We all have people around us who see what we love to do as a sheer waste of time. Often, these are people close to us and we keep wishing they would understand how important something is to us for once.
In this episode, I share a few techniques on how to handle negativity and negative people and keep on your journey of following your passion.
Listen to the episode below:
There’s a very sweet and powerful scene in the movie Pursuit of Happyness.
Will Smith, who’s the father, asks his son what he wants to be when he grows up. And his son, who’s out playing basketball, tells him that he’d like to be a professional basketball player one day.
To this, the father responds basically with what you’d expect any father to say:
“You’ll never be a great basketball player. You’ll just be an average one just like me, and there’s no future in this. That’s just how it works.”
This is what we’d expect people to say about anything we love, if it’s outside of what is considered normal — unless people around you are actual basketball players, of course.
Following your passion is super hard, and if people and situations around us are negative or not supportive of what we want to do, then it’s almost impossible.
And the earlier it is in our journey, the harder it is for us to believe in ourselves and the easier it is for anyone with even a hint of negativity to make us stop doing what we like or love to do.
In that movie, the boy throws away the ball after hearing that and the father realizes what he has just done. He takes his words back and gives a very important lesson to his son. He says this:
“Don’t ever let somebody tell you, you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream…you gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves…they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want something, go get it. Period.”
There is wisdom in those words, but that’s a movie. In the real world, people around us will not have a change of heart, at least not so fast.
You’ve got to protect your passion. You’ve got to protect your dream. You’ve got to fight for what you stand for. When life and people throw sticks and stones on what you are building, you’ve got to be the shield. You’ve got to be the all-weather protective coat of paint that can stand rain, heat, cold and everything in between.
But, we both know it’s not easy and to be honest, there are moments when you actually want to throw out what you’re working on.
See if this sounds familiar to you:
You start working on something that matters to you, and someone will do what that father in the movie did — ask you to stop or ask you for reasons why you’re wasting your time. You try to fight back a bit, using all sorts of logic as to why this matters, and trying to make them understand. A point comes where you get frustrated enough and stop. You stop creating, and maybe even throw your half-done creation away.
It’s possible this has happened to you before, and may have been the reason why you left your passion behind back in the day. Or, it might be happening to you right now and you are struggling really hard to keep at it.
It’s very natural to fight back when someone does this to you, especially if it’s someone close — you sincerely want them to, even expect them to already understand.
The usual advice is of course to surround yourself with positive people and get rid of negative people from your life, and you already know that it’s impossible — this someone could be a close or even best friend or your spouse or your siblings or your parents.
Begin With Acceptance
Accept that fighting back is not going to work. I could ask you to completely avoid them and continue what you are doing, but that’s often impractical and we aren’t all great at being jerks to others.
So how do you handle this? How can you keep doing what you love when your close ones wouldn’t support you? How can you not feel small and insignificant when what you’re creating is criticized by someone who is also in the same field?
I’ve figured out some simple ways to do this, and the first step in that process is to understand where they are coming from.
We often assume that people are against our dreams because they couldn’t do it. Plain and simple. They couldn’t do what they loved to do and so they don’t want you to succeed at it.
Though there are people like this out there, I think this isn’t what’s going on with most people around you.
People are not that evil.
I feel negative people are negative because they don’t know any better.
They don’t know what a life full of passion looks like. They don’t know it is possible to balance work that pays the bills and passion that pays the soul. They haven’t glimpsed what you’ve seen, they haven’t felt what you’ve felt, they haven’t heard the music that your ears can hear every time you’re working on something you love.
You could hate them, or you could pity them. You definitely cannot fight them, because there is no convincing someone against their opinion. They’ll either see the light or they won’t and it’s not your responsibility to help.
Then there are people who are themselves doing what you are doing — say, another painter or writer or composer — who will criticize what you show them. They may say it’s not professional enough or you have a long way to go or even that you have no skills and you should quit.
Now, it’s easy for you to stop letting negative people from influencing how and if you do something if they aren’t part of your life in general.
What is harder is to handle people closer to you — friends and family.
But think about this:
Friends and family are almost always coming from a place of worry. They don’t hate you, they don’t want to stop you, they simply see what you are doing as a waste of time and something that is going to affect your chances at a secure future.
