“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”~Mark Twain
For some inexplicable reason, society has determined that the moment we achieve some identifiable measure of success (however you – or, rather, they – choose to define that word), it’s time to sit us down, smile (there’s always a smile), and break out one of a giant list of questions guaranteed to provoke anxiety, gritted teeth, and, ultimately, depression. Not to mention robbing us of any positive feelings we might have gained from our achievement. Friends do it, and family members, in particular, love to do this. Those questions are tiny ice pick stabs at our happiness, designed to make us wobble on our ladder and doubt our confidence.
And we fall for it every time!
Perhaps you just got engaged, and you’re bubbling with happiness and excited. Suddenly, you’re walloped with the question of when you’ll have your first child, or even how many children you’ll have. You haven’t walked down the aisle yet, but people are signing you up for college funds and planning baby showers! Maybe you and you’re significant other have talked about this, but maybe you haven’t – doesn’t matter since there’s still planning a wedding and a ceremony to survive first! Funny as it sounds, I didn’t even escape this one myself, despite the fact that people knew I couldn’t have children – oh, no, because adoption exists (insert the sound of my head striking the desk here – it happened).
You got a bonus at work or a merit-based raise. Now everyone is demanding to know when you’ll get a promotion. Maybe what you do doesn’t even HAVE a way to be promoted (I really don’t – maybe super writer? Is that a thing? That would be so awesome), or the next step up isn’t even a position you’re interested in, but no one’s thought of that. They just took your bit of good news and dropped it into the toilet. They automatically assumed there was something better and shoved you forward, not bothering to ask your opinion.
Wow, thanks – love you, too.
The bank cleared your loan, approving you for a new car or your house, and you are over the moon; this is something you’ve been saving for and dreaming about. Yet all anyone can ask is when you’ll get your next car, or what your plans are for changing the house to sell it. No one’s excited about THIS car, and no one’s taking into consideration that this was your dream house. I was (and still am) floored by people who work and skrimp and save, and then use the words, “starter house.” Wait, what? You spent months agonizing and complaining about the money for something you’re planning to throw away? And you assume this is something everyone does? Buying a house is RIDICULOUS. I have no intention of doing so ever again. No, my house isn’t perfect, and, yes, there are long To Do lists for both the inside and outside, but that’s what I love about owning my own house – it’s mine and I get to MAKE it mine. My fiance’ and I (with my dad) spent the past two weekends enclosing the back porch, and it’s beautiful and we love it. I’ve painted all of the rooms inside, and my fiance’ has transformed the outside with his pocket gardens and landscaping. Why in the world would I want to just dump it to the curb after all of that work and money? (And, I’m sorry, but my car is getting driven until the damn thing falls apart)
People have trouble focusing on the moment, and they don’t like to celebrate with you – so they break out that list of questions to downplay your success. It hurts – I won’t deny that – but you can’t let them get to you and shake that ladder. Personally, I like turning a question back on them: Before I was engaged and I attended weddings, people loved to ask when I was going to get married – so I asked when they were planning to die. However, I recognize that that doesn’t work for everyone (seriously, though, when you’ve gained enough self-confidence to pull it off, they looks on their faces is so worth it). What does work is derailing the conversation right there – just change the subject (throw in an eye roll if you feel up to it).
Don’t give them the chance to stab at you!
If you steal the platform from under them, they’ll end up with no balance, not you. It’s your moment, after all – not theirs; own it and stake your claim. Redirect the conversation back to what matters and let them flounder in your wake. Eventually, they’ll realize that they’re not going to win. Time is so fleeting, and people rush around so much these days; force them to sit down, breathe, and really listen to what you’re saying. The people that genuinely love you will appreciate that you did so in the long run. And the people that don’t will get bored and wander off (and you don’t need them around anyway).