What do you do when negative people aren’t supportive of your dreams? Sometimes they're you're closest family and friends, and their attitudes aren't always easy to navigate.
Not everyone dreams as big as you do. Maybe they tell you it’s not possible, there’s no way you can do it, or some variation on that theme.
In turn, you become upset, doubts creep in, and you feel like maybe somewhere deep down, they know something that you don’t.
This has happened to everyone at one point. After all, why would someone be a naysayer unless they’ve had their dreams knocked down a peg or two over the years? We begin our lives with big ideas, and we slowly give up on them one by one when they don’t happen.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do when you’re faced with haters or naysayers to keep your dreams and desires alive.
Recently, I was excitedly explaining plans for my future, when my friend said to me, “I don’t know. You have to pay the bills…” And it wasn’t just what he said, it was how he said it.
A little background: my friend has lots of plans to go back to school, find another passion, and move to another city. We both have similar well-paying employment. I’ve always supported him. Not once have I asked him how he was going to finance his dreams. I’ve never questioned his ability to achieve them.
I’ll tell you how I handled it below.
What do we do when people aren’t supportive of our dreams or say or do things that could plant seeds of doubt in our brains? We may not have seen it coming, but we can handle those naysayers while maintaining our dreams.
Here’s 7 things you can do to handle a Negative Nancy, and keep your dreams in tact.
1. Ask yourself whether you can learn anything from what they said to you.
Give them the benefit of the doubt. So for example, with my friend I talked about above, I gave him the benefit of the doubt in this instance that he meant well, and he just wants me to be happy.
How you think about their words determines how you'll respond. What they have to say is just their opinion. You will never be able to change other people, but you can always change how you think about their words.
If you become defensive, consider your belief isn't yet strong. You're believing that they may have a point. It's up to you to practice believing in yourself and your dream.
No matter how you interpret what they tell you, you’ll have to decide how you want to respond. Do you confront them (I talk about that more below) or do you ignore them and follow one of the other suggestions set out below?
2. Have compassion for them.
Remind yourself where the other person is in their lives. Maybe you can recognize that they aren’t risk-takers and don’t want to think outside the box.
They likely have had their dreams bashed in a time or two before, and they’re jealous that you have the audacity to think bigger than they’re willing to anymore.
3. They’re projecting their beliefs on you.
Projecting is the psychological phenomenon of denying that you have certain attributes and then attributing them to another person. For instance, a person may tell you that your dreams are too big. That person is projecting their beliefs that their own dreams were too big at one time. Because they think small, they project their limiting beliefs onto you.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “You are not your thoughts?” Because we're not our thoughts – we're merely observers of our thoughts. We’re also not defined by other people’s limiting beliefs.
Remind yourself that they’re not criticizing you or undercutting your dreams. They’re criticizing and undercutting their own dreams.
4. Remember that you've chosen to be in the arena…not them!
My favorite quote on remembering the importance of the person who takes action was brought to my attention by Brene Brown and was spoken by President Theodore Roosevelt.
It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
5. Use their doubt to fuel your passion.
Are you energized after an interaction with a person who doubts you? If so, cultivate that feeling. When you start thinking about what they said to you or what they did to sabotage you, use it to your advantage. It can be powerful fuel for your passion.
Just say, “Thank you for underestimating my ability to take care of myself and go after my dream.”
6. Have faith that life is going to give you what you need when you need it.
This person entered your life at just the right time to…
- help you believe harder in your dream
- feel empathy towards others
- learn more about yourself and how you choose to respond to situations where people don't believe in you
Have you ever had someone challenge your beliefs in yourself? Let’s start a conversation. Tell me your experiences below.
7. Do you confront them?
Maybe. Is it worth it to you? Only you can answer that.
For me, I believe in my dreams strongly. The people I choose to surround myself with are supportive. In instances where even a great friend may show doubt, I understand that it's not their dream. They don't think the thoughts I think; they don't see the world see as I see it.
If you treat every situation with curiosity, then you can engage in a conversation with them.
But, if you haven't yet cultivated a strong belief in your dream, you may not have done enough thought work to engage in a productive way with your friend.
Understand where you are, and the choice will be clear to you.
In my particular situation, I was angry. I confronted my friend and let him know that his reaction bothered me. I didn’t feel comfortable sharing what I want to do with him in the future NOT because of what he said, but because of my thoughts about what he said.
Looking back on this situation, I wasn't confident enough in my beliefs to have a productive conversation with him. It took me time to work on my confidence in my goals with a coach. Once I did, it has become easier and easier to not only talk about my dreams but to live into them.
What people say to us makes no difference. It's up to us to observe our thoughts and understand that when we believe strongly in ourselves, it never really matters what other people think.
We cannot change other people's thoughts. We can only change our own.
Work on strengthening your belief in yourself, and you can navigate any difficult conversation.