Self-Kindness During the Holidays
I have discovered, in recent years, that I am a master of self-criticism. I can critique myself on anything from the color of my hair to my attitude to the way I say hello to the grocery cashier. The holidays amplify this. I am suddenly hyper-aware of the way my house looks, my (lack of) gift wrapping techniques, and the Christmas cards I do or don't send. I wonder what family members or friends think about me, my gift giving, my holiday style, my very soul while silently berating myself for things no one would ever say to me.
What if we change things up this year? What if instead of criticizing yourself, you celebrate the amazing person you have become? Here's the thing: even if you only ever criticize yourself silently, the people around you notice. They see your anger or your sadness or your self-pity. They become the recipient of your criticism too, even if you don't mean for that to happen.
The bottom line? Changing your inner monologue and treating yourself kindly is an act of kindness to those around because you won’t be the worst version of yourself.
Let's give it a try. I'll be your guide as we learn together to change our inner narrative, which will in turn change our outer attitudes. We might not be able to change this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, but we can certainly change our inner dialogue.
Holiday Photo Cards
You know the drill. Your mailbox fills with shiny cards from every Facebook friend and extended family member you forgot you had. Each photo is more perfectly coordinated than the one before. How is it possible that your friends all lost five pounds and learned how to be a model during 2020?! Suddenly, sending out your own holiday cards with that candid photo from last summer seems like a terrible idea.
The Lie: An inner dialogue pops up in your head that says something like, "These people are so much more attractive/beautiful/handsome/thin/curvy/fill-in-the-blank than me. Clearly, they have their lives together in a way I never will. Look how happy they are, while I struggle with depression over here." If you drill down to the bottom of your self-criticism, you are believing that something is fundamentally wrong with you. You just don't measure up and you have no idea how to fix it.
The Truth: A dear friend once told me that when I compare my worst to another's best, I will always lose. Those holiday cards are another family's absolute best moment. They got out of their sweatpants for an entire hour and put on extra makeup specifically for the photos. They don't actually look like this all the time, just like you don't wear leggings and a pony tail every day of your life. Your family, appearance, or life may look very different from theirs but that doesn't mean it's insufficient or insignificant. Differences are worth celebrating, not shaming ourselves over.
As you leaf through holiday cards, take a moment to send good wishes to all your family and friends who are trying just as hard as you to make this year the best it can be. Then thank yourself for your beautiful body and all the happy memories you made with your loved ones this year
Inviting family or friends into your living space can feel equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. You suddenly feel the need to clean all the things, decorate with holiday spirit, and buy enough food to feed an army platoon. A small holiday gathering can quickly go from simple to overwhelmingly complex and expensive.
The Lie: It's easy to believe the state of our home/apartment/room reflects who we are as people. We think that when people walk inside our doors, they judge us for a pillow out of place or a ring around the toilet upstairs they'll never see. We tell ourselves this was a bad idea, our home isn't up-to-snuff because it doesn't look like one from a magazine.
The Truth: The real reason loved ones visit during the holidays is that they love to be together. You invited people because you want to be with them, not because you want to them to be guest judges on "DIY Home". There will always be people who judge your living space or even you, but those aren't the voices to listen to anyways. The people who truly love you will be delighted to see you no matter what color your carpet is or the absence of a Christmas tree.
Before you host your next gathering, make a point to simplify the day. Pick no more than three things to make or buy yourself and ask others to bring the rest. Light a few candles to bring in the holiday spirit, turn on festive music, and call it a day. Everyone will have such a good time with stress-free you that they won't notice or care if your snowman collection is missing from the mantle.
Instagram is a highlight-reel of traditions come December. Elf-on-the-Shelf, holiday cookies, walks through the snow, visits to Santa, and more flood your screen in all it's picture-perfect brilliance. You tell yourself that your small stocking stuffers and store-bought sugar cookies aren't enough to make Christmas magical. You are failing on an epic level. Your kids will basically grow up emotionally destitute because you didn't do a 12-days-of-Christmas extravaganza.
The Lie: Holiday magic + elaborate plans = happy loved ones, right? Wrong. This equation sets you up for failure, because the more elaborate your plans, the more overwhelmed and stressed you become. The more stressed, the more angry or hurt or sad you become which typically makes your loved ones unhappy. By believing your people will only love you and have a good holiday through your own efforts at winter magic, you set everyone up for disappointment and fuel the fire of your inner critic who already believed you were going to fail.
The Truth: Your family and friends love you because you're you. They don't expect you to put on a song and dance routine every Christmas (unless you're David Rose, and then you definitely should). Every personality, no matter how exuberant or introverted, has something to celebrate. Find something that brings you joy and share it with your loved ones. They'll be so much more delighted to share something you love than to do a hundred forced Christmas activities while you yell at them.
Pick your favorite traditions or poll the people you live with. Choose no more than five and ditch the rest. You'll be so much less stressed it won't matter that the Elf never made his appearance this year.
Are your ready? Take off that self-criticism like a bad manicure and get ready for a joy-filled, self-loving holiday season. It will be your best holidays yet.
Melanie lives near Raleigh, NC with her husband and three kids. She loves hot coffee, good books, and deep conversations. Connect with her on Instagram via @intentional_motherhood