Originally published Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 05:56a.m.
Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
My parents are cynical about everything. They didn’t use to be this skeptical.
They’re always suspicious towards my friends and me. They think that people are acting only out of self-interest. I’m tired of not being trusted. I’m tired of them always thinking the worst.
I have a really good job (as in, it pays well and has good benefits) with a large company. However, I told them I’m thinking of going into business for myself. I’m an architect. You would have thought I shot the dog.
They don’t believe in me and actually said I was stupid. I shot back that they should have respect for me. I told them they aren’t being open-minded. They told me I was ridiculous.
Everyday they say something about how leaving my job isn’t the smartest idea. I told them flat-out, I’m in my thirties and I believe in me.
They’ve each had only one job and now they have a great retirement. That’s how they think everyone should be.
I’m not a cynic
Just to be clear, skepticism is a bit different than being cynical:
• A skeptic is a person who withholds judging until there’s evidence. They want proof.
• Cynics are people who believe that others are only motivated by self-interest. They don’t trust people, or see the good in others. They’re bitter, contemptuous, and pessimistic.
You cannot change cynics or anyone else. They have to see a reason to change. If you try to change them, they’ll be cynical about that, too.
They may have come by their cynical feelings honestly. We all have stories, or friends with stories, that show some people can’t be trusted or their goodness seems to have faded.
Maybe your parents are fearful for you and that feels like mistrust. Their lives seem to be fine in their eyes. But they may have missed out on many adventures, the wondrous feeling of creating something, the triumphant feeling of overcoming failure.
They may see those attributes in you: courage, hope, energy, and optimism.
Hang on to your values, and when you visit, try talking about anything positive. When the conversation starts going down that slippery slope, change the subject to something else positive.
Don’t engage in negative conversations with them. You are old enough to make your own decisions. It can’t be comfortable for them to sit in all that negativity. You don’t need to sit in it too, for their sake, right?
After all, where would we all be if people didn’t venture out and create electricity, airplanes, or a bakery? Good job.
We believe in you.
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri
Rhonda Orr is the president of Rhonda’s STOP BULLYING Foundation and host of a podcast at BullyingLifeAndStuff.com. Dr. Cheri L. McDonald, PhD, LMFT, is a crime-victim specialist. Write them at Rhonda@rhondastopbullying.org.