Dealing With Discouragers

discouragerWhen I run up against discouragement in my life, it tends to come from two different sources.

First, I face discouragement from inside myself.  That’s when I don’t think I’m good enough, or I’m not sure I can handle what needs to be done.

The second source of discouragement in my life comes from other people.

These are the discouragers, and we all run into them all the time.  They’re the people who, when you tell them your dreams or hopes or plans, give you THAT look.  Then they shake their heads as if you’re insane and try to talk you out of what you’re trying to do.

In fairness, sometimes we need to be talked out of what we’re trying to do.  Sometimes we’re heading in a direction we should not go.  Not every dream should be encouraged.

But a lot of time the discouragers are talking out of ignorance or fear or because your actions, and the actions you are about to take, make them acknowledge parts of themselves they’d rather not face.  In that case, even if they’re speaking from a place of love and concern, what they’re saying is not helpful.

For example, I remember talking to my dearly beloved grandmother years ago.  She was in the nursing home, but still very coherent at the time.  I was telling her about my struggles to pay for books for college and how I hoped my employer wasn’t going to change their tuition policy.  I had not gone to college after high school as a traditional student, but I had started going to night school about a year after I graduated.  I was employed full time and often had at least one part-time job while I was taking night classes.  It took me years and years and YEARS, but eventually I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in English and no student loans (since I had my various employers pick up the tab, thank you very much).

Anyway, we were talking and she gave me THAT look and said “I don’t know why you keep going to school.  You never get anywhere anyway.”


I forgave her – after I calmed down – because I knew her well enough to understand why she’d said it.  But I was discouraged.  I didn’t stop going to school, but her words stayed with me for a while.

A week or two ago, another person made a similar discouraging comment, this time about my writing.

As with my grandmother, it was said from a place of concern, but it was still discouraging.  It still made me question whether or not I was crazy for trying to pursue something a little out of the ordinary.  It still made me wonder if I’d wasted years and years and YEARS of my life.

But then I shook it off and moved on.  Because that’s all you can do with a discourager.

The fact of the matter is, a discourager is just trying to keep you in the place where they’ve put you.  Sometimes they’re doing it out of love and misguided concern.  Sometimes they’re doing it because you are beyond their comprehension.  Sometimes they’re doing it due to their own insecurity.  But no matter why they’re doing it, they’re trying to keep you slotted into a comfortable definition.

But you are not defined by other people.  They may try to box you in, but you are free.

And you have to remember that sometimes you are a discourager too.  Sometimes you try to keep people in the boxes where you’ve put them.  Sometimes it’s uncomfortable when one of the lobsters tries to break out of the pot and you want to pull them back in the water with the rest of us.

Sometimes we’re the windshield, sometimes we’re the bug.

But none of us can always see what’s best for another person.


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