Your Parents and Your Multipotentiality

Your Parents and Your Multipotentiality

Written by Emilie

Topics: Guest Posts

Editor’s Note: this is a guest post by Simone Seol of Freckled Brilliance.

Your parents have known you longer than anyone else. They have seen you develop through infancy, childhood and adolescence.

How do your parents feel about your multipotentiality? If they are good cheerleaders, raised you to nurture multiple talents and are totally on board with you, congratulations! You have some fantastic parents. Or, maybe the opposite is true: perhaps they have been impatient with you to “get your life together” and pick one path. Perhaps they accused you of flakiness and said other hurtful things.

My post today goes out to all of you who fall in the latter camp. It is very difficult to hold certain things very dear to your heart and not have your immediate family members appreciate them. And when family is involved, a history of complicated emotional tension can further block us from clearly seeing the patterns in people that we ought to be closest to. And I would like to present a radical hypothesis that may be helpful in unraveling this problem. I have a sneaking suspicion that most cases of multipotentiality is inherited.

Are your parents, who disapprove of your many pursuits, secretly also multipotentialites? Do they know it?

Our parents grew up in an even less multipotentialite-friendly cultural climate than ours. It may be that their once-many talents, hopes and dreams were squashed by a society that expected them to fit in a square box. As a response, they might have developed and held on to the idea that it is dangerous to pursue your multiple passions; they fear that you will be punished by society just as they were.

I don’t have to look very far for an example. My mother, even though she was a homemaker for most of her life and now is a small business owner, has always been a poet at heart. She was so talented, won numerous poetry competitions growing up and all her teachers thought she was going to study literature and become a famous poet or writer.

Tragically, my mom’s hopes of writing poetry were dashed by her father, who thought making a living as a creative artist was dangerous and foolish. He punished her when she came home with poetry awards. He instilled enough terror into her that she didn’t pick up the pen again until recently — now she is in her fifties.

This story makes me so sad for many reasons. First, I grieve for the poet in my mother. Secondly, I grieve for my grandfather; in retrospect, it is completely obvious that he, too, was a multipotentialite who grew up in world that was relentlessly cruel toward him as he fought for basic survival. Even though he worked as a civic employee for most of his life, I remember him giving me drawing lessons when I was little; he taught me perspective, the way things that are far away are drawn small and things that are close are drawn bigger. I recall he also knew a lot of random things about world history and linguistics that is not at all typical of Korean grandparents. Multipotentialite alert!

Instead of nurturing the gifts of his daughter, however, he felt he needed to punish them and beat her into a box because the world did the same to him. He didn’t know there was another way to survive, much less flourish as a multi-talented person.

Remembering this story reminds me to feel compassion toward many of those who are less than wonderfully receptive to your multiple passions. If you’re here on Puttylike, you’re probably more ‘awake’ to your own multipotentiality than most people out there who have no idea that resources now exist and that living a “straight” life isn’t the only option. Including our very own parents.

Instead of feeling angry or defeated by them, why not gently, lovingly and compassionately invite them to open up and explore their own hidden interests?

What could you do to help them feel safer in doing this? Perhaps you don’t have to think very hard before realizing, “Oh, yes, my mom has a secret interest in indigenous languages and watercolor painting that she’s not telling anyone about.” Why not invite them to talk to you about it?

Remember that they may have had a lifetime of repressing certain patterns and may not be able to grant themselves them the permission, spaciousness and curiosity that they were born capable of, at least not immediately. Why not be there for them and cultivate that place of safety and exploration together?

Start with a conversation. It may be one of the loveliest things you could do for them. And, who knows, this may be the opportunity for them to realize how much indeed they have in common with you.

Your Turn

Have your own story of dealing with disapproving parents or helping a multipotentialite come out of the closet? You’re invited to share them in the comments.

Simone Seol lives in NYC and dreams way too big for her own good. When she’s not practicing hypnosis and change work, she can be found writing, theologizing, yoga-ing, conducting public health research, singing classical music and planning compassionate world domination. Find her online at Freckled Brilliance.


  1. Amy says:

    Does this ever make me thankful that my parents trust my instincts and whatever I set out to do! It makes such a huge difference.

  2. Tom says:

    This was a wonderful read. Coming from multipotentialites and being one myself, I’m looking forward to what my own child will be able to come up with using the future versions of todays technology… my wife and I are expecting in April. The possibilities are mind blowing.

  3. This is super beautiful Simone.

    Life has a really cool way of taking older generations and having them learn powerfully from the upcoming one.

    Applying this concept to multi-potentialites is brilliant, and most of the one’s I’ve met have had quite strong feelings regarding their parents.

    Great stuff, stay freckled, stay brilliant ;)

    • Simone says:

      Thank you so much , Jason! I don’t think staying freckled will be a challenge for me. Brilliant, I’ll have to work at ;)

      I am giddy when I think about subsequent generations of children being raised with more awareness and compassion than their parents.. think how awesome humanity will be in 100 years!

