough for me. I got a lot out of the experience, but I didn't feel like I had to "immerse" myself completely in another culture. In many ways, I felt like the experience helped me embrace my culture better, and isn't that what's most important for me anyway? And not to mention I was a lot older than the majority of the participants...I was ready and needing to move on.

Also, I had a friend long ago who in his early twenties decided he was going to walk the Appalachian Trial ALL BY HIMSELF. I got a letter from him after he quit (I happened to be in Japan at time). He had hiked 500 miles and realized it was boring and monotonous! I thought he had made quite an accomplishment - not only to hike that far by himself, but to admit to himself that it wasn't what he had imagined it to be and that the best thing for him was to stop.

I think we know in our hearts what we need to do. Unfortunately, other people can't read our hearts, and sometimes their judgements makes it hard to follow our hearts.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 07:13 PM

 

I think we know in our hearts what we need to do. Unfortunately, other people can't read our hearts, and sometimes their judgements makes it hard to follow our hearts.

beautifully said

Comment by janet on March 26, 2013 at 09:01 AM

shelli, thank you so much for sharing these stories, and for your beautiful conclusion. i used to feel trapped between my family who thought all the things i was doing were crazy, and fellow adventurers who always seemed to one-up me. there is a special kind of confidence that comes from really knowing yourself and your limits, choosing to go your own way despite the crowd heading the other direction.

Comment by amy21 on March 25, 2013 at 12:30 PM

I read this a while ago and have been mulling it over since then. Firstly, my spouse would like nothing better than for me to have something separate from the house, the kids, and him. He has flat-out told me that he gets incredibly frustrated watching me talk myself out of doing something, of listing all the roadblocks and not even attempting it. I used to be braver...but that's another post. I'm working on it now. The past 18 months have been chaotic, with health issues (my own and family members') and other things and I'm trying to move forward within the chaos, because what other choice is there?

So, anyway, if I want to pay for an online class, or buy some supplies, or spend money in any way, I'm the one feeling like I have to have a plan to recoup the investment. My husband just says do it. Wrangling time is harder, but if he's here (not traveling), he'll do what he can. He's supportive of my ideas and always has been. I can't complain there.

As for discussing plans/ideas with other people, consider the motivations for telling them. Are you seeking support? Do you have a specific request? Are you wanting to just bounce ideas around? Because the latter group contains very specific people, for me, anyway. There are people in my life who love me and I don't want to discuss big ideas/plans/etc with them, because for whatever reason (protectiveness?) they will talk it down. Then there are people in my life that I'm not even sure they like me, but I'm stuck with them. I won't tell them anything. My motivation would be, "See? I'm much more than you think I am." But I don't think I can change their view of me and my energy is better spent elsewhere.

My kids are supportive of my ideas/plans but not always on board with the practical realities. (ie, "During this time I am working on *my* projects and you can be here with me but I'm not fulfilling requests at this time.")

I am still working all of this out. That's all I have to say for right now. :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 12:55 PM

 

if I want to pay for an online class, or buy some supplies, or spend money in any way, I'm the one feeling like I have to have a plan to recoup the investment.

i just read a great post about this — so frustrated that i can’t find the link. >:^|

basically, you can’t predict what’s going to happen. you can’t know ahead of time that you are going to meet with certain success. (if only you could!) it’s just the way it is — maybe different people have different tolerance for accepting it. i know my engineer husband much prefers to have some kind of data on hand before he invests. but you have to invest in yourself, period, and just assume that knowledge, experiences, and skills are probably going to be useful. and you have to take risks, because nothing really great is just lying there on the ground for you to pick up.

As for discussing plans/ideas with other people, consider the motivations for telling them. Are you seeking support? Do you have a specific request? Are you wanting to just bounce ideas around?

i think that’s excellent advice — think it through ahead of time before you blurt.

…I don't think I can change their view of me and my energy is better spent elsewhere.

wise!