And can you blame them? If a friend asked you your opinion about a career related decision that had some gray area, would you be able to be forthcoming in your support? Would you outright tell them to go for it, or would you add a caveat, a “but be careful”.
Again, you cannot convince them and on top of that, you cannot ask them to go away from your life.
Once you understand that and start seeing why they are against your dreams, you’ll be better at tackling it and these techniques will help you.
Stop Fighting Back
Simply stop fighting back. Stop arguing. Stop trying to convince them so hard.
The best way to make them believe in you are your tangible results, as and when they will come. Until then, work on your stuff when they are not around or when they are sleeping.
Find these pockets of time where they naturally leave you alone, without having to ask them to. If you cannot find these at home, go to places where no one can bother you.
Lunch breaks at work, sitting at a coffee shop, going to a library.
Working on your passion is always better and more powerful than fighting for your passion. Let your results speak for you, and until then, work towards bringing those results to life.
Find Someone To Talk To
Find a confidant. Find a close friend or someone in your family who’ll be happy to listen to you.
This person will help you vent that anger and frustration that makes you fight back. They’ll listen and calm you down and you’ll be able to focus better.
This can be a teacher, a friend or anyone in your family who thinks the way you do.
Don’t have anyone like that? The internet is here to save you — go to 7Cups.com and just ask anyone of their community listeners to… you guessed it, just hear you out.
Do this as an exercise once a week — vent your anger to someone who understands and then get back to doing what you love.
Tap On Your Inner Circle
These are people who get you, and your vision of the world. I’ve shared how to build this inner circle in a previous episode which you may want to check out. When you are feeling low, your inner circle will pick you up and make you stand right up.
Tap on your fans — people who genuinely care or just love the fact that you are creating something — to help talk you out of the negativity by simply being there.
This works great for handling criticism about your work too. When someone criticizes your work, go right to your inner circle to simply reassure yourself that what you are doing is great.
It may suck, and you may know it, but when someone else says that it’s great, it just feels nice.
Listen To The Criticism
Listen, but don’t give in.
Your inner circle will help you take care of the shattered self-esteem, but criticism from anyone can have some deep lying truths which we miss when we first hear it. Think if they were pointing at something you could fix, though they were a jerk about it.
When people don’t agree with your vision of how things should be, they throw a lot of harsh words at you. But, in those harsh words, there are a little golden nuggets that their experience of life has given them and you can use that to improve your own art.
Easiest way to understand this is this:
Surround yourself with a few a*holes, and listen to them from time to time.
Find Stuff That Gives You A Boost
Surround yourself with things that will help you on your journey of following your passion. Read books and blogs related to your field, go to places where other people like you hang out.
If you are a painter, you do this by going to exhibitions and even workshops.
If you are a writer, you can do this by meeting other writers like you on meetup.com or simply reading blogs by other writers.
A great way to do this is to start your own blog, sharing your own journey as you try to do what you love and you’ll see that people who are on the same journey as you will find you.
This is exactly what I am doing, and here you are, reading this. Thank you for being so awesome!
Help Someone Else
Help someone else on their journey. Find people you can teach what you are doing.
You may not know as much as some guru or expert. But, you simply need to find people who are just getting started — can you find some students who you can be a mentor to?
Helping someone else on a journey is a great way to discover new things about your passion and about you as well.
Finally, (Try To) Convince Those Who Matter To You
When you’ve done those things above, it’s time to try and convince the negative people in your life who also matter to you.
You are not going to convince them about what you are doing, but only about the fact that there are other ways to go about this.
Help them understand where you are coming from, talk to them about how success is not important to you, that you are not running away from your responsibilities, that you are simply trying to find some meaning in life apart from your education or your job or your business. Help them calm down.
But, do this when they least expect it. Don’t make this part of your fight, make this part of a general conversation over dinner or while watching TV.
When someone is relaxed, it is easier for them to see your perspective. Help them ease into it.
This will be a slow process and it may not lead anywhere, but till the time you get real results from following your passion, try to eat away at their worry by making them understand that you are still working to pay the bills.
Be that understanding father in that movie: to yourself, to people close to you, and to someone else.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, insights and questions! Please leave a comment…