The holiday season is upon us and boy is it . . . complicated. Festive? Yes. Fun? That too. But for many, the holidays bring an equal measure of stress (on the calendar, the psyche and the wallet) and usher in an end-of-this-year and beginning-of-next-year reckoning that has the potential to seriously harsh your holly jolly.
That's why it's so important to secure your sense of self like you'd secure a stocking to the mantel -- you don't want it to get knocked down and trampled on during all that revelry. (You have enough to deal with in January as it is.)
Here are a couple of gifts you can give yourself to ensure a merrier, brighter month all around.
Repeat after me: 'There is nothing wrong with you'
If you can't squeeze in another party or afford another office gift swap or bear to spend another hour gritting your teeth during your Uncle Gary's one-man show, "Lock her up!," then here's an idea: don't. You're not a bad person for wanting -- and needing -- to preserve your time, money and emotional energy during an already demanding season. In fact, you have my permission to make this a year-round practice.
It's particularly useful to internalize this message of self-acceptance if you're someone whose holiday celebrations include nosy, judgmental or otherwise aggressive family members who "just want to know what you've been up to" while whispering "She's still waiting tables" and "They aren't engaged yet?" out the other side of their sly Grinchy grins.
Furthermore, if you acknowledge that there's nothing wrong with your career path or relationship status now, then you also save yourself from the annual burden of transforming into a "new you" on January first. Win-win!
New Year, Do You
My new book, "You Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You've Got to Get What You Want," is about finding self-acceptance and confidence, getting comfortable being a little bit selfish when it comes to self-care, and living the life that's right for you.
The holidays are as good a time as any to get started, for the aforementioned reasons, and then some.
For example, 'tis the season for parties -- at the office, among friends, and at your parents' Rotary Club. Which means 'tis also the season for introverts to want to crawl up the chimney and hide until 'tis all over. If that urge sounds familiar, you're not alone in wanting to be alone -- and you have every right to act on it.
Even if you're a social butterfly, gatherings like these are a breeding ground for small talk in which you may not care to engage. So don't. If someone starts yammering on about the weather, change the subject to whether Jack the Ripper's identity will ever truly be discovered. That'll either shut them up or provide vastly more interesting conversation.
Then there's the gift shopping, which is lots of fun -- until you realize your nephews are going to lose, break or grow out of those toys in less time than it'll take you to earn back what you spent on them.
The least you can do to mitigate the resulting anxiety is budget a little something for yourself while you're at it. If you're going to drop all that cash anyway, what's a few more dollars on an awesome pair of plush shark slippers that'll keep your feet warm and your spirits up on Christmas morning while Uncle Gary practices his monologue in the next room?
Resolve to 'do you' -- all year long
Acceptance breeds confidence. If you prep for the holiday season by accepting yourself for who you are -- perhaps someone who does not enjoy colleague karaoke; who welcomes the extra five pounds that Santa typically delivers (via nog and cookies); or who is more inclined to take a vacation in January than to start a masochistic diet, exercise or personal improvement regimen -- then you can slide on into the New Year feeling good about where you are, instead of dreading how far you have to go.
And you can spend the next 12 months spreading the word to your friends, family and colleagues that there's nothing wrong with them, either. That's a gift that keeps on giving.
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