Are you getting excited to have everyone gathered around the holiday dinner table? Are you ready to sit down with your immediate and extended family and instantly feel like you’re 12 again? Me either.
Ah yes, the holidays… when we all gather and pretend our lives are perfect. We pray the children will behave and not swear in front of the grandparents. We tidy up our houses and hope that no one opens a closet or a drawer. Well, maybe that’s just me. Actually for me it’s less about closets and drawers (or kids, since I don’t have any), and all about animal hair. For some reason I feel compelled to vacuum incessantly when my family is coming over. I have four animals. They all shed, all the time. There’s no way I will ever have a fur-free house. If I wanted to I wouldn’t have four fur-babies. But something happens to me when I have to entertain during the holidays. I want everything to be perfect, for everyone else (but me). And this is exactly what creates unnecessary stress for many of us – the need to have things be perfect, to appear perfect, for everyone else to be comfortable and think we are oh-so-perfect at the expense of our own sanity. If you can relate, here are a few things that have helped me get through the holidays while calming my need for perfection:
1 – Make it Casual.
We don’t do anything formal at my house anymore. Holidays are always “wear comfy clothes and come to chill out” time. Thanksgiving always involves watching football so football jersey attire is required. And, we often don’t even have dinner at the dining room table. We eat in front of the TV watching the game. This definitely takes some of the pressure off the need to be perfect.
2 – Everyone Participates.
Have everyone bring something for the dinner (or lunch or whatever meal you’re eating together). If everyone has a part to play, the host/hostess doesn’t have full responsibility to prepare everything. And he/she doesn’t have full ownership if it doesn’t turn out well. For perfectionists, this definitely eases some of the pressure. Bad pie? My sister brought it. Don’t like the dip? Blame my step-mom. It’s so much more relaxing if other people are also responsible for trying to be perfect.
3 – Take Breaks Often.
Let’s face it, we are all triggered in dysfunctional ways when the entire family gets together. I’ve done so much personal and spiritual growth work the past few years it’s almost nauseating and yet, all that can go out the window instantly when I’m with my entire family. I’m immediately 12 and being picked on, made fun of, or being judged. I often find myself on the verge of tears, ready to react in 12-year old ways and then wonder what the heck happened to all my “spiritual” work. If you feel yourself getting triggered, feel like you’re lapsing into the need to make something perfect, or help ease another person’s imperfect conversation, simply excuse yourself. Go to the bathroom and breathe. Walk outside. Get distracted by the “kids table” or the dog begging for food at your feet. Take care of yourself and honor what you need first, even if it means you need to use the bathroom every 30 minutes.
4 – