Updated: Sep 19, 2021
Despite what some believe, being an artist is not an easy career choice or hobby. Nowadays, artists are expected to be their own marketing department, take care of shipping, write amazing content for their online presence… the list goes on! And we do these things all while still developing our skills and making art. It’s a lot of work! (More than I think we should be doing, but I’ll get to that in another post.) And none of this gets easier when we have less than supportive families criticizing our choices.
From hidden insults to outright rude comments, I’ve dealt with my fair share of unsupportive commentary. Thankfully, most of my family is highly supportive and encouraging. I wouldn’t even be doing this if my mom hadn’t told me this was an actual career! But, as many of us know, one bad apple spoils the bunch.
To combat these negative opinions, I want to share five tips for coping with an unsupportive family. Let’s get into it.
As we get older, we sometimes realize that we can’t be friends with everyone. The same idea can be applied to dealing with our families. I’m not telling you to cut people out of your life (although sometimes that can be necessary), but I am encouraging you to be very selective about who you share your work with.
If you know that so-and-so only ever makes snide comments about how art is useless to society, it might be a good idea to keep your art adventure to yourself. And, no, that’s not being rude or secretive. It’s a form of self-care and self-love. You are consciously setting up a boundary to prevent further harm when interacting with a particular person.
You can be as open or closed as you feel is necessary. For me, I just don’t bring it up or talk about it with particular people. I don’t enjoy dealing with their negativity or criticism, so I keep it to myself and talk about my work with other people who I know will be supportive and interested in what I’m doing. To summarize: if you wouldn’t go to someone for advice, don’t accept their criticism, either.
I know that we’re taught to believe that sticks and stones are the only things that can hurt us, but, the truth is, words can be extremely damaging - especially for artists. We tend to be more sensitive, empathic, and emotional than other people. And that means that we often feel criticism more deeply than others. That’s where perspective can be our friend.
If you’re still haunted by painful words from a family member, I encourage you to understand that people’s words are a reflection of their own pain. They might be envious of your courage to pursue your dream or they might be lashing out from years of unresolved issues. Whatever the reason might be, you need to realize that it has nothing to do with you. Let me say it again: how people treat you is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves. That doesn’t make it okay for someone to belittle your work, but knowing this makes it easier to understand that there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re doing just fine, so don’t take on other people’s burdens or negative energy.
Get Some Distance
In some instances, you might need to critical texts about your art, it might be time to cut some people out. This might mean blocking particular family members on social media platforms, not informing them of any events you might be participating in, having a face-to-face discussion about their behavior, or withholding information about your online presences.
No one deserves to be berated by surly family members. And setting up rigid boundaries might be the solution you need to feel safe in your artistic space.
Join a Community
One of the best ways to find support is to join a community you resonate with. I didn’t realize how much I wanted a community to cheer on and peers to chat with before I joined The Creative Bones. In this group, we lift each other up, listen to one another’s struggles, and offer advice regarding difficult situations. I know that if someone were ever to ask for advice regarding an unsupportive family member, this would be a safe space for that.
Talking with people who share similar beliefs or have gone through similar circumstances can be incredibly helpful. I’ve received plenty of pep talks from other artists in this community and have offered my own ideas and advice in return. If you haven’t thought of this before, I recommend researching different artistic and creative communities that you can join. You’ll be surprised at how powerful peer support and encouragement can be.
Write About It
It might sound silly, but journaling is an extremely effective coping mechanism when it comes to dealing with an unsupportive family. When negative comments latch on and swirl around our heads, getting it out on paper can alleviate some of that stress. You could write an unsent letter to a certain family member telling them how their words affected you. Or you could write about the situation and the feelings that crop up when you think about it. Whatever writing prompt or technique you choose is perfectly fine. What matters most if finding something that lets you express your thoughts and feelings safely so that they eventually pass and fade away.
If you do choose to keep a journal, be sure to keep it in a secure location. You don’t want someone to happen upon it or be tempted to snoop. You are allowed to have feelings and work through them without fear of privacy invasion. And you wouldn’t want someone to confront you about anything you wrote, especially if they would react poorly. Keep yourself emotionally safe and tuck your journals away.
To anyone out there dealing with a family that doesn’t support your art, I feel for you. It’s not an easy thing to navigate. But hopefully these tips can make it a little more manageable.
That being said, if you are facing legitimate abuse or mental distress as a result of interaction with particular family members, please reach out for help. There are various hotlines and professionals who have received training to handle unsafe situations. Please don’t wait. Talk about your struggles with someone you trust. This might seem overly serious, but I think it’s important to normalize talking about this. If we do, then no one will struggle alone.
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Thanks for reading and happy creating!