They’re everywhere: Photos of perfectly trimmed trees a perfectly prepared Seder, the expertly decorated house, the matching pajamas, and the adorable dog with antlers. Since we are bombarded at times with images of perfect holidays, it can often feel like we’re just not stacking up. As we go through the holiday season there are a few things to keep in mind so that we can keep ourselves well, inside and out.
We Only See The Frosting…
One way to truly take care of ourselves this holiday season is to remind ourselves that we’re not seeing the entire picture when we look at social media. We may see a perfectly iced cake but we aren’t seeing the hours of prep work nor the fight with an oven that just doesn’t cooperate or the husband who ate half of the cookies next to the cake.
When we scroll through social media this holiday season we can use this idea to allow us to offer ourselves some compassion. “That’s not the whole story…That’s not my story…”
When We Compare We Tend To Despair
The rhyme is so wonderful and the message is true. When we look at others and compare their photos or social media posts to our own lives there are typically two experiences. First, if someone to whom we’re comparing ourselves is, in our minds, “worse off” than we are we might feel sorrow or despair for them. However, as we compare ourselves in this instance we might miss the opportunity to show ourselves gratitude and that person some compassion or empathy.
The second thing that might happen as we compare our social media presence to others is that we might find that we feel “not good enough”, “less than”, or “worse off” than others. While this certainly doesn’t make us feel good, it also tends to leave us without a way to be grateful and without a way to make changes to things we’d truly like to improve. When we compare and find ourselves lacking, we also find ourselves without much self-compassion.
When we find ourselves comparing and despairing we might give ourselves a new story to play with. Instead of “I am lacking”, we might offer ourselves “I am doing the best that I can and I am growing today and every day.”
“My Life According To Loved Ones”
One other expectation-related experiences that bears mentioning has no real technology behind it and, since it predates social media, is one that we may all be able to relate to. It can be likened to a book and that book would be, aptly, titled “My Life According To The Expectation Of Others”.
Whether it’s the “When are you going to find a partner and settle down?” or “When are you going to lose the weight?”, or “When are you having a baby? I want grandchildren.”, or even “When are you going to get a job?”. The expectations of others, especially loved ones, can weigh heavily on us. After all, these people have our best interest in mind, of course we should listen to them, right? Well, maybe and maybe not.
If we allow ourselves to hand over the pen that writes our story to others, we might end up feeling more lost and less fulfilled. But these questions do come up around holiday dinner tables and get togethers and so we can do a few things to address them.
One exercise that may help is to work ahead: Create a list of the possible expectation-heavy questions you might get as you enter this season. Then draft an answer. Allow your mind to pour over the page or typed document. Then cut it down into a smaller, simpler answer.
One other way to approach this type of experience is to offer a sort of blanket response. Perhaps “When I’m ready/ When We’re ready” might work for some questions or “Thanks for asking. I’m still deciding how to approach that.” Or “Thanks for asking, I’m not comfortable/ready/up for discussing that tonight.” Having these simple responses makes those conversations a bit easier and our lack of hesitation when we offer them (since we’ve prepared to do so) gives others a clear indication that another topic is probably best.
It may also help to have some other topics in mind that you are comfortable discussing. This will make the transition to a new topic smoother and less work for you.
The final suggestion for dealing with the expectations of others this holiday season is to take to take care of yourself. Many people like to prepare before family gatherings and it makes sense. If we have done some self-exploration around our feelings this holiday season, the clarity such work brings can keep us feeling well even in tougher situations. Perhaps once we’ve explored how we’re feeling we might also think of ways that we can (either before or after an event or get together) keep our bodies and minds in check. This could be a calming bath, a chat with a friend, a yoga class, or just some quiet time alone. Whatever the activity be sure it is something that makes you feel comfortable within your own body and mind.
As a community, Root To Rise is here for you this holiday season. Feel free to check out our weekly events, to reach out with any questions or comments and let us know how you’re navigating the holiday season.