Don’t do it for the parents


Occasionally overheard from my 30-something-year-old friends, usually when discussing professional choices;

“My dad would be really disappointed if I left this stable job.“

“My mom told me I should blah blah blah.”

This warrants discussing.

Parents can be great.  Many of them have been through a lot and have a lot of wisdom to share.

photo: tobyotter via Flickr

But our parents grew up in a com-plete-ly different time, in almost every way, shape, and form.  What’s changed in the last ten years alone is mind-boggling, and despite the fact that they have our well being at heart, it’s not reasonable to think their advice is the best anymore.

You owe it to yourself to face the discomfort of breaking that hierarchical family myth.

There are so many ways to honour and respect your parents’ opinions or suggestions ~ to take them into serious consideration ~ then turn around and not follow them at all.

Forge your own path.

Deep down, most parents want us to be strong, happy, healthy, smart individuals.  They want us to be able to stand on our own.  They want us to be able to make sound decisions.  But if you never establish yourself as a fully separate entity, if you never take a stand and say, “I respect your opinion, but I’m going to do what I think is best, and I need you to just believe in me,” then you’re not giving them the opportunity to experience you as a fully capable whole…as someone whose decisions may (often) lead to a better outcome for you than if you’d taken their advice.

Parents have just as much to learn from you as you have from them.

Own your own wisdom.  Acquiesce.  Lean in.

About the author

Heather Author: Heather Thorkelson is a small business strategist for people with heart. She's crazy grateful to make her living helping other people lay the foundations so that they too can live as they dream. Don't be shy - connect with her here in the comments or over on Instagram

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  • Amber Goodenough July 27, 2012, 10:37 pm

    Oh boy, this one touched a nerve. Parents somehow know everything and not much all at the same time. I crave their wisdom but hate their judgment. I spent much of my college life trying to do what they thought I should. I even gave up on a big dream because they told me it wasn’t practical.

    But now in my early 30’s I understand that they were just scared that I would spend my life as a starving artist. They never dreamed of some of the employment opportunities available for us today. Or that I could be my own boss while traveling the world.

    Our parents want us to be independent but sometimes that can come back and bite them in the ass when we leave home, go explore the world and go against their advice. But hopefully, at the end of the day, there is enough love to get around all the expectations.

    Great post!

    • Heather July 30, 2012, 2:20 pm

      Amber, I love what you said about craving your parents wisdom but hating their judgement. It’s SO tough to navigate! And I think you really hit the nail on the head in your observation that they never dreamed of some of the employment opportunities available to us today. Believe it or not, my own mother doesn’t really understand how I make a living. (How is it possible that someone could find clients via the internet??) I certainly went through the same experience of trying to find something practical and it took me all of my 20’s to realize that there was no way I was ever going to fit in to a regular, practical job with benefits. No freakin way. Thank god for the confidence of my 30’s! Thanks for your comment. SO glad to see you living your art!

  • Marthe July 29, 2012, 10:15 pm

    I see this a lot in the e-mails and comments I get from readers. “My dream is to ___ but my parents ____”

    This makes me so sad. Who are living your life – you or your parents? Eventually you will have to live with the regrets of not doing what you really wanted to do.

    Personally, I am lucky to have very supportive parents who are both entrepreneurs who have made their own paths. However, I have not always followed their advice, which sometimes works out fine and other times not. I believe there are no set answers, but to follow your heart, make your own mistakes and trust their advice as far as it feels right.

    • Heather July 30, 2012, 2:22 pm

      It makes me sad too Marthe! And I totally agree that there are no set answers…I wrote this post specifically to challenge those people who default to their parents every time. I think the key is in what you said; make your own mistakes and trust their advice as far as it feels right. Intuition is the best guide – always! Thanks so much for commenting. :)

  • Mindy Crary July 30, 2012, 4:00 pm

    I am lucky in that my mom never cared what it was I did in the world . . . and I am doing what my dad wished that he had always done, which is to be an entrepreneur. He still doesn’t totally get how I make decisions, and I think he had more anxiety than I did through a particularly rough financial time, but I’m grateful that we can set aside my professional life and just have a normal relationship. I think before reading this, I sort of took that for granted!

    • Heather July 30, 2012, 5:58 pm

      Mindy you are SUPER lucky. My experience has been that parents like yours are definitely the exception and not the rule. Thanks for your comment!

  • Aditi July 30, 2012, 4:26 pm

    Oh man- this is something I struggle with too much. Something I been trying to do a lot of inner work to get past. This is the reason I started my own inspirational initiative. I’m trying to start living as my OWN person and not as who my parents want me to be. I think this will resonate with MANY. I tweeted this article on my page!

