Holiday Lies We Believe

 

Every year around the holidays, in spite of the festive atmosphere, many people find themselves feeling stressed, depressed and dejected. This is due (at least in part) to the way we compare ourselves to a plethora of pre-conceived notions and unrealistic expectations. If you feel like you are not measuring up, odds are you have fallen prey to a holiday lie. Do any of these sound familiar?

 

LIE #1: I am the only person who isn’t getting everything done on time.

Reality #1: Hardly anyone checks off every item on the list exactly as he/she would have liked.

The long list of extra activities, obligations and responsibilities means the holidays are practically a part-time job added on top of our daily job. Furthermore, the month of December often brings an increase in “regular” duties (e.g. exams for college students, end of year deadlines for professionals, extra work for musicians, etc.) Most people feel frazzled and can expect to drop a ball or two. This is normal, and there are always alternatives. Didn’t get your cards out on time? Send cards for New Years (or Valentine’s Day… or just skip them this year). Don’t have time to bake gifts from scratch? How about a nice bottle of wine or a bag of store-bought treats? Focus on what matters most to you, and don’t sweat the rest.

 

LIE #2: Everyone else’s home is beautifully decorated and organized.

Reality #2: No one’s home looks perfect all the time.

Yes, your friend’s home may look lovely at the party you attend, but afterwards “real life” will come back out of the closets and hiding spaces and pile up on their counters just like on yours. Christmas brings extra mountains of “stuff” into our lives. And while much of it is fun and happy (decorations, trays of treats, holiday clothing, gifts…), it still adds clutter. Lighten up on yourself a little. You can spend January putting things back in order. For now, just do your best to spend 15 minutes a day putting away what you can, and then relax.

 

LIE #3: I must be doing something wrong because I’m not feeling jolly.

Reality #3: There are a variety of very good reasons why many of us don’t feel  happy.

Perhaps we are deeply grieving the loss of a loved one or a relationship. Maybe we are worried about a spouse or a child or finances. Maybe we aren’t happy with a job situation or are disappointed because of an unfulfilled resolution from last year. Whatever the cause, we shouldn’t deny or try to bury our feelings. Instead, focus on whatever is going well, even if it is something small, and remember that life is always changing. Next year may be much better!

 

LIE #4: If I do everything well, my family will have a Merry Christmas.

Reality #4: A “successful” holiday isn’t about any one person performing a series of tasks to the satisfaction of everyone else.

We may have traditions that require preparation, but the reason for the season is grace shown out of love, not human effort. We all want to do our best to show our families and friends that we love them, but there really isn’t any proven correlation between a perfect house/present/meal/tradition and a happy holiday. Furthermore, some of the best and most memorable holidays are the ones where things go terribly wrong. (“Remember the year that the dining room table caught on fire during the party?”).

 

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The media would have us believe that the holidays are about buying the perfect gifts, wearing the perfect clothes and entertaining in the perfect home. But none of this really matters. Just do what you can, with the time & resources you have, in fellowship with those around you. And then remind yourself that this is always enough!

Do you struggle with believing any of these lies?

 

22 thoughts on “Holiday Lies We Believe”

  1. I don’t struggle so much with believing them as I struggle with wishing that I was super organized, my house was beautifully decorated and that I am capable of doing everything I want to do to ensure a happy Christmas. I don’t worry so much about what others are doing as I do worry about what I’m not doing that I wish I were. I’m working on showing myself grace. 🙂

    1. I think in many ways, these feelings overlap. Showing ourselves grace begins with honestly acknowledging that some of our longings may simply be unrealistic. If we wait to be joyful until everything is “all set,” we will probably never get there. God brought glory to a mess, so it is possible! I think you are doing a pretty wonderful job, Susan, and have loved getting to “know” you through the blogosphere:)

  2. This is such an important post, Seana. I love all of the things you said and the ways you’ve shared a generous perspective, a loving perspective. The other thing you’ve done so beautifully is to normalize some of the feelings we have around this time of year.

    My husband and I love to entertain. I’ve come a long way in learning to let go of perfect and focus on the point of having people over: to enjoy their company. “Enjoy” being the operative word. When I allowed myself to stress too much, then I wasn’t able to be as fully present with our guests. I still have my lists of “to dos,” when getting ready to entertain, but that shift in focus to the “why” rather than the “how” helps me tremendously to really enjoy the gatherings and to cut myself some slack in the process.

