Every multipotentialite knows how it feels to share a new interest or endeavor with someone and receive a blank stare or a look of disapproval.
You’re studying to become a physiotherapist? But I thought you were happy working at that tech company? That seemed like a good career…
You’re in an art program. Why would you want to take a math class?
When are you going to stop messing around with all of these different things and commit to something?
The negative responses we receive range from genuinely confused but well-meaning, to outright nasty and critical.
Here are a few strategies to help you deal with people who don’t understand (or even disapprove of) your multipotentiality.
Know Your Audience
Who is this person? How much does your relationship with them matter? Are they a good fit for you?
If the disapproving party is a parent or close friend, it’s worth trying to reach an understanding. If they are a passing acquaintance or someone you don’t care much for anyway, it might be easier to NOT explain or seek their approval. It might not be worth your time to open up a discussion with a person you don’t want in your life. Try these tips if you’re dealing with a casual acquaintance.
Help them Understand
It’s difficult not to feel defensive when someone makes you feel as though you have to justify your life choices. If you feel up to it, explain what it means to be a multipotentialite. If not, passing along resources might be your best option.
Share examples of famous multipotentialites like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou or James Franco. If you know anyone in your family or local community who has many careers or projects, use those examples as well.
Know that the people who love you only want the best for you. Most parents who question their children’s choices are simply worried. They want to ensure that their child grows up to be self-sufficient and financially stable.
Explain that in the 21st century, and with the current unpredictable nature of the economy, it is more important than ever to be adaptable and to be able to switch gears and learn new things quickly. You can point them to the Generation Flux article over at Fast Company or give them a copy of A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. Pamela Slim’s new book, Body of Work, contains a section where she talks specifically about multipotentialites. If you don’t want to bombard them with too many resources all at once, Refuse to Choose is a good starting point.
Give them Time to Come Around
Family and friends will often back off eventually, if they see that you are happy and making a decent living. When I was interviewing people for my book, I heard this story again and again.
Sadly not everyone eventually comes around. There are still parents (it’s usually parents) who, perhaps due to cultural issues, are unwilling to see an unconventional career path as anything but bad. These situations are always painful. The best thing you can do is to create your own “family,” as it were, to seek out supportive friends and community who understand and accept your multipotentiality.
Ditch the Doubters
It is said that an individual is the product of her five closest friends. Who we choose to surround ourselves with profoundly impacts our motivation, our goals and what we believe is possible.
Don’t be afraid to step away from friendships and seek out new friends who have lifestyles and beliefs that are more aligned with the direction you want to move in. You aren’t obligated to hang out with anybody you don’t want to hang out with, especially people who are critical of your life choices or are negative in general. It can be hard to let go of friends you’ve had for most of your life, but sometimes it must be done. Once you’ve ditched the doubters, it’s time to…
Seek Out Supportive Community
Consciously select the people around you. Look for multipotentialites in your life that you could deepen your relationship with. Head over to meetup.com and seek out groups of artists, entrepreneurs, or other people who are doing their own thing.
Another option is to join the Puttytribe, where you will meet a self-selected group of multipotentialites who want to connect with other multipods. You can also reach out to people you see commenting here on Puttylike or on other blogs you enjoy.
Believe in Your Right to Be Who You Are
You can, and should, try to explain your multipotentiality to the important people in your life. They might get it after a little bit of explaining and some resources, or they might need more time to come around.
But whether or not your family and friends approve, you need to live your life and do your thing. Get out there, start pursuing the things that fascinate you, and find your people.
How do you deal with people who don’t understand, or even disapprove of your multipotentiality?
Emilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites integrate ALL of their interests into their lives. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is an occasional rock star, a paleo-friendly eater and a wannabe scientist. Learn more about Emilie here.