    • Heather July 30, 2012, 6:05 pm

      Hi Aditi! It’s a tough one eh? And I think it’s even tougher when you bring cultural expectations into play. I assume from your name that you are of Indian heritage – correct? Most of my close girlfriends back in Toronto are Indian and it seems to me that they struggle a lot more with whether or not to listen to their parents than my non-Indian friends do. I think it’s great and very courageous of you that you’ve started the I Live WIth Joy project!! Thank you so much for your comment and for tweeting about this article. :)

  • Sheila July 30, 2012, 8:22 pm

    Heather, this is an excellent point on both ends, parents say things to discourage our dreams not to squash our desires but because they are fearful of the unknown and want nothing more than to guarantee our success, so they offer how they achieved their success as the solution. Honoring them and yet following our own path is a much better choice then letting it holds us back from what we were put on this earth to create.

    • Heather August 2, 2012, 1:19 am

      Yes Sheila, exactly! They don’t want to discourage our dreams but also want to guarantee our success. The sooner they can let go of the success “script” they’ve written for us, the sooner we can be free to truly be what we were meant to in this life. Thanks for your comment!

  • Sarah Yost July 30, 2012, 9:04 pm

    So with you on this one. Maston Kipp said that there’s an important evolution for every entrepreneur: we have to break up with our parents.

    I coach a lot of people around Resistance. The #1 reason people don’t step into their next phase is because of what a parent or family member will think. It’s totally unconscious for most people, but it really drives so many things. This is HUGE! Thanks for writing about it.

    • Heather August 2, 2012, 1:21 am

      Sarah, I love Mastin Kipp and his comments about breaking up with our parents. It’s SO incredibly liberating. And when people avoid that breakup, it’s a perfect example of F.E.A.R. (false expectations appearing real) because it’s not like your parents stop loving or supporting you once you break up with them. Rather, it changes the dynamic from parent to child to that of adult to adult. A necessary part of a full life evolution. Thanks for your comment Ms Yost!!

  • Megan Flatt July 31, 2012, 3:34 pm

    This is SO interesting to me. What I realized is that my parents have always been super supportive of “me” but often question what I do after the fact. I think this has lead me to second guess my own actions with what are they *going* to think after I do this. Actually, my husband is a little this same way. Or maybe…its me! I guess I worry a lot about how other’s are going to perceive my actions, so I sometimes get stuck. Thanks for bringing this forward for me :)

    • Heather August 2, 2012, 1:23 am

      Megan thanks for your thoughtful comment and congrats on being brave enough to call yourself out on where the resistance may be coming from. Whenever I get stuck, I always take two steps: 1) ask myself what assumptions I’m making and then STOP, 2) ask myself what’s the worse that could happen. It’s a great recipe for getting unstuck! Thanks a million for weighing in on this conversation!

  • Liz August 1, 2012, 8:09 pm

    Someone once said to me that the best thing a parent can do for their children, is teach them to be confident and independent. That way, the child learns to make the best decisions on their own given the cards they are dealt. The most successful people I know seem to have been raised this way. As I’m about to enter motherhood for the first time, I hope this is what I’ll pass on to my children. Great post!

    • Heather August 2, 2012, 1:24 am

      Ooh how exciting that you’re about to be a mom Liz! The very fact that you’re engaging in this conversation means your child(ren) will be better off for it. So glad to have you here and thanks for your comments.

  • Anastasia Valentine August 1, 2012, 8:44 pm

    Forge your own path. These are such amazing words to live by. Of course we don’t want to disappoint our parents or anyone for that matter. I love your advise and clear wisdom on this one. Our parents were in a different time. As parents we need to have more respect for our children’s path. I think this is changing. I HOPE this is changing. I will definitely take this post to heart when my kids come to me with their dreams and plans….even if I need to suck it up a little 😉


    • Heather August 2, 2012, 1:28 am

      Hahaha, I love it Anastasia! I love your statement about sucking it up a little. You’ve got kids old enough now to know that the opportunities to learn from them are manifold. But lucky for them, they’ve got an outside-the-(sand)box thinkin’ entrepreneurial Mama whose setting an amazing example for being whatever you want to be in the world. Mega kudos to you! And thanks for your comment. :)

  • Ashley Taylor August 1, 2012, 9:38 pm

    yes yes yes :)

    we must forge our own paths. do what we want. do what feels good & right for ourselves. Parents, Friends, loved ones – validate and can offer their own thoughts on whatever it is you are deciding or doing but the real point is to LIVE FOR YOU – live for yourself. We are the ones that choose and design our lives path.

    This was beautiful!

    • Heather August 2, 2012, 1:30 am

      Thanks for chiming in Ashley! I like that word you used – validate. But the flip side is when your parents or loved ones do the opposite and don’t validate your ideas or dreams. It’s tough to go it alone! But you’re right, you’ve gotta live for you.

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