How to Deal with the Jerks and Naysayers Who Think You’re Just “Indecisive”
Photo courtesy of Jocelyn.

How to Deal with the Jerks and Naysayers Who Think You’re Just “Indecisive”

Written by Emilie

Topics: Confidence

The other day on Twitter, I was asked the following question:

As a multipotentialite, how do you convince people that you’re not just indecisive?

The short answer? You can’t.

Sorry, I know that’s not the most encouraging answer… But when it comes down to it, you can’t control other people’s opinions of you. However, what you CAN control, is the impact people’s opinions have on your life. Plus there are some things you can do to try and help them understand.

Lets unpack this further.

First, it’s a Systemic Problem

Although opinions about multipotentialites being indecisive dilettantes are incredibly offensive, most people don’t understand that. To most people, growing up and choosing one path is the norm. It’s just what we’re all “supposed to do”. It’s how life works.

This specialist mentality has been drilled into our heads from a very young age. Higher education is designed to push us to specialize. (I still remember when my college refused to let me take a math class because I was in an art program. HORRIBLE!) The workforce is largely skill-based too, though there’s some indication that this is changing.

The Idea that You Need to Specialize is a Modern Day Social Construction

What most of these naysayers don’t understand is that specializing isn’t some sort of inherent norm. It’s a modern attitude and it’s contextual. The norms were quite different back in Renaissance times, for example, when being proficient in many areas was considered the ideal.

The problem isn’t really that the naysayers in your life are jerks. It’s more that they don’t know any better. They’ve been raised with this false idea being pounded into their heads. It’s all they know.

Educating the People Closest to You

While it’s hard to convince naysayers (and definitely not the best use of your time), when it comes to those closest to you, you should absolutely try to educate them about what it means to be a multipotentialite. Here are some ideas:

Cut Toxic People Out of Your Life

Don’t bother challenging the opinions of irrelevant/negative people. Just stay away.

Really, if there’s someone who disapproves of who you are, stop hanging out with them. How we feel and what we accomplish are a direct result of the people we choose to surround ourselves with. You have to protect yourself, so avoid the naysayers as much as possible.

Don’t Let their Disapproval Get to You

The best way to deal with false assumptions about multipotentiality, is by being so secure with your multipotentiality that these attitudes don’t phase you.

I’ve been much better at this since embracing my own multipotentiality and using it to fuel my work and my life. I used to have a real problem with naysayers. Their assumptions would make me incredibly angry and defensive. But now I love it when, for example, some well-intentioned relative asks me about my “plan for the future”.

I just smile, and calmly say, “I have a lot of plans… For instance, I want to publish a book, become a speaker, continue building my business, do more coaching, become a television writer, start movements, empower artists… that sort of thing.”

That’s usually where the conversation ends. The well-intentioned relative smiles, clearly thinking how naive I am: Silly girl. She’ll have to grow up eventually.

Let them think that.

See, we know something that the jerks and naysayers don’t: multipotentialites are, and have always been, the true innovators.


How do you deal with naysayers who don’t understand or approve of your multipotentiality?


  1. Gwenn says:

    I don’t think I qualify as a multipotentialite, but I am an artist and as such I get similar responses from well-intentioned relatives and others when I talk about my plans for the future. I try to react as you describe, and I also try to keep in mind that naysayers are probably just jealous. A lot of people give up their dreams in order to be “serious”–whatever that word means–and they don’t like to meet people who haven’t given up their dreams.

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Gwenn,

      There seems to be a lot of overlap between artists, entrepreneurs and multipotentialites. Many of us are all 3, but either way, I feel like we all deal with a lot of the same issues: preconceived notions, disapproval, and yes, jealousy. Definitely.

      When it comes to creativity, I feel like everyone has it inside. It baffles me when I hear someone say that they’re “just not a creative person”. The thing is, it takes practice, and many people haven’t practiced being creative since childhood. So some of them just kind of resent those of us who have embraced it..

      It’s pretty sad. But their disapproval really does have more to do with them than you.

    • Joshua Lundquist says:

      “they don’t like to meet people who haven’t given up their dreams.”

      Well put.

      Gwenn, this comment is from awhile ago I know, but I happened on this article and it totally resonates with one I just wrote. If you are subscribed to this comment, hopefully you’ll check it out!