  4. Cherilyn says:

    Ah, parenting and being parented. Such wacky adventures!

    I finally found compassion for my parents’ strictness with me and my siblings when I realized that they were trying to protect me (subconsciously?)from the criticism they had to endure as children. Kinda twisted, but I saw myself doing the same to my own children to protect them from . . . yes! the tapes of my parents’ criticism running in my own head.

    Here’s to spaciousness for all of us.

  5. Conni says:

    Great post! I’m grateful to have a mum who understands every step I take and every (dumb) decision I have made in the past. She supports my multi-potentiality to the fullest, and I love her so much for it. I know I am lucky, and I wish so many more people would have the opportunity and support from their family to do everything that makes them, them. A reason why Puttylike is so needed in this limiting world of ours. Thanks!

  6. Jessica says:

    My parents nurtured my multipotentiality early on, but as soon as I graduated high school, I was expected to specialise in a lucrative field that I wasn’t interested in. Talk about confusion! My parents are immigrants and placed huge emphasis on me being able to support myself financially. I went through years studying something I hated, but when I finally branched out to do my own thing, I was happier and eventually my parents came around too.

    It was a learning experience for us all. I gained confidence for sticking up for what *I* wanted out of *my* life, and they learned to trust me while redefining what ‘success’ means to them. Win-win all around, I think!

    • simone says:

      Yes, as a child of immigrants myself, I can absolutely relate. Parents do come around and they do grow… my mom often thanks me for expanding her view of what is possible, that I have inspired her with my flippant, ADD ways ;)

      When parents are secure enough in themselves, I think love always wins. They just want us to be happy.

  7. Harrison says:

    I also grew up in an Asian family that simply desired the typical professions deemed by what society believes to be “respectful”.

    Growing up was tough, trying to do what I wanted to do, but then understanding if what I loved to do would have any “future”.

    But thankfully, my parents have moved beyond what many generations have put into their minds and like you mentioned, dialogue and conversation helped a lot.

    Thanks for this post!

    • simone says:

      Thank you for reading, Harrison! I think there needs to be a support group that’s a sub-section of the greater multipotentialite community… “survivors of Asian parenting”


      • Harrison says:

        Haha, um no joke! :)

        But the one thing I do give thanks to my parents is for instilling the “never give-up and be persistent with my goals” attitude. This has helped me go after my dreams … even, if at times, that did not agree or understand them.

  8. Emilie says:

    I just wanted to say that this is one of the most beautiful posts I’ve ever had the privilege of reading. It was an absolute honour to publish it, Simone.

    It’s also a post I couldn’t have written myself, and I’m very thankful for that… However, I’m glad that someone did write it. Incredibly wise and thoughtful. Thank you!

    • simone says:

      At the risk of sounding like Mutual Admiration Society, thank YOU so much for providing this space, one of my favorites online. I am so indebted to you for this wonderful community that you’ve created. Even if for some bizarre reason all of Puttylike disappears tomorrow, my life will be forever different because I now know that there are so many like-minded people out there who are silently going against the grain every day, proclaiming our refusal to choose. :)

      • Holli says:

        While I am late in reading and commenting on this one, I thank both of you for making it reach my screen!

        Seriously, as a parent myself, I want to help foster a space where my kids grow up to confidently try or pursue any sort of path. Sadly, I didn’t have that with both parents. My artistic Mother helped to some extent.

        Simone, thank you for pointing out the power of perspective shifts between generations too. I truly believe that most Parents and Grandparents have done they best they could.

  9. Raiscara Avalon says:

    I have parents with multiple interests, but they aren’t really scanners either. They haven’t wavered from their interests, which is/was music. They don’t fit into either role really, but I sure never “fit” into my family. They were very much find a “real” job and keep your interests hobbies. Especially since in their eyes at least, music wasn’t one of them. While I love both my parents, and Mom finally started to “get” me before her death…I had to forgive them for a lot. Like the last 23 years (ish) spent believing I was tone deaf…because I was 5 years old and apparently wasn’t a “natural” singer. Yeah, same parents also laughed at a song I performed for them, at about the same age, that I wrote…cause I guess they thought I was kidding? Who knows. I just learned to be silent and do my thing my way…so I guess that’s a good thing lmao.

  10. Caleb McNary says:

    Luckily, my dad is an MP, so I learned from the best.

  11. Ethan says:

    With my parents, they’ve always been supportive of whatever I wanted to do. It’s just when I would start things and don’t finish them that they got annoyed. I know that is classically multipotentialite.. So I learned how to actually stay focused on a few projects and *gasp* finish one or two and they seem to stay very supportive!

