When Your Parents Don’t Believe In You

August 13, 2019  |  
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chasing your dreams alone

Source: kate_sept2004 / Getty

When asked, “Do your parents support you?” I say, “Sure!” I mean, when I call, they ask how my work is going and they allow me to talk about it for a minute or so. They ask a follow-up question. In general, they are loving and nurturing to me, so that’s a form of support for my overall life. But, when I see a friend whose parents actively share every one of her victories on social media, and send her articles and videos weekly (if not daily) that they think could in some way help her along in her endeavors, and who are there, front row and center, for every event at which she speaks, I’m faced with the slightly sad reality that, oh, maybe my parent’s don’t support me that much. I don’t mean to pity myself. But, I do think if there is anyone else out there whose parents are a bit checked out of your career pursuits, it can be nice to know you’re not alone. Here’s what it’s like having parents who don’t really believe in you.


If you struggle, they suggest you quit

Any time you admit you’re just a little downtrodden or a bit disappointed from a recent setback, rather than telling you, “You’ll be okay” or “You got this!” your parents say, “Well. Maybe this pursuit isn’t for you. Seems like it’s not going well.”


So you keep struggles to yourself

The last thing you need, when you’re struggling, is someone suggesting that you quit. So you just don’t tell your parents when you’re struggling. Even after tremendous disappointments, when you talk to your parents, you say that nothing is new and that everything is great. You can’t lean on them when you’re down. They won’t help you get back up.


Meaning they put a lot on your plate

Unfortunately, since you can’t tell your parents when you’re going through a lot, career-wise, they think that your life is always easy, breezy. That means they put a lot on your plate, thinking it’s empty, when it’s actually quite full. Whether that’s asking a tremendous favor of you, or simply calling to complain to you about their woes, which are nothing compared to your secret struggles.


Don’t they know, failure is a part of success?

Sometimes you just want to teach them a life lesson that you’re surprised they, being older than you, don’t know. And that’s this: failure is part of success. It isn’t the opposite of it. It isn’t the end of it. It’s a part of it. Can’t they be proud of you for putting yourself out there and enduring failure in order to pursue your goals?


They suggest different career paths

They often suggest completely different career paths for you, either directly or indirectly. Your mother may mention, out of nowhere, that her friend’s daughter works in this or that field and seems very happy—“If you ever want an introduction.”


They don’t realize how insulting that is

They don’t realize how terribly insulting it is when they suggest to you—you, who’ve worked long hours, for years, at this pursuit that you love—that you just jump ship now. It means, truly, that they don’t believe in you. Not in this pursuit, at least.


They only give negative feedback

When I do share my work with my parents, they do something that I know they think is helpful but is actually hurtful: they only talk about the things that need improvement. That’s it. They just talk about the things that are wrong or subpar. They believe they’re helping me, but imagine how that feels for me?


Which you get enough of from the world

I also want to tell my parents, “Hey, just for the record, you don’t need to criticize my work. Don’t worry that, if you don’t, I’ll never be aware of the mistakes. The world gives me plenty of critical feedback. From my parents, I wouldn’t mind a little positive reinforcement.”


And, from yourself

I also want to tell them that, for the record, I give myself enough criticism. I give myself enough negative feedback. There is no shortage of critique over here. They really shouldn’t feel the need to step in in that department.


You feel they disregard your hard work

I also feel, when my parents only point out the few mistakes I’ve made, that they give me no credit for all of the hard work I do. I feel that they didn’t stop and think, for even a second, about the long hours I’ve spent on this—about the days I spent racking my brain about this and driving myself crazy over it. They don’t applaud my efforts at all.


They recite discouraging statistics

This is a tough one: sometimes, my mom will just mention, out of the blue, how very few people actually succeed at what I’m trying to do. Shouldn’t she, as my mother, think that if anyone is going to succeed, it’d be her daughter? If anyone should think I’m special and I have what it takes, shouldn’t it be the woman who made me?


You know that: but no great pursuit is easy

I also know those statistics. Do they really think I don’t know? Of course I do. But if we all obsessed, all day, over the statistics and the likelihood that we’d succeed, we’d get nothing done. And nothing worth having comes easily. Do my parents just want me to do take the easy routes in life?


You wonder where you’d be if they did

I sometimes wonder how far along I’d be if I did have parents who believed in me. What if they thought I was great? What if they had complete faith that I’d be one of the handful who made it? And if they made me feel that, every day? Would I have a leg up? Would you have been successful young? (Not that that’s a good thing).


But, you know impressive people like you

The truth is—and we all know it—many of the most impressive and most successful individuals in the world didn’t have parents who supported them. Some had parents who abused them. Some had no parents at all. So I can’t blame my parents’ lack of support for my shortcomings.


Maybe it’s even a part of your drive

In fact, maybe I can be thankful to them for being so critical. I can’t change the way they are, but perhaps I can change the way I think about them. Maybe I’m driven, on my own, because nobody else pushed me. And I know I can’t count on that fuel from anyone but myself.

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