A while back I got this question from an IWT reader about what to do if your family doesn’t support you:
“I love [my family] and I want them to be happy. They wallow in misery and blame me for it. I feel very tied to them although I should just let go. How do you let go of the living who have become a source of poison and sickness in your life when you are related to them and have known them your whole life?”
Isn’t it funny (read: incredibly annoying) how as you become more successful at something — career, relationships, money, whatever — you start to encounter more and more people who just want to throw shade at your success?
Maybe you lost a ton of weight, and now a co-worker makes passive aggressive comments how being skinny is “so unhealthy.”
Maybe you’re about to get married, and your “friend” starts not-so-subtly talking to you about how great it is to be single.
Maybe you want to start your own business, and your brother starts being a concern troll and asks you things like, “What if you don’t make enough money?” or “What if you fail?”
It sucks when this happens — but it’s especially awful when it comes from a family member.
How are you supposed to handle family members who second guess you…and make you feel bad about your choices?
And it got me thinking…how would YOU approach this situation? So I put it to my readers:
- How has this happened to you? Specifically, if you’ve ever had a family member be unsupportive, what exactly did they say? (Did they come right out and say, “That’s a bad decision!” or were they more subtle about it?)
- How would you recommend this person deal with their unsupportive family? What exactly should they do?
I included the stipulation that readers couldn’t just say, “Cut them out of your life!” However, after reading the comments, I’ve changed my attitude a bit.
Here are a handful of my favorite answers — in no particular order.
Unsupportive family member advice #1: It’s their issue. Not mine.
Christie hit upon a truth that many people don’t realize when they’re being criticized or aren’t being supported by their family: It’s often THEIR problems, not yours. Too many times, we become focused on what others are saying about us instead of focusing on accomplishing our goals, whether it’s writing that dissertation or dropping a responsibility because you have different priorities.
Sometimes, there’s just no changing the way someone looks at your actions — but you can choose how you react to them.
Unsupportive family member advice #2: Tell only those who will support you.
This is such a unique framework, I couldn’t help but share it with you all now. If you have a goal about something you want to give up such as smoking or drinking, tell everyone. However, if you have a “move-up goal” like changing careers or starting a new business, only tell those who you know will support you in your decision.
Now before you concern trolls start furiously typing in the comments things like, “BUT RAMIT, if you only tell people who support you, you’ll fall into an echo chamber!!!!omg!!11!!” you should know that people who support you won’t just blindly say yes to whatever you’re doing. They’ll know how to encourage you to accomplish your goals while providing constructive feedback when necessary.
Unsupportive family member advice #3: Be firm about your goals — and stop telling Mom.
Ha! This reader’s mother sounds like a lot of other mothers I know — willing to brag to their friends about their kid’s accomplishments, but won’t give them a single inch of support in private. When this occurs, many are faced with a tough decision: Do I continue telling Mom about my goals or should I divulge this information with someone who’ll actually support me?
Thankfully, this reader chose the latter and made steps towards finding mentors who will help push her and not just constantly tear her down. You don’t have to cut your mom completely out of your life — especially if there’s still a lot of love otherwise.
BONUS: If you want to check out great lessons I learned from MY mentor, Jay Abraham, check out this 8-minute video where I talk with him about how to achieve greatness in your life.
Unsupportive family member advice #4: Cut them loose.
Low key: One of my favorite subreddits to browse is one called /r/RaisedByNarcissists. It’s a subreddit that acts as a support group to redditors who were raised by abusive, self-absorbed people, who often care more about their own self-image than how their kids might feel. Reading the stories on that sub made me realize one thing: Sometimes, you simply have to stop putting up with the bullshit someone’s giving you, regardless of whether or not you’re related to the person.
What to do when your family doesn’t support you
When I went to visit India a while back, I had moved on from looking like this…
…to looking more like this.
I remember, one of my uncles took one look at me and said, “You have become very fat!” Which was funny because that uncle wasn’t exactly Mr. Olympia himself.
Later, another uncle saw me, squeezed my bicep, and said, “Whoa! Been working out, Ramit?”
And that uncle was actually ultra-fit!
So we had one overweight uncle tearing me down, and an uncle who worked out and knew I’d been working out too. Who was I to believe?
One of the keys to mastering my personal psychology has been choosing who to listen to — and who can be smiled at, then ignored. When it came to the situation with my uncles, or any situation with unsupportive family members, it ultimately came down to how I reacted to the situation.
Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned after over a decade with IWT, it’s that you’re ALWAYS going to get unsolicited advice from people.
Novices will get frustrated. They’ll try and fight back against the criticism like, “You can’t tell me what to do, MOM. I’m a grown-up now!”
Top Performers plan for feedback. In fact, they’ll actively seek it out. They’ll plan for the doubters, concern trolls, and outright skeptics. I’ve been working on IWT since 2004, and people STILL doubt me and leave me comments like this!
The truth is, some people are determined to be offended, or play the victim role, or be just plain shitty to you.
When this happens, ask yourself: Is this person in the position I want to be in?
Am I willing to get relationship advice from a friend who can’t hold down a relationship more than a month?
Am I getting business advice from my brother who’s been stuck in a dead-end job for years now?
Is my overweight uncle trying to dole out fitness advice?
OR am I working on mastering my own psychology, recognizing negative feedback (not simply trying to ignore it), and improving my response to it?
Remember: Opinions are cheap. Everyone will have them, because it’s easy to point out things you’re doing wrong, or ways you “should” think about things (we call these invisible scripts):
- “Just follow your passion!”
- “A Dream Job? You should be lucky to have ANY job in this economy!”
- “You need to track your spending.”
- “Buying a house is the best investment you can ever make.”
- “Your first step needs to be social media.”
Though they might seem like logical pieces of advice, they’re all ultimately useless.
So the next time you hear someone giving you advice, ask yourself two questions:
- Is the person I’m talking to really in a position I want to be in?
- Are they giving shallow advice (“Buy a house!”), or if I pressed them on it, would they be able to back it up and give examples?
In the end though, you don’t have to listen to everyone and you definitely don’t have to give equal weight to the critics.
That goes for me too! Don’t just take everything I have to say to heart. Question my background. Question everything I’m telling you. In fact, you should do your research on me before listening to anything I have to say.
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