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Of Wizards, Witches, and Muggles (When friends and family don’t understand you)

Updated: Feb 8, 2019

By Eric Schumacher:

He shuffled upon the stage nervously, looking out at a crowd of diverse and eclectically dressed individuals who looked back with sympathy. He wondered if this was perhaps a place where he could finally, truly, relax and rely upon that calmness that comes from the elusive acceptance of others that he’d so rarely known in his life. He leaned into the microphone.

“My name is Eric, and I am an actor and a filmmaker,” he said, nervously.

“Hello, Eric,” roared the crowd in sympathetic semi-unison.

Finally, he knew he had found his pack.

If you’re in the artistic fields, you may have experienced a feeling of being a little, or perhaps a lot, out of place in the general public. Worse yet, you may have experienced feelings of judgement or a lack of acceptance from friends, acquaintances, close family members, or even your own spouse.

There are certainly many wonderful things about being an artist. We have the opportunity for some truly amazing and profound experiences as people digest and, hopefully, find our work meaningful. Being an artist, however, is not always an easy path.

The strange ways we make our livings as artists can, for many, lead to erratic income, and our lifestyles and ways of looking at the world often don’t mesh well with the lifestyles and need for stability and normalcy of those in our orbit. Let’s face it, looked at through the lens of societal norms, most of us are a bit odd. And many of us wouldn’t have it any other way.

We as artists can often feel like creatures who are so different from everyone around us that we might as well be wizards and witches from J.K. Rowling’s brilliant works trying to be accepted in a world of muggles.

Nonetheless, we are still social creatures; we love who we love and we are born to who we are born to. The balance between the artistic life and its beliefs and the legitimate needs of the rest of the world can, however, be tough to maintain. I have seen marriages and other family relationships be put under tremendous strain and sometimes face utter devastation as the artist faces the judgement and fear of well-meaning spouses and family members. Ever hear someone you love say “grow up and get a real job” or “stop being such a weirdo”?

So how do you deal with all of this? How do you handle it when you are confronted by a well-meaning or angry friend, relative, or spouse who doesn’t understand you?

As my wonderful Kung-Fu Grandmaster would often say: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

1. Seek First to Understand: Before you find a solution to any problem you must first understand it. To do that you’ll need to diffuse your own emotions a little and, once you can think rationally, try to understand why the other person feels the way they do. Perhaps they are afraid that you’ll end up homeless and broke. Perhaps they don’t understand how artists make their livings and think that the only successful artists are super rich “A-Listers.” Perhaps they are afraid you’ll go down a dark path leading to drug addiction, as so many legendary artists have. Perhaps they’re jealous of the attention you devote to your art, and they are feeling ignored.

2. Seek to be Understood: Once you’ve understood more about the motivations of your muggle, you have the opportunity to help them understand your own motivations and perhaps make them feel better about your need to pursue the arts. Set your ego aside and keep your raw emotions at bay. Be sincere. You might tell them about your strategy for success. Perhaps you need to explain the way artists make a living. You may need to reassure them that you’re not easily influenced by the wrong crowd. You might tell them about how hard you’ve worked to be the best you can be in your field. Whatever it is that you need to address, I suggest that you make very sure that they know that they are important to you, that you appreciate their loving concern, and that you acknowledge why they feel the way they do. You might express your need to be who you are, and explain how important their acceptance is to you. Be open to learning from what they have to say in response and tell them if you have learned something valuable. Remember, just because you’re the artist doesn’t mean you’re always right. Make sure you apply what you’ve learned and demonstrate that sincerely over time.

3. Accept What Is: Hopefully your friend or family member will understand where you are coming from, and you’ll better understand them too. Even if you cannot come to an understanding, it’s important that you give them due respect for their opinions and lifestyle choices. Then, based on your priorities, you have to make some decisions about the place that your relationship with them will have in your life, how you will approach communicating with them in the future, and whether you will make adjustments in your own approach to your artistic career. Whatever you decide, it’s important to be very conscious about how you truly feel and about what’s most important to you.

I believe that mutual respect and sincerity are the keys in these conversations. If your muggle cannot give you that due respect, it’s still important that you give that respect to them. Then at least you know you’ve done your best.

Now go do something amazing!

I hope you’ve found this helpful. Please come back for more articles and a ton of other wonderful, fascinating people. Connect with me on social media at the links below. I will be very happy to see your comments and will reply as I have time in my insane artistic schedule.

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The text of this article © 2018 Eric Schumacher

Photos are the copyright of the photographers and are used under a creative commons license without attribute requested.

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