    • Donald Reed says:

      I think your right

  2. Annie says:

    Oh dear, how this brings back memories of my ex! She would always pretend to be supportive of my projects… but in the end, she “wished I would just stick to something (for once).”

    I’ve long since detached from her influence, as it was toxic in many more ways than just that lack of support.

    That being said, I totally agree with the content of this post… you just can’t change people.

  3. Cotton Candy says:

    Is “Hell yeah!” an appropriate response? When I read “You can’t.” I was a little disappointed, but by the time I got to the end “hell yeah” is what I was thinking. You are so right. Let them think you are naive or never going to grow up or whatever it is they’re thinking. Unless your actions impact their life, their opinions have no place influencing your life.

    While your relatives may be thinking “silly girl” we are thinking “silly relatives” because we know you are going to do all those things & more! Thank you Emilie for showing us all how awesome embracing our multipotentiality can be. =)

  4. Tim Webster says:

    ‘Cut Toxic People Out Of Your Life’

    I hear bells ringing and the cacophony of various angelic horn instruments.


    Emilie, I think you’ve mentioned this in one way or another on here, but this is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL and I’m glad you’ve pointed it out!

    Negative people will serve only to hold you back. That’s not to say you’re looking for positive people to ‘serve you’ – but when you’re surrounded by like-minded, energetic, positive people, this type of hive-mind gets created and you can accomplish SO MUCH MORE!

    As always, thanks for the tasty blog posts, Emilie!

    • Emilie says:

      Ding dong.. Absolutely!

      Cutting out toxic people is so important, in fact, that I may actually make this the entire topic for a whole new post.

      When I realized that I could actually CHOOSE who I hang out with, my whole life changed. It’s so so important.

      Thanks for the comment, Tim!

  5. Emily Rose says:

    I have found it difficult in the past, with certain people (like my ex-hus) that wanted me to get a “normal” job and how utterly depressed it made me all the time. Trying to compartmentalize my art and passions related to it just doesn’t work for me. I need freedom to try new things and explore and be myself.

    Things have been slowly but surely turning around for me and lately getting much better. I am exploring many new avenues for growth and if someone asks, I simply tell them that I am an artist and working on starting a business. Sometimes they probe further other times they don’t. When they do, they get extraordinarily long answers about all the various arts that I like to do. hehe ^_^ Somwhow they never expect a simple question to have such a long answer.


    • Emilie says:

      Ugh. I could never be with someone who didn’t understand/believe in what I do. That’s actually one of the things I watch out for on a first date or whatever. Deal-breaker (along with smoking).

      It sounds like things are starting to happen for you, which is awesome! It’s definitely a slow and lonely process at the beginning. But so many of us are going through it… together. Thank goodness for the blogosphere, huh? :)

    • Jose says:

      Hi Emily, Thankfully, my wife has come to accept who I am. Although I know that she sometimes wished I would just “get it together”. Somehow, we’ve managed to stay together for almost 15 years! My wife always says that she’s surprised that I never became bored of her and left.

      I do feel at times a bit constrained by the “family-man” lifestyle. There’s obviously something there that has kept me around all these years.

      best wishes,

  6. Juventud says:

    Well said Emilie! At times it becomes hard to convince people. I proposed to a girl for the first time but she was sceptical. She always asked what i wanted to be and i always told him a different thing. I wonder why it is more important that what i want to be than love? She refused to understand everytime and called me a ‘jack of all’ and said i might not have a career ever which kind of hurt. Who is to worry about a career i dont understand why it is so much important to have a career? We are here on this planet for just 70 years lucky ones stay here for 90 years. Unless you are really greedy (which i believe most scanners are not) and want a lot of money and a plain boring life, u can live a wonderful life doing virtually what you want to do. And i am not going to swayed away with others success on a single long road. I am going to take different roads the long one, the short one, the wide one, the short one. Though i live in a family where its really hard to convince them cause they believe in conventional living and i cant convince them, nothing unconventional ever happened with them. In the end even animals can feed themselves we are human being so i am gonna live an unconventional life. BTW the girl eventually dumped me for this very reason.

