‘Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.’
~ W. Gibson.
Have you ever shared your dream with someone, only to have them stomp on it with a few unsupportive words?
‘I’ve been thinking about writing a book, and—’
‘It’s really hard to get published, you know.’
There’s a breed of control freaks who quietly lurk, ready to attack your precious, vulnerable ideas as soon as you share them with the world. These people are known as naysayers, non-supporters, dream killers, or just plain assholes.
You’ll find them in the workplace, in social circles, in the family, or in your marital bed. It could be your boss, your pal, your parents, your husband or wife, your neighbor, your neighbor’s mother’s husband …
Regardless of where you encounter them, naysayers all have the same toxic tendency: they get off on popping bubbles, raining on parades, throwing wet blankets on ambitions, and farting on dreams. “What’s that? You want to travel around the world?” Brruuuub!
How to recognize a naysayer
This is usually how it unfolds: you dream up a plan that excites you to the core of your being. It may be an adventure, a new career path, an artistic pursuit, or a crazy invention to rival Velcro. Hopefully it’s involves a plan more inspired than quitting your job to sit at home in your robe growing out your facial hair, while watching soaps day long (in lieu of using soaps). If that is your ambition, you’re not dealing with naysayers, you’re dealing with sane people. Get help.
But if you have a solid, well-considered life dream that you’re driven to accomplish, you’ll probably want to share it with friends, family and co-workers. You’ll want to come out of the closet with your grandiose dream. Some will pat you on the back and say, “GO FOR IT,” but there’s always one person who gets off on taking a dump in your happiness sandwich.
Common remarks from naysayers:
You might receive ‘helpful advice’ along the lines of: ‘I know someone else who tried that and it didn’t work out for them.’
Your confidence will be attacked with: ‘Are you sure you’re qualified?’
Naysayers love to highlight the impracticalities of your dream, “You can’t make any money doing that.”
Or, they’ll call upon ‘normal people’ as the basis for their argument, pointing out how you’re destined for failure because you’re not acting like one of them. ‘Normal people usually just get a real job,’ or, ‘This isn’t what normal people do.’
There’s an easy way to know if you’re dealing with a naysayer. When their mouth opens up and words come out, does it:
1. Make your heart happy?
If your answer is yes, you’re being lovingly supported.
2. Make your feel like your guts have just been through a meat mincer?
If your answer is yes, you’ve been naybashed by an asshole.
The psychology of an asshole
Most often, naysayers have not fulfilled their own dreams. They don’t live an inspired existence because they’re too busy living in fear. Maybe they made the mistake of listening to their own naysayers, and they’re just parroting words that have kept them down their whole life? Perhaps they believe that life is all about living inside a fantasyland called Normalville, where regular people populate the average town of Mediocrity, sipping on lukewarm cups of boring?
Chances are, they’re just scared. Fear of loss, fear of being alone, fear of change, fear of being insignificant, fear of death or injury, fear of being judged. Your wild ambitions threaten the naysayer. He/she likes to keep life safe, simple and predictable, and by pissing in your party hat, they’re hoping to keep you small and easy to manage. Your goal threatens to throw out the equilibrium of his/her universe. But the naysayer is out of luck because the entire universe doesn’t actually belong to them (as much as they like to believe that it does).
How to deal with a naysayer
Talk it out
If the negative comments are coming from a person you care deeply about, see what you can do to talk it through. Ask them what their concerns are and, without judgement, address them one by one. Don’t let it escalate into an argument—stay calm. Comfort them through their fears, while peacefully standing your ground. This is your life, your journey and your happiness, so own it and make it clear that you won’t sway from your dream. Negotiate and compromise if possible, but make sure you leave the conversation with your heart fluttering. If you come away from the conversation feeling heavy and sad, you’ve just been naybashed once again. Perhaps it’s time to consider therapy?
If the criticism is coming from your family, or a dear old friend, it may be best to simply block it out. Have confidence in your plans, and refuse to hear their crap. Locate your internal switch called GIVE A SHIT and simply flick it over from DO to DON’T.
Perhaps the naysayer is a friend or partner who never supports your dreams? If you find yourself in a relationship with a toxic person who continually tears holes in your ambitions, it may be best to cut off the relationship. Choose to surround yourself with people who make you want to break out into a happy dance. Align with people who blow air into your balloon, rather than the pricks.
Sharpen your swords and get ready for some nayslaying, because:
Have you had any experiences with naysayers? Have your dreams been naybashed? What did you do to cope? What advice would you give to people who are not being supported?
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.