I woke up this morning, made some coffee, took my teens to school, came home and casually opened Instagram. Then it hit me as I scrolled through my feed. Here we go, it’s officially the holiday season and with it comes two months of unending to do lists and obligations thrust upon me. I could feel the tension creeping up in my neck and shoulders. It hit me so hard and made me feel so stressed I did something I rarely do, I crawled right back into bed.
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I knew the only way to for me to get rid of this discomfort was not to hide from the stress, but instead to face it so I took a long walk to clear my head. I’ve become pretty good at maintaining balance in my life in the last few years, but I got knocked off balance today and it forced me to ask myself some important questions about why I felt this way. Why do I feel such overwhelming pressure to do so much during the holidays? Why am I not excited, why do I feel such dread? Is it self induced? Is it societal projection? Every year, on the first week of November, I get hit with overwhelming pressure to please way too many people, so much so I feel it physically in my body. Where does this come from?
People pleasing during the holidays was modeled by my mother and aunts. I watched them growing up so I absorbed it and believed it was my role that I needed to take on too. Decorate the house, bake the cookies, plan the menu, host the party, buy the gifts, wrap the gifts, and don’t forget to smile and look your absolute best while you do it.
People pleasing is thrust upon us by social media, it dominates our culture and pressures women to have beautifully decorated homes, gifts tied up in perfect bows, magazine worthy menus, and children dressed in matching pajamas.
I accept that some of my people pleasing tendencies are self induced. I love writing this blog but with the holidays comes additional pressure to provide unique content to inspire. Yet when I look at others in my niche it feels as if there’s some collective agreement to raise the bar every year. So to preserve my sanity, I push back. I say to myself “Girl, don’t kill yourself, there are no points being rewarded or prizes being handed out here. Relax, breathe, pace yourself, contribute what you can when it works for you.”
People pleasing is a choice I’ve consciously made, but it feels so much different when it’s one-on-one. When I spend time cooking or entertaining and I can see the joy on the faces of the people who are directly benefiting from it, that feels like giving and that’s a good thing. If I’m making real memories, I say yes to that, time and again. The part of Christmas I enjoy the most is the one-on-one connection, when I’m decorating the tree with my daughter or snuggling on the couch with my son watching movies. And twinkle lights, I can never get enough of twinkle lights. 🙂
Last year I kept a promise to myself, that I was no longer going to do things that I dreaded. No longer would I spend time on holiday activities that were a soul suck. This year I’ll do the same. Instead of throwing a big party for eighty people on a Saturday night, I choose to gather ten of my best girl friends on a Thursday night for a two hour ornament exchange. Instead of sending ninety gold foil Christmas cards, I’ll send personal texts or individual cards to people I love who make a difference in my life.
For anyone who needs to hear this, I offer these words of encouragement. Look at the obligations (or dare I say burdens) we take on during the holiday season, and ask yourself, 1) Does this activity bring me joy? Or 2) Do I dread this every year? If it’s in the #2 category, maybe it’s time to just say no. To begin the practice of saying yes to only the things that make the season bright, and no to all the things that drain you.
Maybe it’s time to introduce a new boundary this season that honors you, your time, and your energy. There’s so much power in giving yourself permission to say no.
What have you eliminated from your list of holiday obligations that brings you more peace?