I asked someone what gift they wanted to give themselves, they said gratitude sounded boring.
So what would you give yourself?
They didn’t hesitate – self-confidence.
So that is today’s gift we give to you.
The gift of believing in yourself and allowing yourself to do what is important to you.
Christmas can be a huge time of self-doubt and events that seem to conspire to delete our self-confidence. Personally when I see people go out to fun work events, or doing wonderful things with their family I can hear this nagging voice that says “see that, why aren’t you doing that? Why don’t you have the ability to make things that like that happen”.
Maybe you are estranged from your family, too ill to create anything special at Christmas, don’t have work and struggle to find money to pay for gifts, are single and despair of finding a partner, or even more simply can’t make a gingerbread house to save your life.
Maybe you are lacking the confidence to have the Christmas you want to have, not what is expected from you.
Or it can be that when we catch up with certain family members of old 'friends' memories of our past mistakes and failures are brought up.
Christmas can magnify the areas in our life where we lack confidence.
Maybe you are lacking the confidence to have the Christmas you want to have, not what is expected from you.
Self-confidence and comparison
Most young children believe the world revolves around them and of course whatever they do is wonderful – just think kindergarten drawings, first steps, made up stories.
Then you hit school and the comparisons of your abilities, your achievements, your looks, your background, your clothes, begin – and they never stop. And at Christmas we are never short of comparisons with what other people are doing (even if we know that what we see on social media is not the total picture).
When you practice a new skill, when you build up the knowledge over time that there are some things you actually do well, your confidence grows. When you receive feedback on your abilities, your looks, your achievements, or on other things that are important to you, your confidence grows.
But what if it doesn’t, or how do you build self-confidence?
At Christmas a lot of old hurts can show up. You may be catching up with people you only see infrequently, and so whilst you have been able to practice avoidance throughout the year, all of a sudden that is no longer possible. And then amongst other expectations at Christmas is that you ‘play nice’ on the day.
You may also have trouble forgiving people who are now no longer in your life, or have an ex-partner who has chosen not to see their children at Christmas (and yes it happens a lot) and be feeling resentful about this. There may be fractious family relationships, there may be hurt from friends who don’t seem to be making an effort to catch up. The list of possible sources of resentment is almost endless.
So what is forgiveness? Do you do it once and only when the person involved has apologised and promised not to do it again? Do you forgive someone as many times as it takes? Over and over?
Can you forgive someone who doesn’t want to be forgiven? Is forgiveness an act of self-care, of grace, or an act of rebuilding a friendship or relationship? Or perhaps it can be any of these and all of these.
As a parent sometimes I am practicing forgiveness on an almost ongoing basis! And each day begins anew. Dwelling on the mistakes of myself, and my children, would only get in the way of relationship building.
Forgiveness is an ongoing process of letting go of the hurts and the disappointments that come with human imperfection.
And this comes more easily to some people.
And it is easier to forgive some people than others.
Forgiveness is first and foremost a choice
Forgiveness is first and foremost a choice, an action. It involves moving from a space of blame to a space of release. My question to you is, do you want to put the burden down?
Forgiveness is an act you do for yourself. It does not mean you agree with what someone did, it does not mean you agree with whatever you did. It does mean you are choosing to release the blame, anger, resentment, and hurt. There are five steps you can practice towards this.
Are you a perfectionist?
Are thoughts about Christmas decorations hijacking your enjoyment of the Christmas season? Christmas is the season of expectation. And if things need to be 'just right' this can lead to significant stress.
How do you feel about your Christmas decorations? Do you suffer from tree envy? Do you judge your decorations as not being coordinated or new? Or perhaps you love the hand made decorations and are proud of them. Do you think maybe you should 'do' Christmas lights, or get new Christmas lights? Maybe your tree needs updating?
Is decorating a source of stress or enjoyment?
Have a look at the two Christmas tree images in this post. Which one do you think is mine?
Yep. We are constantly sold on the magic of Christmas with beautiful perfect images. You and I both know that that is not how real people live! And you can turn yourself inside out with trying to match this.
.I have been through the whole putting up the tree journey. For many years the children fought over who would put the star on the top and took it in turn each years, often accompanied by tears. They took great pride taking the decorations out and placing them on the tree. I used to be a little concerned with how 'bizarre' everything looked and secretly moved some decorations around after they finished.
Now? Well I was out for an hour, came back and the tree was up. No star. I asked where the star was. My youngest found it and put it on the tree... Just like that.... I actually kind of miss the fight, it reflects how important it was for them.
Here are three tips that you may find useful at reducing decoration perfectionism.
I discussed in an earlier post about how the number one way to reduce Christmas stress was to ask yourself and your family what was the one thing they looked forward to and enjoyed about Christmas. Tip no 1. Remind yourself of what you and your family love about Christmas.
Tip no 2. Look at how what you are thinking about your Christmas decorations. Is your thinking realistic? If your thinking revolves around comparison with others, wishful thinking and a sense of not being good enough.... take a step back. Is it more important to put the decorations on the tree that your child has made at kindergarten or for the baubles too match?
