Going It Alone

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

It is pretty tough to get through hard times all by yourself – be they financial, emotional, spiritual or physical.   If your goals are not understood by others (or even worse, pose a threat), you can begin to sense a distance beginning to form between you and some of your friends, or even members of your family.  So you start rethinking those goals.  The demons of doubt visit you and your self-confidence can begin to erode away.  When do you stay true to your dreams, and when do you back away?

It is a dilemma indeed, and one that can be thrust upon you and catch you by surprise.  You assume that everyone will be rooting for you.  Unfortunately, it does not always work out that way.  If you have decided to train for a marathon, friends and family may be split about supporting you.  Some may be cheering you on with every milestone.  Others may question your decision from the time you buy your first pair of running shoes.  Or, maybe you are from a family that tends toward obesity, and you make the decision to maintain a normal weight.  Some family members may marvel at your success and ask your advice.  Others may begin to single out the traits of yours which they find disagreeable, and belittle you for those traits (when they are really threatened by your weight management).

What if you decided to return to college?  This decision could impact your circle of friends and family even more than running a marathon, maintaining weight or quitting smoking.  A goal of returning to school requires a different type of commitment.  It requires you to go outside your comfort zone.  In the process, you begin to change as you achieve goals along the way (e.g. completed courses) and absorb new knowledge and hone your critical thinking skills.  Your friends and family may think you “talk differently.”  I know of one person who, upon completing his educational goals was chided by a family member for “trying to be an intellectual.”

So what do you do?  First, “follow your gut.”  If you want to pursue a lifelong dream, you should do it.  Second, it is your life.  Only you live with you 24 hours a day.  Only you are inside your head wondering about the future and, perhaps, wishing you had made different decisions in the past.  Think of it this way, you can never regret achieving a goal, but you may regret not trying.  And, what if some friends and family members do distance themselves?  Remember, their problem with your goals is not your problem.  Often non-supportive friends and family are being non-supportive for other underlying reasons.

Finally, you should seek out those people who do encourage you.  It is easy to focus on those who do not understand your dreams, especially if they are your siblings, your best friend, or even your parents.  Align yourself with positive people.  Hopefully, in time, the ones who have stayed away will see how happy and accomplished you are, and will start coming back into your life.

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