How to Handle Unsupportive Family & Friends at Thanksgiving

I am lucky.

My Father, whose Mother did everything in her power to stop him from becoming a pilot (she was terrified he would crash), vowed to himself he would support his child in whatever career they wanted to pursue.

So when I, at a very early age, told my parents I wanted to be an actress, they bent over backward to do anything and everything they could to help me. 

Like I said, I’m lucky.

Saying that I certainly have not been immune to the awful questions that “friends,” nosy neighbors, and random busy-bodies ask:

“So, how’s the acting career going?” 

OR 

“Have you ever thought of getting a real job?” 

OR 

“So how much more time are you going to give this?”

Generally, these lovely questions popped up during times when I was super slow, just got rejected by an agent, or bombed a final callback for the job that would have “changed everything.”

So, how on earth does one deal with this bullshit?

Well, here are Acting Business Boot Camp’s Survival Strategies to Deal with People Who Think They Can Live Your Life Better Than You Can

First and foremost – understand that you cannot change another person.

If Aunt Jane thinks that Show Business is an Industry full of prostitution and drugs, guess what? You are not going to change her thinking.

If your Mom thinks that this is just a phase you are going through… guess what? Nothing you share, explain, explain again, and then re-iterate is going to change her feelings.

If loudmouth Cousin Joe thinks you are untalented cause your voice cracked when you had that solo in the church choir when you were 12 – and always brings up how the audience just laughed and laughed at you, guess what? You are not going to be able to convince him that you are going to be on Broadway someday.

Give. Up. The. Fight.

Better yet… Don’t engage.

OR

As a friend of mine likes to say, “drop the rope.” Don’t play a tug of war game that won’t be any fun.

IF someone asks you about your acting career – simply say, “Things are going great! I am paying my bills, saving some money, and pursuing what I love. I’m really happy.”

Cue Sister Susan asking you to pass the mashed potatoes. 

And understand the reason your favorite sibling is asking is.

She is assuming you are more miserable than you actually are, and that will make her feel much better about her life … 

OR

She is assuming you will tell her how hard the Industry is, which will give her the perfect excuse not to pursue her dream job and stay in her safe, redundant life.

Now let’s say this question is coming from someone who is generally concerned –  like a parent, who loves you but just doesn’t get it.

Well, telling them that you are paying your bills, saving money, and are happy is most likely what they want to hear and is all they need to know.

Did I mention I am giving you permission to lie?

Yes, I am.

Just in case you needed permission to lie to your family, I am giving it to you. As long as doing this will ultimately take care of yourself – I am good with it.

Next blog, we will deal with you taking responsibility for your life – but for this Thanksgiving, let’s just say this is what you are aiming for, and you’re just practicing putting it out there to the Universe.

Ok, moving on. Here’s one for you!

Don’t go. 

Yes, believe it or not, you have a choice not to go to a place where people do not support your career. 

“No” is a complete sentence.

You do not have to attend. You can choose to attend, or you can choose not to attend. If you are over the age of 18 – it is your choice. 

I realize this may be a revelation for some of you.

Now for those of you who have not come down with a mysterious case of food poisoning, or who’s dog does not need an emergency appendectomy (not sure if dogs have an appendix, but I trust you get my gist here) here are some more helpful tools…

Arrive late. Leave early. Again, yes, you have that choice.

When you are there, limit the amount of time you spend with the unsupportive people and spend the bulk of your time with those who are.

Remind yourself to be of service – Help out with chores, with the kids, with the pets, with the cooking, with the cleaning… stay active and busy. (Kids and animals generally don’t ask soul-sucking questions, and helping out can keep the subject on the tasks at hand.)

If someone who you think maybe “dangerous” comes up to you, remember your sentence! “Things are going great! I am paying my bills, saving some money, and pursuing what I love. I’m really happy.”

Then immediately follow it up with a question asking how they are doing and then follow it up with another question and another one. 

Keep answers to loaded questions short and always turn it around with a question about them. People LOVE to talk about themselves… get them talking and get you listening. Hey, maybe Uncle Bob needs a friendly ear.

And remember, it is not your job to make your family feel better about the choices you have made. It’s your life, your choices, and your responsibility to love it and live it.

Finally, drink a lot of water, so you need to pee a lot. Bathrooms are a wonderful place to breathe, collect your thoughts, or maybe even read this blog over again.

Whatever you choose to do this Thanksgiving, be grateful for being you and take care of your self.

Let me know how it goes.

Love and Happy Thanksgiving,

Peter Pamela