Why set your sights high when you can flounder in the middle?

I recently applied to grad school with mixed results.  Instead of commiserating and trying to encourage me to stay positive, my dad is making not-so-thinly-veiled comments that this school was never for me in the first place and that I should give up.  How do I tell him to stick it?

I’m really happy for you that you’re not asking, “Is he right? Should I stop striving to achieve my goals and instead wallow in mediocrity until I’m a middle-aged former shell of myself who eats Snoballs by the case and cries myself to sleep every night?”

You could ignore your dad completely. Every time he passive-aggressively hints that you’re not smart/motivated/competent enough for grad school, put a big crazy smile on your face and say, “HOW ABOUT THEM RED SOX?” This could frighten him into stopping.

Or, you could brightly say, “Thanks for your support! It’s so comforting to know you’re there for me during the tough times.” He’ll get confused and stop, eventually. (While you say this, pretend you’re talking to a nice dad. Or you could make a paper-bag-puppet dad and whip it out of your pocket and talk to it whenever your real dad pisses you off. Make sure you do this in front of him or it’ll lose all significance.)

Or, you could just say, “Suck it, Dad.” This might start a fight but I’m fairly sure it’ll stop his ham-handed hinting.

Another option is to realize that nothing you do is going to change him. For whatever reason, he can’t find it in himself to encourage you…but this doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of encouraging. You said you got mixed results, which means some of them were good, which means you’re on your way. I know someone who applied to medical school every spring for years until he got in. Between applications, he took classes, worked hard, studied for his standardized tests, and never lost sight of what he wanted.

Your dad’s approval may mean the world to you, but he’s not the deciding factor in whether or not you succeed. Accept your hurt feelings, realize he’s got some kind of issue that prevents him from wanting to see you do well in this case, and go study your ass off.

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