Tip no 3. Check whether you and your children are enjoying the decorations and tree. If not, it's time for a rethink. What is most important to you about Christmas. Is it how great the tree is? If that is actually really important to you, maybe you could have two trees - one for you and one for the children. If it's not actually that important, release the thoughts and the feelings so they no longer are hijacking your Christmas!
Bonus tip If you are not enjoying your decorations, and/or have too much, think about those that are the most important to you and your family and give the others away. Too much clutter - even if it's Christmas clutter - can be overwhelming.
So, if you find yourself being swept away by the need for perfection, judging your decorations and lack of colour coordination and thinking you don't have enough time to do it right. Check your thinking! Don't let unrealistic expectations hijack your Christmas spirit.
How to make this Christmas easier. Creating Christmas Calm: busting Christmas expectations.(updated 10th December 2020)
Would you like Christmas to be easier?
What makes Christmas stressful? It's the same thing that can make the rest of your life stressful! Expectations.
Carrying around the ‘shoulds’ and ‘have to’ of Christmas is exhausting, stressful and can cause anxiety. There are ways to manage this, particularly using mindful awareness and self-compassion and create some Christmas calm.
Let us take a closer look.
So what are expectations?
Expectations are one way society and families encourage behaviour and growth for the good of your development as a child and teenager, and that of the community. The broad aim is for you to become a functional human being who makes a positive contribution to society. Expectations are guidelines, written and unwritten rules about behaviour. For example you are expected to walk before the age of 12-15 months and be talking before starting kindergarten. You are expected to do your homework, obey the teacher, eat your dinner etc…. You are expected to obey the law, be a good neighbour, a good friend.
Then there are individual family differences based on culture, religion, family structure, birth order, personality etc. For example in some cultures girls are expected to be married young, and not pursue further education.
As you entered adolescence you probably rebelled at many/some of these expectations, but you probably also carried many of them into adulthood.
In adulthood, on top of family of origin and society expectations you now have expectations from your work place and expectations from your partner, and maybe your children.
Expectations at Christmas
What expectations do you experience at Christmas? To be in more than one place on the day, even though your children just want to stay home with their toys? To be bright and cheerful, even when you've stayed up past midnight waiting for your children to go to sleep so Santa can come? To appreciate whatever gifts you are given, even if it's an iron? Or are you expected to bite your tongue when Uncle Jack has too much drink and the nastier side comes out? Maybe your budget doesn't stretch to the presents on your children's wish lists.....
Whether you are turning yourself inside out to have things perfect for everyone, provide presents you can't really afford, or spending time with people you would rather not, the expectations at Christmas can really weigh you down.
Whether you are turning yourself inside out to have things perfect for everyone, provide presents you can't really afford, or spending time with people you would rather not, the expectations at Christmas can really weigh you down
What can you do to make this Christmas easier, this Christmas calmer?
First, step back.
What happens when you simply observe and notice all the expectations and it feels to have them?
Look at them again. Where have they come from? Are they necessary, important, do they add to your life?
Stepping back gives you the space to see what expectations are serving you, and which have no meaning for you.
Seeing this you the space to choose to let go of expectations that are no longer helpful.
Making your own choices.
You can choose to participate in activities leading up to Christmas that you value. That bring joy to your heart and that of your family. You can choose activities that focus on kindness, gratitude, togetherness. You don’t need to be religious to tap into the good will that exists at this time of the year, where most people are actually actively trying to make other people happy.
Simple things you can do to create a calmer Christmas.
1. Let go of needing everything to be just right on Christmas Day.
2. Let go of finding the perfect gift.
3. Remind yourself of what you and your family actually really like about Christmas - and do that.
There is a lot of freedom that comes with being an adult and having so many choices to make. We might feel the heavy weight of expectations, but when we lose that weight it is not just freeing, it also exposes us and makes it vulnerable.
I think that is one reason why treading your own path at Christmas, in line with your values and not others expectations, is so difficult, but for you, it might be the path to your Christmas calm..
How do you show love in every day life? How do you show love at Christmas time?. At Christmas we can rush around wanting to show our love for our family and friends. However, this time of the year which combines Christmas time with endings, beginnings and transitions that occur at the end of the year, can often be a stressful time among families. We often find our frustration tolerance low and and our ability to show our love through kindness and patience can be tested.
There are a number of ways you can create Christmas Calm in your house, and the following is a reminder to keep our eyes on what is important at Christmas.
1 Corinthians 13 is often used in wedding ceremonies as it is a wonderful illustration of love. The link below will take you to a paralled text of 1 Corinthians 13 that reminds us of the meaning of Christmas: www.appleseeds.org/1_Cor_13_Xmas.htm
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls,
but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals
and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing..
Are you looking for easy ways to connect with other people at Christmas? Sure there is giving gifts, but what about looking beyond traditional gift giving?
Feeling connected is important for your mental health, with strong links between loneliness and depression; social connectedness and feeling happier.
But where do you start? Working on how you view social situations to reduce your feelings of loneliness is very important, but here are 7 easy and practical strategies you can do to reach out to others.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy.. If you are experiencing stress please contact your GP or mental health professional.
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.