What to Say When Others Disagree with Your Unconventional Dream

How many ways have you heard the word “no”? What about, “You can’t do that.” Or, “There’s no way.” Has anyone told you to believe in yourself, that you have potential, or that you must step out of your comfort zone? Which words held more weight? As inspiring as the latter phrases truly are, often times, like a stick of juicy fruit gum, they seems to lack longevity.

Why is it that it feels more natural to stop when someone tells you to, rather than to go when they’re begging you?

I believe courage is a seed, one that grows from within, but is often planted from without. Truthfully, for some of us, it’s not enough to know we can. We have to feel that the people who love us believe we can too. We want to know that those with our best interests also think we’ll succeed if we take a chance. We want to know that in their eyes, failure isn’t a possible outcome for us. And yet, certainty seems to be everyone’s prerequisite of our likelihood to succeed. Isn’t that the catch 22 of living your best life? You can never know for fact that it will be.

In life, we make plans. We push boundaries. We play it safe. We take risks. We live honorable lives that our parents would be proud of. Yet no matter what decisions we’ve made, no matter what choices we chose or pathways we’ve walked, we’re the only ones who ever have to live with our decisions.

So why is it that so often we allow others to make them for us?


The simple truth of life is that we will all stare failure in the face more than once. We will all fall apart. We will all lose someone we love, make mistakes we regret, and give up on dreams we wish we hadn’t. The beauty of life is that as long as you’re breathing, you have the capacity to mess up, fall apart, and start all over. We were brought on this earth for such a short span of time. None of us are certain of the future, nor able to predict the outcome of our choices. But all of us want to leave this place knowing we made an impact that was greater than ourselves.

If you’re wondering if your plan will work, if you can find a way to travel the world, meet the love of your life, land the job you’re not quite qualified for, write the book, build the company… the answer is that you’ll never know unless you try – and neither will those around you.

I’ve had a longstanding dream to leave my job and take time to travel the world. Everyone told me it was irresponsible to quit my job without another lined up, or use my savings to travel rather than buy property or pay off my student loans. I didn’t find the confidence to get past the, “You shouldn’t do that,” talk instantly. Nor did I just wake up one morning and feel resistant to, “You should be responsible,” advice. I spent long, thoughtful hours wondering what I’d do if I didn’t go, how I’d live with my decision to play it safe, and if I was making it for someone else. I contemplated how I’d feel if I found out someone else I knew did it first, risked it all, while I was stuck in the same place – all at the fault of my own.

I decided that instead of wondering if I would succeed, I’d put my emotional energy toward figuring out what I’d do in the chance that I failed.

Leaving the stability of a steady income, the comfort of a loving home, and the city that I was raised in wasn’t an easy decision. The extravagance of it all tends to overshadow the practical elements. But traveling has been a burning desire in the pit of my soul for as long as I can remember. For me, uncertainty is a slippery slope to anxiety. For me, there’s value in consistency. And yet, simultaneously for me, two weeks in a single foreign place would never be enough.


The world has always been a marvel I’ve been dying to see, and life seems so much shorter the longer I live it.

My only choice was to take ownership of my choice.

I had to realize that the naysayers could be right, but they also could be wrong. I had to believe that I was meant for something more, because feeling like your days are on repeat can kill you too.

Getting past unsupportive words is about committing to your truth. It means knowing that when others in your life ask you, “What if this or that happens?” you’re allowed to say you don’t know. Or, “What happens if it doesn’t?” Or even, “I’ll figure it out.” The only answer anyone is looking for is your own vote of confidence. The only response they need is your assurance. The only person capable of holding you back is you.

The money will come. The job listings will continue to be posted. The work will eventually get done. But your time will never come back. So be sure that the life you’re living is truly the one you want to be.

Photos by Summer Staeb

Salma Elbarmawi

Salma is a writer, activist and aspiring social entrepreneur. She has a special love for culture, meaningful conversations, politics and dance. Although her passions for advocacy and articulate, authentic writing often collide with her love-hate relationship of the corporate world; she believes that one day, the narrative of business will change, and through the new generations’ collective voice, the world will have no choice but to change with it.