My kids are supportive of my ideas/plans but not always on board with the practical realities. (ie, "During this time I am working on *my* projects and you can be here with me but I'm not fulfilling requests at this time.")

i think it’s a process. you are learning and you are teaching the kids simultaneously. now that my sons are teens, we really excel at supporting one another — no matter what we’re working on. we read each other’s work, we share ideas and resources, we support one another to go places and have useful experiences. but that’s at the end of many years of doing project work and learning how to support one another.

thank you for your thoughts, amy! :)

Comment by Deb @ Not Inadequate on March 25, 2013 at 01:45 PM

"During this time I am working on *my* projects and you can be here with me but I'm not fulfilling requests at this time"

I am just going to print this out and staple it to my shirt, if that's okay.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 01:55 PM

i think the key is dedicating time to them so they know you ARE going to give them your full-on attention ... at that time. it funnels requests in that direction.

maybe we could make this into a t-shirt…

Comment by heather.caliri@... on March 25, 2013 at 01:37 PM

I'm finding having patience with my spouse is key. I have changed dramatically over the past few years. In a conversation about a week ago, I realized he didn't really understand those deep changes, because I hadn't been talking about them (I assumed they were obvious). I wanted him to get with the program of supporting me _yesterday_, but the truth is _I'm_ still learning how to support me, and I'm inside my head, with the benefit of all that self-knowlege. I am turning the corner of feeling frustrated with him to seeing that he is a work in progress, just like me. As his information improves, I am seeing real changes in how supportive he feels to me (because he knows better how to support me, or understands what I am doing and why it's important to me).

So often I initially assume the worst of his motives or lack of support, and when we dig deeper together, I see that we are just missing each other through poor communication. Which is all the more reason to be patient and trust that the the other person (spouse, parent, child, friend) is simply doing their best for now, with their own baggage, their own fears, and their own incomplete information.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 02:08 PM

 

i want to highlight everything you wrote, pretty much… so i will… ;o)

I wanted him to get with the program of supporting me _yesterday_, but the truth is _I'm_ still learning how to support me

YES. i think this is so true. we are in the process of figuring out what we need, how to support ourselves … it’s kind of silly that we have so many expectations for the people around us, when, as you say, they’re always a step behind *us* and we aren’t even sure what we need.

…and I'm inside my head, with the benefit of all that self-knowlege.

we have to make our first priority taking it easy on ourselves … so we can get to work figuring out what we need … and then eventually when we start to cobble that support system together, that’s when we can ask for specific things that would help.

I am turning the corner of feeling frustrated with him to seeing that he is a work in progress, just like me. As his information improves, I am seeing real changes in how supportive he feels to me (because he knows better how to support me, or understands what I am doing and why it's important to me).

i think this is what everyone is looking for — that path toward helping their spouse, their family, and/or their friends both find their own joy and know what we need from them so we can keep chasing our own goals.

So often I initially assume the worst of his motives or lack of support, and when we dig deeper together, I see that we are just missing each other through poor communication. Which is all the more reason to be patient and trust that the the other person (spouse, parent, child, friend) is simply doing their best for now, with their own baggage, their own fears, and their own incomplete information.

a very generous and loving take! <3

Comment by Deb @ Not Inadequate on March 25, 2013 at 01:41 PM

So much awesomeness here! I don't know if I really have anything to add.

I agree so much with what Natalie said, about being confident in your decisions. In my experience, having a well-thought-out plan and a ton of confidence in your ability to execute it will pretty much shut up any detractors before they even get started.

Of course, I would have phrased it differently, like "don't give a fig what other people think, and tell anyone who doesn't like your idea to suck it" but I am five and Natalie looks like a real grown up. I do believe very strongly in not caring too much about the opinions of others, however, and in the self-examination necessary to find your true path. When I know in my bones what I should do, then the not caring what others think comes naturally. Or maybe that's a product of being 40. Whatever.

I also agree with Dawn about being careful with whom you choose to confide. I learned this one the hard way. People may not realize that you need encouragement to continue, not encouragement to quit. People may feel like you don't have any right to complain about problems you've basically imposed on yourself (I actually feel this way too about some things, so it's understandable).

The only thing I would add is that if you are doing something weird and out of the norm, don't get upset when people don't get it. It might take a minute for people to wrap their brains around what you are doing. That's fine. Embrace your weirdness.

For example. Two years ago, I convinced my husband that we should sell our house and everything we own and travel with our kids around the country. Eighteen months ago, we packed everything we needed (mostly Legos, if the truth be known) into a small pull-behind cargo trailer and became homeless, essentially. Responses to this plan ranged from "wait, what?" to "um, cool? I guess?"

It was a weird thing to do. I didn't get upset when people thought it was weird, because it WAS weird. Even I thought it was weird and it was my crackpot idea. Acknowledging the weirdness and laughing about it made other people more comfortable to ask questions and also I think helped them keep an open mind.

Embrace the weirdness. That's my motto. Normal is boring.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 02:15 PM

 

I do believe very strongly in not caring too much about the opinions of others, however…

you and me both. ;o)

pragmatism for the win!

maybe that's a product of being 40.

it might be!!!

People may not realize that you need encouragement to continue, not encouragement to quit.

so true — i find this hard to wrap my mind around, but some people think they’re helping you by urging you to quit.

People may feel like you don't have any right to complain about problems you've basically imposed on yourself (I actually feel this way too about some things, so it's understandable.)

i think this is true, and it’s why we need to seek out other people who are trying to do something — something similar, if possible, but at least *something*. because we can vent to one another and encourage each other as well.

The only thing I would add is that if you are doing something weird and out of the norm, don't get upset when people don't get it. It might take a minute for people to wrap their brains around what you are doing. That's fine. Embrace your weirdness.

agreed, and really, if you’re doing something *interesting* and *new*, a lot of people aren’t going to get it. it’s just part of the package.

when we talk about risk-taking, people think of things like investing money or taking chances with their career. but it’s a risk to reveal your ambitions to the people around you, too. it’s a risk to share your possibly wacky-sounding ideas.

I didn't get upset when people thought it was weird, because it WAS weird. … Embrace the weirdness. That's my motto. Normal is boring.

after a lifetime of doing things that make other people say “huh?,” i’m convinced it gets easier and easier over time. you just get more comfortable with ALL of it — the risk-taking, the standing out, the freak flag flying, the staring, the pointing… ;o)

really, happiness *is* the best revenge. i mean, outcome. if you’re doing what makes YOU happy, then you’re going to be much happier in the end than you would just toeing the line and trying to fit in.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 02:22 PM

 

coming back to add — this is something we should discuss in a future post, the idea that you have to maintain a façade for people. it holds so many people back. if you are working hard at pretending that you’re a certain kind of person, then you are wasting energy you could spend to be the most awesome version of yourself.

i see this all the time online — people who are working so hard at maintaining a plastic-looking veneer that makes them seem professional and generic and dull and inhuman. people who reveal their real selves are much more interesting. people with all their detail sanded off are oh so boring.

Comment by shelli : mamaof... on March 25, 2013 at 06:47 PM

I agree with you so much, Deb! And I DO think that being 40 has something to do with it. At least, by now I'm much more aware of who I don't need to talk about my plans with, and in fact, I just stay away from those people as much as possible. And, I'm more comfortable just being by myself...physically and mentally.

Comment by Michelle on March 25, 2013 at 02:01 PM

It all begins with this:

"Learn to support yourself."

If we don't value our own interests, passions, and time, we can't expect anyone else to. You have to make a commitment to do what you need to do for yourself, even if no one else supports it.

“Learn to live without it.”

I had zero support growing up. My mother meant well, but she was a born naysayer. If I wanted to do ANYTHING, I had to fight for it. My lesson has been to learn to ask for it from people who ARE supportive and to learn to accept their support. I've done everything for so long on my own, but I at least had the good sense to marry a cheerleader. My husband encourages me and supports any decision I make, so my challenge was to say exactly what I need from him. Specifically, time. Unfortunately, he can't always give me that, and I that's the roadblock I have right now. Just disappointment that I'm finally able to ask for what I need and he can't always give that. But I don't let that shut me down. I just go back to finding a way to do it anyway. It's harder, but I'd rather do things on my own than wait around and not do anything and be unhappy.

Different people serve different purposes in our lives. My husband will clap and tell me I can do anything, so I bounce ideas off him all the time. My mom will frown and try to talk me out of everything, so I don't tell her about plans until I'm already solidly involved in them. Other people are good at helping hash out the details. I think you have to know the people around you and know what each of them are capable of offering you. Expecting something from someone that you know they aren't capable of doing is just a recipe for disappointment.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 02:26 PM

 

If we don't value our own interests, passions, and time, we can't expect anyone else to. You have to make a commitment to do what you need to do for yourself, even if no one else supports it.

you enlarged nicely on the point i was making — because i do think some of us are lacking in courage and we turn to others to provide cheerleading to bolster us.

it all starts with ourselves. we have to believe it. we can’t round up everyone we know and try to get them to convince us to believe in ourselves.

It's harder, but I'd rather do things on my own than wait around and not do anything and be unhappy.

agreed!

Different people serve different purposes in our lives. My husband will clap and tell me I can do anything, so I bounce ideas off him all the time. My mom will frown and try to talk me out of everything, so I don't tell her about plans until I'm already solidly involved in them. Other people are good at helping hash out the details. I think you have to know the people around you and know what each of them are capable of offering you. Expecting something from someone that you know they aren't capable of doing is just a recipe for disappointment.

perfect advice. i think it takes some real effort to sort this out. you have to sit down and think about how each person is going to react and who you should go to and who to avoid.

now if we could just keep them from talking to each other! ;o)

Comment by Deb on March 25, 2013 at 02:39 PM

"Expecting something from someone that you know they aren't capable of doing is just a recipe for disappointment."

EXACTLY.

Which might lead a person to adopt that facade, that distance Lori was talking about earlier. A defense mechanism.

Comment by shelli : mamaof... on March 25, 2013 at 04:17 PM

I thought I would have something to add here, but I think you've said it all! And I think I've learned something too. I've been on both sides of the equation, and I know I want to learn how to be more supportive as well as temper my own goals so that other people can more easily digest them. Well, I usually do the latter by instinct anyway - I don't talk much about my goals. That's why I write - so I can pontificate, and if someone doesn't care, they don't have to read it! Most of my family have only slightly known what my goals are. I have never been supported except for a word of encouragement here and there. I have joined writing groups, photography groups and online groups, and now I swim in homeschooling circles, and that is where I've found my place.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 05:33 PM

 

I've been on both sides of the equation, and I know I want to learn how to be more supportive as well…

obviously pbh is all about learning how to be a good mentor:

- how to support without taking over

- how to help someone solve their own problems

- how to provide an environment that encourages, supports, and reminds

and so on.

i do think the easiest thing is to try to be your own best mentor — you, at least, fully support your goals. :)

i think it’s interesting how many people have mentioned that they found their support group online.

Comment by shelli : mamaof... on March 25, 2013 at 07:19 PM

I'm not surprised that so many people have found their support group online, and that is why so many of us are glued to our computers. It's very hard to find face-to-face people who are supportive and that you connect with. And even when you do find them, our lives are so busy that it's hard to get together with them regularly.

On the Internet you can remain anonymous and with a few clicks find websites and forums with people who are discussing the things you care about, and you can all show up when it's convenient for YOU. And since you don't know each other personally, it's much easier to be supportive of each other because you don't know about any other baggage attached to them. (That may sound cynical. It is maybe, but I do think that when used productively, the communities we find online are wonderful.)

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 07:26 PM

 

i just recently read the book “friendfluence” and they talk about this in a sort of negative light, saying that having many different social circles (incl. online) allows you to sort of fragment yourself and be one thing with one group, another with a second group — whereas in the olden days you knew about 150 people but the people you knew knew the same 150 people, so you were known more as your whole self.

but i call bullsh*t on that, because i am from a small town and it’s crap that people know the real you or the whole you. people in a small town with no internet are no more their real selves than if they’re on their laptop in a chatroom. the difference is, you have *nowhere* where you can show many facets of yourself.

i much prefer living in the future.

Comment by Kerry on March 26, 2013 at 10:06 AM

I totally agree. In my small town it was so hard to find people who were interested in most of the things I was, that I just put on a face, latched to a couple sweet girlfriends, focused on getting good grades and WAITED for my real life to begin. Now, no matter where we live, we're able to find the support groups we want and need. I'll take the future.

I think we are all so complex that it's important to have friends in many different social groups. My husband and I laugh sometimes at the assortment of friends we have. Some I wouldn't want to invite to the same party for fear of them offending each other. But, each group of friends gives me something, speaks to some part of my personality, that I might not find in another group. There are a few consistencies, they're all nice, trustworthy, good people, I think most people are though.

I also have no problem letting friendships go or change as needed. I know so many people who hold on to relationships that have nothing left to them. I think that at different points in our life we need or are able to offer different things and that, as those needs change, it's okay for the friendships to change too. Most of the time that doesn't mean a severed relationship but, even my sister and I have noticed, that we'll go through periods of time where we have to talk every day and then, we'll go weeks without a word. It's the same with our friends, sometimes we need one more than another and sometimes we change so much that a friend might not fit at all anymore and that's okay, we all grow and change and if we grow apart it doesn't mean we, or they, are bad people.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 26, 2013 at 11:57 AM

 

I totally agree. In my small town it was so hard to find people who were interested in most of the things I was, that I just put on a face, latched to a couple sweet girlfriends, focused on getting good grades and WAITED for my real life to begin.

YES. when people start romanticizing the past, i roll my eyes. often they are ignoring the unpleasant parts.

I think we are all so complex that it's important to have friends in many different social groups.

i agree. i think the idea that you could be known as your whole self is very nice — but totally unrealistic. maybe by your spouse? your friend, your soulmate? maybe. but by a group?

we are all too complex and layered — we *need* different circles of friend and acquaintances if we’re going to explore (and get to know) all the facets of ourselves. in fact, if we’re lucky, *we* will know our whole self. i don’t think many people do!

[E]ach group of friends gives me something, speaks to some part of my personality, that I might not find in another group.

this.

I also have no problem letting friendships go or change as needed. I know so many people who hold on to relationships that have nothing left to them.

that is a whole other (huge!) topic, but i agree.

Comment by MichelleH on March 25, 2013 at 04:18 PM

All VERY good comments!
I would like to add, as well, that much of the time, support is earned gradually and over time. Family and friends do not want you to fail so some of the negative talk is given sincerely. They will come around if you show by example and not force them to change.
If you have made up your mind that you want to try X, then go all in and don't be wishy-washy! (even if you change course later). You will find others that think like you! Eventually, when your friends and family see that you and your children are happy and thriving, then they will be ok. And if they're not ok...then you have some new friends! It may take a while to thicken your skin, but it WILL happen!
Also, I love Dawn's comment on being choosy about who you complain to (and it includes husbands!). ;)

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 05:36 PM

 

i think you’re right, michelle, that eventually you *will* get thicker skin — that has been my experience!

much of the time, support is earned gradually and over time. Family and friends do not want you to fail so some of the negative talk is given sincerely. They will come around if you show by example and not force them to change.

while i *want* this to be true, i’m afraid some people are stuck with family and friends who may — perhaps subconsciously — maybe a little bit want you to fail.

i think in the best of circumstances, you’re right — they really do want you to be happy and they will eventually come around. but if that isn’t the case — you can find the support you need elsewhere.

Comment by MichelleH on March 25, 2013 at 09:29 PM

It's a struggle no matter what! :)

Comment by amy21 on March 25, 2013 at 06:10 PM

while i *want* this to be true, i’m afraid some people are stuck with family and friends who may — perhaps subconsciously — maybe a little bit want you to fail.

This needed extra highlighting...

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 07:12 PM

sad, but true!

Comment by shelli : mamaof... on March 25, 2013 at 07:21 PM

Agreed. :(

Comment by dawn suzette on March 25, 2013 at 07:16 PM

Thank you Lori and everyone who commented! So much food for thought here!

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 07:23 PM

YES — great conversation on this topic — thank you EVERYONE who’s participating! <3

Comment by Heather L Caliri on March 25, 2013 at 07:57 PM

Absolutely on the last point. I find I'm a bit of an approval junkie: not willing to start unless everyone is cheering. The more I've decided to start w/o support, b/c I am determined, come hell or high water, to succeed, the more I find the bravery to do brave work, and to find the support I need in less-obvious places.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 25, 2013 at 08:33 PM

 

The more I've decided to start w/o support, b/c I am determined, come hell or high water, to succeed, the more I find the bravery to do brave work, and to find the support I need in less-obvious places.

:: slow clap ::

Comment by Kerry on March 26, 2013 at 10:16 AM

As I read this post yesterday, I realized that recently, I have been the naysayer. My husband and brother have been going strong on an interest and having some fun planning a business around it. I thought I was just bringing up concerns, things to consider before getting too invested in it and, letting them know that I don't want too much of the work falling on me. Now, I see that what was really happening was that, this isn't the direction I really wanted things to go. I want my husband working from home more and he sees himself opening a shop. I didn't think what I said would have the effect that it did. I threw a wrench in his plans and he's totally derailed. But, yesterday, after reading this, I tried to let him know I want him back on track. I mean, they're still in the planning stages, who knows how things will work out, or what direction things will take, or even how long it would be before they opened an actually shop. By then, the kids will be bigger and I might not feel the need to have him home as much. And, him following his passion doesn't mean I have to give up mine which, for some reason, it was starting to feel like.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 26, 2013 at 11:43 AM

 

what a great outcome from reading this discussion!

i know i’ve accidentally naysayed my husband when i didn’t intend to. and for the same reason — i was reacting to what *i* was going to have to do if his hypothetical plan got off the ground.

really examining this issue from the perspective of what we want & need has the potential to make us better mentors, parents, partners, and friends.

Comment by dawn suzette on March 26, 2013 at 04:33 PM

So happy to hear your experience and that you saw yourself in the other role. I am afraid I was a naysayer with an early plan my husband had when we were in our early 20's and now regret not supporting him in that path. I can only guess but think he would be been much happier down that road. I can see now why I felt the way I did and it had everything to do with me and nothing to do with him! Good on you to see it now!

Comment by amanda {the hab... on March 26, 2013 at 10:32 AM

my pragmatic side always wants to tell people to suck it up. i realize that isn't terribly kindhearted or gentle but at some point the kid gloves must come off.

and i must say, my husband was not magicked and yet is incredibly supportive and encouraging. why? because like me, he's driven, he has ideas, he's a life learner, and he straps fear into the back seat (you the know the one way in the back?). the fact that we're role models for our children is hugely motivating - i want them to be bold and burn bright, not cower in the corner.

Comment by Lori Pickert on March 26, 2013 at 12:01 PM

 

i think some of the tenderhearted among us *want* to make it work but they just can’t figure out how to break it down. that’s why conversations like this are so helpful. :)

as i said somewhere up there in that morass of words, i think *doers* are more likely to be both encouraging and hands-off with others — because they know the ups and downs of any big undertaking, because they know you have to let people figure things out for themselves, and so on. two doers married to each other must be something to see. ;o)

Comment by dawn suzette on March 26, 2013 at 04:35 PM

Amanda I love that last sentence!

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