  7. Juventud says:

    p.s.- i have realized that we dont owe any explanation to naysayers. My idea is dont try to convince these people they are not worth your energy and time. Try to eliminate these people from your life if it is possible (like i did) cause if they loved you they wud have believed you. If you cant then u know what to do..

    • Emilie says:

      Wow, that’s so interesting. It sounds like you dodged a bullet with the girl. I mean it’s sad, but clearly she wasn’t right for you. It would have been a difficult life. And like you said, life is precious. Best not to waste it trying to please others at the expense of our own happiness.

      As a side note, I just want to say that it’s really cool meeting scanners from different cultures. Your comments are always so interesting, Juventud. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Rhina says:

    Hi Emilie!

    I learned the hard way that I’m not the one to blame. After 32 jobs and 7 major changes, my friends and family accept me for the way I am. At times, they envy my spontaneity to try something new. B/c of our “specialization” construction, people are even afraid to explore and try anything that’s outside their box. There’s no sense of adventure. Tough but removing toxic people only helps us multipotentialites innovate our best.

    • Emilie says:

      Wow, good for you, Rhina! And good for your friends and family too. That’s amazing. You should write about how you felt through the whole thing (32 jobs!!). Seriously, let me know if you’d like to write a guest post. I have you have some interesting life lessons to share.

      • Rhina says:

        Wow, I would love the opportunity Emilie!

        Lots of trial and errors. I was thinking the other day, maybe it was Life’s way of showing me. I have a tendency not to listen to anyone but my impulses.

        I’ll stay in touch with you. Thanks! woo hoo :)

  9. Matt R says:

    Hey Emilie,
    Just wanted to add that you can’t always convince people otherwise. They have their opinions.

    There is one way to convince them otherwise: Don’t talk about it. Act and prove them wrong.

    Then maybe in a couple of years if you do bump into them again, you’ve already done many of the things you said!

    • Emilie says:

      I definitely agree, Matt. Actions speak louder than words. It’s better for our souls (and productivity) not to constantly be justifying ourselves anyway.

  10. Harrison says:

    Thanks for this post. Love it. I’ve had to many times in my life, stand up for my multi-talent background. Growing up, I always thought having too many interests was a negative thing … since like you mentioned, many people say that you should stick to “one or two” interests to build upon. But for me, I want to build upon three, four, or more of my talents. To Multipotentialites!

  11. Benny says:

    While the disrespect we can get for not “specializing” is often cruel and unfounded, I believe that it’s best to take another look at the idea of specialization.

    In the Renaissance, there were two elements that we often overlook.
    1) The people who were the most well-rounded were the wealthy aristocrats (the Medicis, et al), and the idea of being a Renaissance man/woman was in many ways an idea meant for aristocrats, not for people who worked. All that means is that a working person can’t get by without having an employable skill in the same way that an aristocrat can, and we should keep that in mind.
    2) With that said, a lot of the current attitude toward specialization is not really about “forcing” people to cut “extra” things out of their lives, but a result of the way most of us today spend our free time. I feel like in most first-world cultures, we spend our free time “playing hard,” (drinking, pursuing sex, etc) or being passively entertained (movies, websurfing), rather than working on things that interest us. Sometimes I think that the accusations and bitterness directed at multipotentialites comes from a frustration that we seek out more complicated things in our free time than they do. They keep their free time simple, and it makes them anxious when they see us making our free time complicated.

    • Maryske says:

      Regarding your first point, I can’t agree with you more. There are so many things I’d like to pursue (especially studies), but being single, you always have to think first of getting in enough money to live and pay the bills. In 12 years time, I’ve never had a job that lasted for longer than a year. Most of this was not my choice – for some reason (multipotentialite dangers perhaps? ;-) all I tend to get are jobs covering for maternity and sabbatical leaves. But then again, I do tend to get bored after a while – with the workplace, with the work, with the town. And I want to move on to a new adventure again. Seems that’s not the kind of employee most employers are looking for, considering the difficulties I tend to have to get hired – despite my being highly qualified.

  12. Harrison says:

    So, I recently been having experiences where I voice my opinions or share facts, specifically about environmental impacts, … and oh man, naysayers or people who aren’t at least open to dialogue, have to immediately attack and say that my facts are wrong.

    It’s super frustrating to say the least, and I had to come back to your post just to remind myself that it’s okay, and don’t let these people get to me!

