The holidays are coming and how does that make you feel? Often the holidays bring with them lots of stress and lots of opportunities for us to be less than our authentic selves. If you find yourselves feeling stress at the possibility of spending time with your family, take a hard look at the reason why this might be true. Does the prospect of spending time with your family stress you out because of who you are or because of who they are? The answer might surprise you. Often we find that our feelings line up with the idea that “Aunt Jane stresses me out.” Often we demonize the person who “makes us feel uncomfortable”, but do others have the power to “make you do or feel anything?” If so, you might be allowing others to cross your boundaries and allowing yourself to pass the responsibility of your happiness onto someone other than yourself.
“Well, you just don’t know how she is.” I have heard this and I have said this but I have found that we all have difficult people in our lives but this, in and of itself, does not allow us to shirk responsibility for our responses. Your happiness is your responsibility. Let me say that again, YOUR HAPPINESS IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY! I am not responsible for your happiness, nor are you for mine. I cannot control your behavior nor do I have the right to attempt to. I can only control my own behavior and my responses to your behavior. I think the holidays are a lovely time to have and practice this reminder. I do have the right to stop a person whose behavior is harmful to me by avoiding them, leaving the room or ceasing to have conversation with them. If the person is not harming us but only “making us so mad” then we have a problem and our problem is not “them”. We have a problem with ownership.
We have a choice as to whether we allow another person’s words or actions to affect us. This is one of the most important aspects of being an adult. There is an ancient word of wisdom which states, “You can’t keep a bird from landing on your head but you can keep them from building a nest.” I think this applies here in that you can’t keep others from saying and doing things which you do not like or appreciate but you can keep them from having power over your life and your personal happiness. I am not saying that this is easy. Trust me when I say it is one of the most difficult things in life but it does get easier with practice. The holidays are a great time to practice these boundaries. When your “Aunt Jane” says, “You are still not married”, you have a choice to be angry, to walk away or to just laugh it off, maybe with a witty comment. When your mother or father makes a comment about your appearance, decide if you really think that you still need to dress, wear your hair, or address other matters of appearance in accordance to the desires of your parents. If so, you may not be acting as an adult. If your sibling makes a comment about their “great job or great life”, don’t take it as a slap to you if this has not been your year. Maybe you could be happy for your sibling and know that better times are coming because you are going to make things happen in order that your life line up with what you want it to be in the coming year.
Sometimes people make comments without thought as to how they will be received. Especially when family members don’t see each other often this can happen because they don’t know what to say. So, I am encouraging you to take ownership for your happiness, consider overlooking rather than overanalyzing comments, and exercise boundaries when family members do or say hurtful things so you can enjoy your holiday. Your attitude can give you a different experience. If the experience does turn out dreadful, take time to decompress with a friend, maybe over a glass of wine or a walk or a shopping trip. Happy Thanksgiving.