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?