    This will definitely be a concern/topic I’d like to share in the coming multipotentialite huddle.

  13. Angie says:

    I just discovered puttylike after seeing your article on etsy. Its so nice to have people out there that understand having many interests and skills is something to embrace because you can do so much for the community that way and feel fulfilled too :) I was in quite the similar situation to what Harrison previously said. I also wanted to say I’m shocked you couldn’t take a certain math class while in an art program! So many creative fields rely on it like architecture and interior design so they need to encourage understanding math..but thank goodness there’s people like you out there that will help others see that :) keep up the good work dear.

  14. Bruno says:

    I hire them ;)
    They do what they do best, then I take their inputs and voila: Voltron!

  15. While I do many things, start many things, finish many things etc…

    I just tell the “naysayers” I’m a Writer… so they don’t “nay say” :)

    Kind of falls into your over-arching theme concept… but it works.

  16. Becca says:

    I actually found this site when browsing around for how to deal with negative people/comments. Once I started reading about multipotentialites, I realized I definitely fit the bill.

    I’ve always been doing art related things, now call myself an entrepreneur, and I’m currently trying to find a way to combine my passion for the arts with my passion for business. Shouldn’t be that hard, right? As for negative people, I haven’t really learned how to deal with them yet, which is a bit of a problem. Just recently, I met up with an old friend whom I hadn’t seen for a long time, and her comments and remarks about my choices (even though I’ve actually been working with my own business for almost 2 years) really threw me off and felt very hurtful indeed. So that’s when I realized that a) Those kinds of people do not belong in one’s life b) It’s really important to know how to stand up for yourself when they inevitably show up every now and then. I made the mistake of trying to justify my different interests and experiences (and future goals) to her, which was a big mistake. It was like watching a sinking ship go down.

    I feel like the best way, in life in general, is to surround yourself with open minded and optimistic people. Judgement and negativity doesn’t belong at the top:)

  17. Keith Kehrer says:

    Well how about if you are living with, married to and love a naysayer?

    This does present a challenge and I have been advised by good friends to try and find a way to get away. Still I have not been able to do that. I just find my own little world and put my headphones on.


  18. Keith Kehrer says:

    I have been around naysayers my whole life. My dad was only interested in ‘real’ work. My mom was worse. She was a singer, director and probably a multi from what I saw and she encouraged my music at first, then was hyper critical of anything. She was jealous of my success in many areas. She only wanted me to be part of her thing and not grow beyond that. She was a different character from Julie Cameron’s Artist’s Way book.

  19. Stephen says:

    I tried to cut off the toxic people from my life in the past but it appears that you cannot live in Canada without having to deal with the government and its minions. And their bad habits of collecting taxes. I even got married to stop being labelled “single white male” and being taxed to oblivion. But being a “scanner” married to a traditional person has a dire cost to be paid everyday… Too bad the internet did not exist 40 years ago, I might have done something out of my (many)self, lol!

  20. Keith says:

    I have been interviewing for web development jobs and have found that I have to be careful what I say about my musical life. I got turned down for a job because they thought that my musical projects in the evenings and weekends would interfere with my focus and make me not be fit to work the job. Can you imagine? So, my recruiter is suggesting that I don’t even talk about my outsides interests. I wish I could say f**ck it, I am making so much money at music that I don’t need your stinking job. But I an squeezed between that and a wife who is not working at the moment. Makes me want to hit the road. Sigh


  21. Brijesh says:

    Thank you to the power infinite…. Because you are a multipotentialite … And you just made feel supremely awesome!! Thank you so much!!

  22. Hello Emilie!
    I wanted to thank you for sharing a part of you, and for helping. You have truly changed my life, and its weird..because I haven´t even met you! I have never been able to embrace that I like almost everything..and it made me feel alone and have given me the push to begin to appreciate, and really see this as who I am, and I love it! Thank you Emilie, I wish many exciting paths for you, and who knows, maybe one day our (many) paths will cross! Much much love!


  23. Kim says:

    The comment I hear most is “We never understood why you didn’t live up to your potential. You could have done anything. You are so smart and so talented.” My reply is usually “Oh well.” and I change the subject.