  12. Maria says:

    I am so glad to find a colony of Multipods ( now that I realise I am one) ! Reading this article has shed so much light on my personality and the dysfunctional home of my perants. For so many years I have had my mothers words echoing in my ears, ” your just like your father, you never stick to anything” and for that whole time I thought I was a ship without a rudder doomed to wander, never finding “my place” in life. I have always known I can do anything ( if I just knew what it was), and have done my damnedest to do everything in reach. But now thanks to this site, I think I can finally put it all into context! Yes mum, dad and I are just alike! We are both Multipods so leave us alone and enjoy the ride!!!

  13. Stacy says:

    I called my dad and told him about the site. I also emailed him the link. He sounded excited! I know he is one too AND that my mother is probably NOT and that explains so much!!! Thank you again!!!!

  14. Keith Kehrer says:

    What I remember from childhood was that my father being of the German work ethic slammed into him by his German father really wanted me to grow up and be practical. He really want to be a gardener I think. My mother on the other hand didn’t want me to grow up. She wanted me to be a musician but not a successful one. That would have surpassed her success level. She wanted me to he a musician that helped her with her choir and opera singing career. Once I went on my own she lost interest. Pretty confusing. I think you are right. Parents with thwarted dreams can try and squash the curious, creative child.

    Dj Kamakaze

  15. Jaqi says:

    My mom really isn’t a multipotentialite, but she likes a couple of things and supports everything I seek. My dad doesn’t, and he isn’t one. What’s hard is that I live with my dad. I’m always scared of him. I don’t really want him involved in my plans, not that I hate him so much, but I don’t want him controlling my life.
    He thinks my writing passion is useless, by the way he speaks of it. He only supports the things I do if that certain activity can produce money or if it makes him look more professional. It makes me mad. I get pressured whenever I was told to finish what I started. All my family members say that, too.
    I always scratch myself from frustration. They said I’m going to be a pianist, telling other people that I play like Mozart. What’s more crazy is that the whole family looks up to it.
    I start to blame myself, my dad also blames me for being nervous or not being productive when I don’t do the things I used to.
    I didn’t know what a multipotentialite was at that time, it was hard for me to explain him what I was feeling. He said I didn’t want to show my talent. I should stop being shy. Agh! It’s crazy haha.

  16. Bonny says:

    Seeing this talk and reading this makes me want to cry! This is me, Im 1 year into a PhD and my passion is gone, my scholarship pays for living expenses and university costs and if I pull out everyone will look at me like I’m a mad person especially my mum who is already noticing my pull away. The thing that scares me into staying on a path I know even though I no longer have a passion for is…. stability. How can a multipotentialite ever have this?

  17. Keith says:

    My dad was very German and thought I was a dreamer most days. He did one thing at a time and very seldom moved beyond working, fixing, gardening and napping. He thought I was crazy and he left my life way too soon for us to get to know one another better. We were just starting to get along when he died. My mom had her little musical kingdom (voice lessons, choir, musicals) and she was find with me pursuing many things as long as they fit into her needs. Once I branched out the relationship pretty much ended. Over the last few years (she died last year) she had dementia and memory problems and didn’t remember who I was most days. So, I am not sure there is anything to do there except forgive them. My only sibling, my brother is just angry at me because his life bottomed out and he ended up taking care of my crazy mother. That may never change so now we move onto my wife who thinks I am genius but doesn’t understand me and oscillates between admiration and love and annoyance since I tend to forget household, and finance things (even though I am bread earner) being the crazy artist that I am. So mostly my close friends are the ones who get me most days. Ta da!!


  18. dc says:

    I happened to see your Ted Talk a few months ago, and immediately thought – hey… this is me! I have always joked that I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up…. and, now, at almost 50 years of age… I still feel like that. I have settled into having a “day job” that pays the bills, but am always blogging and writing.. and working on whatever side projects that seem much more important and interesting to me.

    Recently, my oldest son started college. We were thrilled he got into a great college of his choice, and that he had decided to major in statistics. Not a major I, or many would choose, and actually, I was surprised he chose it – but, he seemed happy with it. Well, the semester just finished. Grades came out. Guess what? He didn’t do nearly as well as he, and we, expected. Now, he’s saying he wants to change his major to something completely different. Psychology. Something I personally have always been interested in, but something I’ve also been told is less likely to lead to a promising career. I found myself fighting my first instinct of being upset, and instead told him to research it… figure out if that is really what he wants to do.. and why. So we could devise a plan… talk to his advisers…etc. But, I still find myself resistant to him wanting to change… and a bit frustrated that he isn’t more sure of what he wants.

    Then, I remembered – I was (and am) JUST LIKE HIM. And, I remembered your talk… and I sent it to him. I am fighting hard to not try to push on him the same ideas and values that were pushed on me, that inevitably did not work out that well for me. But, it’s hard…

    And, I’m wondering… what the heck should a “multipotentialite” major in in college?