    The other thing you said that resonated with me is about trying to make things perfect so that other people will be happy. Happiness is an inside job. And while we can do nice, kind things for those that we love and care about, we have zero control over how they feel. So giving without an agenda is the way to go.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…How to Immediately Put Back More “B” in BalanceMy Profile

    1. I’d like to think I’ve also come a long way on the entertaining front. It was so stressful when I was young and newly married. I was very nervous that I wouldn’t do everything “the right way.” Now the vast majority of my get togethers are potluck, and I’m able to have people over often. I just love the ease of this, but also love that it has made me so willing to say, “Let’s do it at my house!”

  3. Lie #4 is tough for parents of little ones. We want to create that magical atmosphere and have all these memorable experiences and photo-worthy moments, but it doesn’t always go as planned. We took out son to our town’s holiday tree lighting ceremony and it was a disaster. No good photos, a bit of yelling, and our son dissolved into tears wailing that he was going to get “only coal for Christmas! Waaah!” Yep, good times. The next night we made a gingerbread house at the kitchen table where we broke the front door, ran out of icing and had to use peanut butter, and ate half the candy decorations ourselves but we had the best time. Lesson learned: lower your expectations this time of year and the fun will come!

    1. It is my experience that children rarely remember the “fail” times. They actually only carry a limited number of memories into adulthoods, and I think we want to cling to the happy memories. I love your gingerbread house story! When building a house, you have to decide “looks” or “taste”… and I am totally down with taste! Your son is lucky to have a Mom who cares so much about him:)

  4. I can relate to Lie #3 this year. I found that going from one thing to another, I forget to enjoy what is going on right now. This year, I decided to say to myself, “Stop and enjoy right now.” It wakes me up and helps me slow down. Thank you for these reality checks. =)

    1. I love this, Sabrina. I have to do the same thing… make myself stop and enjoy the magic of the moment. We never know what the next moment will bring, and it is so easy to speed along with tunnel vision and miss some of the blessings that are showering down around us!

  5. I don’t celebrate Christmas but I have plenty of clients who do and I hear these ‘lies’ from them every year. I work to help them realize what traditions of the holiday work best for them and to focus on those–not the one’s society wants them to engage in. One of my clients made the decision not to send holiday cards this year and she told me, “I feel so free!”

    1. Absolutely don’t feel the need to send the holiday card. In this day of social media, it is pretty easy to send an email or post a holiday greeting on Facebook. Anything that doesn’t make the holiday more meaningful might be a waste of time and energy.

  6. This is a great reminder of the pressure people can put on themselves around the holidays to make the perfect dinner, buy the perfect gifts, decorate the house perfectly, etc. The holidays are about family and taking time to enjoy what we have and that is so much more important and will lead to happier memories than trying to stage a perfect Christmas. Wishing you a Merry Christmas!!
    Jessica @ Independent Travel Cats recently posted…15 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Edinburgh ScotlandMy Profile

    1. I think this is one reason why your post was so appealing to me. How stress-free does it sound to whisk off to Scotland and avoid the whole scene? At the end of the day, Christmas is exactly as you say, a time to enjoy what we have. Wishing you a Merry Christmas too, Jessica!

  7. This is such an important post Seana! Thank you for bringing these lies and their counterpoint truths to the spotlight. I know so many people struggle with these issues every year and it makes them miserable! If more people understood that Christmas was never meant to be a stressful time, maybe more people would take the steps to let go of the lies and create the Christmas they want. Definitely sharing!!
    Liana George recently posted…The Best Organizing Gift Ideas for the Special People in Your LifeMy Profile

    1. I just love what you said, “Christmas was never meant to be a stressful time.” So much of the stress is created by us, sabotaging the season of peace and goodwill that Christmas really should be. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas, Liana!

  8. I do sometimes worry the spirit is hitting everyone BUT me, but I realize many of us are overworked and stressed and worried so much about giving all the joy to our kids and other loved ones.
    I’d love to take a chill pill! I know it’s coming..

    1. That “chill” will hopefully roll around soon, and fully descend by the 25th. I love the calm of Christmas day, especially sitting around in my pajamas all morning:)

  9. It’s easy to think and feel overwhelmed and less joy at this time of year for so many reasons. It’s wonderful to normalize these feelings for us all.

    1. Comparing ourselves to friends or people on tv/social media is never going to help us find our joy. Everyone has a set of struggles, and the only experience that matters is our own! Merry Christmas, Ellen!

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