    • nuka says:

      I hear this one a lot too. looks frustrating but at the same time it could be answered like
      ” but I am living the way I am living because I am smart and multi potential. working for a 8 to 5 job doesn’t need that much brain ha?” must of the time they back off not pleased but anyway not necessary to please everybody. we are not comedians. the only think makes me worry is the money. when changing job and major need lots of money and I am quite before making much from the effort I put on a field. this is where I am weak and vulnerable I don’t know how to deal with the question “but how about the money do you wanna live like a hippie? you won’t be young all the time!”.

  24. I suspect that you may well have just changed my life. I am most definitely a multipotentialite and my life has been a mess because of it, and because no-one has ever seen my huge potential!
    Perhaps now that I can embrace it, I can finally have some success! :D

  25. Elizabeth says:

    I’m clearly a Multipotentialite. I have many higher degrees in various disciplines from education to healthcare. I’ve been constantly petted over the years and told “one day you’ll grow up” or “what haven’t you done?” Those comments are condescending and toxic and I’m just learning at 45 to weed those types of people out of my lives. I guess it is also intimidating to some to have branched out and successed at something new and different. I think people like is are incredible and I love finding others like me. We are definitely creatives and innovators.

  26. Conchita says:

    I have just started to embrace the fact that I’m a multipotentialite, haha. I’m 32 now and the last 4 to 5 years I’ve tried to push myself to become a specialist in animation, when that didn’t work. Or better said I got bored, I said to myself I wasn’t good enough and felt really guilty for not pushing through. I went to cooking-school because I found out that I liked to cook and cater and it felt easier but felt like I missed some fundamental stuff to built from. Now 2 years have passed with me being a caterer, still doing it and I thought I really need to pick one thing, so I started pushing myself to become an animator again. I’m still bored at it, haha.

    For the last few years I’ve felt guilty for being indecisive and not being an expert by now in something. My ex, back then boyfriend basically told me I couldn’t change my expertise again. Back then I thought he was right. This way of thinking has made me feel for the last 5 years very insecure, guilty, immature, ashamed and breaking up with this guy, figuring everything out on my own, having supportive friends and coming across a father-like-figure-coach is helping me to pursuit my own interests and it is fine. That is my expertise, if I come across naysayers then it’s fine. I will let them talk, I know what will happen to me if I listen to people like that. Can’t let that happen anymore, won’t. I’m not going to make myself feel guilty again because of who I am and how my brain works.

    So the next thing I’m going for is Special FX creature make-up and interested in shamanism, already working on the shamanism. One day, it will all come together somehow.

  27. Henry Le says:

    Hi Emilie, I have watched your TED Talks and I wanna say Thanks. I had a feeling like I was the one who was speaking to myself because everything is just matched me so well. For a long time, I have tried so hard to ignore this ability. You have totally convinced me.

  28. Night Vision says:

    I saw your TED talk today!It was like somebody telling my own story!Thank you Emilie for the speech ,it just widened by mind to be inspired that all hope is not lost!?.Im 17 years old now just like you im in a band too….an artist and somewhat a dancer too..Ive seen jealousy among most friends!I was in a depression that i would not reach anywhere in life,that i had no spark inside me to keep things goin!you’ve changed my viewpoint Ma’am!Thank you so much!since i now know that im not all rubbish I guess its time to inspire some people around me!??

  29. Sanjay Basumatary says:

    Hey Emily, you speech at Tedx have been the greatest inspiration for me. I was always having with my passions and turning everyone of them into career, I always thought there is something wrong with me, but after watching your speech I know where I stand and what I have to do. Thanks alot

  30. Andrea S says:

    My mom calls me her rose because she enjoys seeing which “petal” of interest will bloom. One day I want to be a shuttle pilot for NASA and the next day I want to study art history and be a tour guide. And so much more in between! I’m grateful to have a mother who embraces my insatiable curiosity and doesn’t pressure me to “be something” when I grow up. Even so, society still doesn’t accept us multipotentialites which has more to do with fear or jealousy. Being free and happy and able to say, “I enjoy having so many interests and making a living this way” is intimidating. People fight that notion because they’ve been fed the same you-have-to-find-your-calling BS. I hope that as multipotentialites we can inspire and nurture those who may or may not be one as well.

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