Everyone isn’t going to approve of your choices in life. This is one of the greatest lessons that we had to face this year.
Did you ever plan to do something that you felt great about until you realized that the people you talked about it to weren’t as enthusiastic as you? Maybe they could not see the same benefits as you did. Or perhaps they believed that you were doing the biggest mistake of your life?
Mass and I have made significant changes in our lives more than once since we have been together. Of course, these changes brought a lot of mixed emotions from friends and family: happiness, disapproval, joy, fear, excitement, negativity, pride, and jealousy. We had to face discussions more than once to explain our projects, reasons, and beliefs. We strongly felt that we were doing what was best for us and our growing family.
Why do we look for outside approval?
Why do we feel that we need to explain ourselves to people? Why do we get this guilty feeling that if we don’t explain our dreams, we aren’t doing right by them? Why do we need their approval in the first place?
Of course, not everyone is touched by this feeling. I don’t want to generalize, but by talking with other people, I have realized that many do. So we are not alone in this!
When we came up with our first idea to move across the ocean from Italy to the US, we had to deal with a lot of drama. We were excited about our new plan and could only see the good that would come from it. Although we loved Italy, we felt that with 2 kids the US would give all of us more opportunities.
We left anyway, although a bit heartbroken. You would always want everyone to simply be happy for you. Of course, that is impossible! We were searching for consent on the outside because we were a bit worried about this big step. We also wanted to have assurance from friends and family that everything would be ok.
But how can you expect that from someone who has never taken such a step? Or simply made different choices in life, so all this seems so foreign to them? Why not simply trust yourself and the reasons that brought you to make this choice and simply go with that? After all, YOU are the only person you we can truly count on. Once you realize this, it is so much harder to be disappointed with everyone else.
Disapproval = Loneliness
The first months in the United States were a real challenge for us, an actual learning experience. Mass and I had a lot to figure out.
Although I was a US citizen, I had never lived here with kids, so it felt like a new world! Mass, on the other hand, had worked hard on improving his English for a whole year but felt at a loss of words anyway just for simply ordering a coffee! We had quite a few obstacles to overcome. It wasn’t as easy as we hoped. We often felt lonely and wondered if we had actually made the right choice for our little family.
All those negative thoughts started populating our minds at times. We could not talk to anyone about our fears and worries because we felt we would not receive objective advice. Plus, those negative feelings would simply grow stronger and stronger. We would probably get the recommendation to pack up and go home.
Our feeling of helplessness and loneliness was because a few things didn’t go as expected. We had to face some big decisions right away without having the chance to really settle into this new life. We weren’t as prepared as we thought for this change. However, if we were, we probably would have never taken the leap.
Cosimo wasn’t adjusting to the daycare, and we were worried that we had traumatized him by moving away. Those first three months felt like a maze, and we couldn’t find the way out. In those days, Mass and I used to sit at Dunkin Donuts, get coffee, and talk about what worried us and how we could work through the different issues. A lot of big decisions were made at that coffee table!
They say that you have to reach the bottom to go back up. That is a pretty negative way of putting it, but for us, that was our low; we reached it! We searched for our strength as a couple and decided that we were done feeling bad for ourselves. We decided to let go of everyone else’s opinion and give ourselves a chance to pursue our dream.
Everything fell into place after that: our Italian house sold, and we bought a beautiful home. Mass’s English was improving daily, and he got a job. Cosimo started speaking English fluently and making new friends. We were able to create good credit in less than a year and finally buy a car without ridiculous interest rates on it! We made our dream happen!
The new project, new disapproval
2017 came rolling in, and so did a new dream: traveling the world with our family. We started working on our project quietly in the security of our home and our hearts. We planned our itinerary, created a logo and website to share our experience, and sold our home. We took all the necessary steps to the peacefulness and joy of our family energy. We made sure we were all on the same page before we let the world know what our plan was.
Once the word was out, so were the reactions……the only difference was that this time we were not asking for approval. We were simply communicating our plan. Our intention was to share daily our experience in order to hopefully inspire other families, so we could not keep it a secret any longer!
We received calls and messages and had chats with people that were excited and happy for us but also many that didn’t agree with our choice. They thought we would ruin our kid’s life and ours. Some thought we were simply crazy! Some don’t speak to us anymore…….We appreciated each one that was open enough to ask us questions or voice their opinion; it gave us a chance to show them our train of thought. No one was going to change our minds. However, those who spoke up showed that they cared; we will always be grateful for that. We felt very loved in that moment. Who simply walked away from a relationship with us hurt us, but we will still respect their decision.
How to avoid being put down by these feelings?
There is no solution to the emotions that your life choices will provoke in other people. Avoiding someone else’s reaction to your new changes is impossible. There is no way of avoiding being judged. There is no way of disappearing, so people can worry about someone else.
Social media for sure can cause many of these reactions; our decision to be open about our experience puts us out there for people to see and judge as they like.
So how do we stop feeling hurt? I am no psychologist, I haven’t got a general solution to prescribe. I can only share our reaction to this due to our personal experience and how we coped with it.
- Listen to what people have to say. How can you resolve some of their worries if you don’t allow them to express their concerns?
- Don’t get aggressive or defensive without a better understanding of what their concerns are. Being aggressive will simply cause a negative reaction in the other person and show them that you aren’t as confident with your decision.
- Take a few deep breaths, and ask detailed questions about what worries them so you can better understand if it is based on personal experience or simply fears of the unknown.
- Take another deep breath and start explaining your position by going through every concern brought up and relating it to your family.
- Accept not to be accepted. It can be hard to approve of something that is so far from what you would do. Sometimes no explanation will help to get a better understanding. Hopefully, time and seeing how the whole experience evolves might bring a change of heart.
- Thank them for their concerns; it shows they care. Relationships don’t have to end (although at times they do) just for a difference of opinion. They can evolve and grow from a healthy confrontation. Maybe after seeing what you are doing, they will see what you believe in right from the start!
After completing our first year of travels, we have seen many we had talked to last year come around with their initial opinions. Some, as of today, still can’t put their heads around our life choice. However, they have an open mind now and can see that our kids are doing well and that we are still a happy family. We must be doing something, right?!
You have to believe in your dreams; they are YOUR DREAMS, no one else! As such, you have to respect them. If you can see yourself in that life plan, it means that you have the strength and the willpower to achieve it. If you seek outside that strength, you will second guess yourself a million times and lose trust in yourself. Don’t seek outside what is already in you! Follow your dreams and live them to the fullest it is the best gift you can give to yourself and everyone around you.
Read about some of the lessons we learned during our trips in this post!