“I can’t get no satisfaction.” Those are the song lyrics that come to mind when I think about nearly every single time I’ve tried to share a victory with friends or family or really anybody who isn’t in my industry. Nobody will ever really understand what you do besides you, and maybe a small group of colleagues who also do what you do. Even working in the same industry as you doesn’t mean someone will understand the exact struggles of your role. Very few people in your life will truly see what it means to be you every day—what your hustle and grind and struggles and victories are like.
It’s this strange and awkward thing we have to deal with: wanting to get support from the people who understand our lives the least. That’s at least true when it comes to career stuff. Your parents and family may know a lot about you on a personal level, but, eventually, your career becomes personal, and it’s a part of your life that your friends and family just may not get. You want them to get it so badly. So, you’ll make the mistake many, many times of trying to let them in—of trying to share the wins and explain to them just what that next step means. I call it a mistake because they never respond the way you want them to.
It’s hard for people to be supportive in the right way of something they don’t understand. I can’t tell you how much time I spend venting to my boyfriend about how my mom responded to my recent career news (we’re working on that relationship). And yet, I walk back into the same trap over and over again and try to tell my family about my career wins, only to hear these comments that are meant to be supportive (I think?) but come off as condescending.
Well that’s better than last time
You try to tell your family about a recent victory. You know that it’s a victory. You know that it could mean big things! You’re very proud of yourself. And they say, “Well, that’s better than last time,” recalling a previous, similar effort that didn’t turn out as well.
So, what can this lead to?
Sometimes, your loved ones don’t even really celebrate your victory. They don’t take a moment to bask in the glory of the win with you. They don’t stop to acknowledge that this, alone, is something to celebrate. Instead they jump right ahead to asking what else could come of this.
They should’ve paid you more
You’re very proud of a recent gig. It was hard to get. A lot of people competed for it and you got it. Then, your family just says that you should have been paid more. Um…it’s done now. You already negotiated. You already got paid. What good does it do for them to say that now?
It takes courage to just try
You’ve just listed all of your accomplishments to a friend or family member. You know that these are good things. You see that you are getting results. But they just say, “Hey, well, it’s brave that you even try.” Translation: they don’t think you’re getting results.
You should get paid you’re worth
Though they think they’re saying something complimentary, it feels like they’re saying, “You let people take advantage of you. You don’t believe in yourself enough. I feel sorry for you.” Of course, they have no idea how rare it is to even get the job you got, and to get paid what you’re getting paid.
Have you considered obvious thing here
If you’re a writer, your family asks, “Have you considered getting your book listed in ‘The New York Times’?” If you’re a chef, they ask, “Have you considered being a personal chef for a celebrity?” As if these are the easiest things in the world to do, and the only thing standing in your way is you hadn’t thought of it.
You should ask so-and-so, he does it too
Your parent brings up someone they vaguely know—a neighbor’s sister’s son—who kind of does what you do, and suggests you two get in touch in case that person has tips. So your parent just assumes that somebody they don’t even know who works in your industry must be doing better than you.
Hobbies are good for you
You’ve just spoken in depth and at length about your pursuits. You’re putting a lot of work into it. It’s pretty clear that you hope to make a career out of this. And your family just says, “Well, it’s very good you have a hobby. It’s important to have something fun, outside of your real work.”
That’s great! Anyways, this traffic sucks
Sometimes, they just change the subject right away. You tell your loved one about a victory you worked long and hard for. For you, this journey has been tumultuous and lengthy. You think it deserves days of celebrations. Instead, your family member says, “That’s great! Anyways, you should see the traffic I’m sitting in.”
It’s okay to admit if it’s not for you
You just want to share your struggles with your family member so you can vent a little, and so you can let them in on what you’re going through. You’re not suggesting that you’d quit. Everyone struggles on the road to success. But your loved one says, “Well, you know it’s a strength to admit that you can’t do something.”
You take rejection very well
Sure, you’ve been rejected many times. That’s a part of success. You have to fall down many times. The point is that you always get back up. But, instead of admiring that you’ve stayed in the pocket, and being impressed with your achievements, your loved one focuses on all the rejection and says that you handle it well.
You get credit for sticking it out
Sticking it out? Not growing. Not advancing. Not thriving. Not learning. Not moving forward. But just surviving. This is almost the complete absence of a compliment. The person is saying, “Yeah I mean…you’re alive and…you’re still trying. Good for you.”
You should fix this one tiny thing
They’re trying to be helpful, but your family member points out the one tiny thing she would have changed about your work. She doesn’t point out all of the great things—she just hones in on that one little thing she thinks you should fix, as if that thing ruins everything else.
That’s great, but what does it pay?
In other words, “I know you’re excited about this thing, but I need to know what it pays before I decide if it’s something worth celebrating.” Some people don’t understand that, if you are saying that it’s worth celebrating, then it’s worth celebrating. They don’t need to price it.
Very tough industry. Few make it.
I don’t really know what my family thinks they achieve by saying this to me, but they say it to me a lot. I know I’m in a tough industry. I am well aware of the numbers and the statistics. I don’t push on because I’m oblivious to those. I push on because I’m hopeful—something I wish they were for me.