  19. nuka says:

    my parents are both discouraged architects. failed in their idealistic pursuit and now concentrated on making money and are hard to deal with as they ridicule the amount of money i make by my work and sabotage my mind in every chance they have by throwing questions about my plans, the money i make and my personal relationships and the possibility of marriage and having chide or as they put it be a dutiful citizen!
    how two socialist artist turn to these hardcore capitalists? I am sorry for them but being the first child I have been through a lot of pressure by them. keeping my distance is my answer for now.

    • Emilie says:

      Youch, that sounds hard, Nuka. I think keeping your distance is a smart way to go. Gotta take care of yourself.

    • Keith says:

      Happens all the time Nuka. I was born on the cusp of the 60’s flower power and saw a lot of those guys become yuppies. Becoming discouraged can become a powerful force.

      Just ignore them and keep going.


  20. Robin says:

    I started skipping out of class in Grade 5. As a student I had great academics, could get on with adults and knew how to cooperative. To that end, I got to be in charge of supply room (paper cutters, coloured paper, the ditto machine… heaven … and it would take me at least an hour in there)… I went so far to even volunteer to do dishes in the teachers lounge… I do not think that would fly today.

    By Gr. 9, I was “officially” skipping off – a rebel within the rules. “Mom I am not going to school today. I have finished all my homework and want to study for a test”… Reply, “What do you want the note to say…” My mother supported that I was not “normal”, let me do my own thing in my own way. What kind of a 14 year old volunteers to study all day on a skip day and still keep studying until 4 am? Good grades were powerful as it gave me leverage to do anything else that interested me. The parents never said no…

    By Gr. 11 I had announced that I wanted to attend a marine biology course in Florida/Grand Cayman. We could not afford it but I worked a year to attend. Yes, this was actually a biology credit.

    By university, even the neighbours were now completely on to my oddity towards life and asked my parents quite frequently “So what is she up to now…?”

  21. Paulina says:

    I just recently discovered that I am a Multipotentialite. I thought there was something wrong with me, why couldn’t I pick one thing to do? Why do I get these weird interest all the time and then get bored of them? Now I know. My mom is one too but she was forced into a box. And now she is trying to do the same to me. My dad is even worse because he is older. I don’t blame them but it’s such a shame. Why can’t we be accepted for who we are?

  22. Kate says:

    I have always been seen as the black sheep of the family as I’ve never really stuck with anything (hobbies and work alike) for very long, unlike my siblings. So I still get the eye rolling etc but it no longer bothers me.

    To me, life is so interesting and so full of possibilities how on earth am I am “supposed” to choose just one aspect to focus on? How boring! I’ve had a few close calls with death & each time I’m reminded to make the most of NOW, this moment right here. It won’t ever come back and nor do I want it to.

    I am forever reminding my partner that life is for living, not just existing. The poor guy is the exact opposite of me and prefers to stay home. I have to give him brownie points though as he does go along with me and my mad plans.

  23. Darren says:

    Hi all! I am pretty sure both of my parents (divorced when I was very young) are multipotentialites. My mom is more sequential and went from art and architecture, to physics, to geology, to counseling. My dad more simultaneous like me and runs his own handyman business and plays guitar many hours a day as well as loving to discuss history, politics and literature, and work on cars.

    I’m pretty sure my dad is self-employed in part because he just figured out that was a good way to be himself. My mom on the other hand fits some of the stories I have read here from others. She’d say “you are so smart you can do anything you want.” And then later say “you just need to pick what you like best and do that.”

    Having just recently found Emilie’s TED talk and this site, I sent my mom links to them. I was not really expecting any particular outcome, but here’s a bit of the response:

    “I like it! It fits me too. I didn’t know what I wanted be when I grew up until I was mid 50s. I hope you can figure it out a bit sooner than I did.”

    I think she missed the point. I half wonder what will be the next thing in my mom’s life and how long it will take to get there. At the same time, I have been saying for years that I’m just looking for something as wide as possible. I don’t really prefer one thing over another and just love doing it all. And I live with a fair amount of regret that I’ve had to leave some of my passions behind because of “practical” concerns. I fortunately had a mentor early in my career who continued saying “I still haven’t decided what I want to be when I grow up”, even after he retired.

    Overall my parents are supportive and positive, but at times my mom seems to “give with one hand, and take back with the other”, and it can be pretty discouraging at times.

    To be fair to my mom she is more conformist than my dad and I, and we all grew up in a community of scientists. It seems to me that people in professional scientific fields these days are typically the most demanding about specialization. If you try to live out the multipotentialite life in your career too much you are either too unfocused or have to be an incredible genius. There is no room for anything in between. Anyway, this is probably fodder for a whole separate post… (I am a master at continual digression… Sound familiar?)

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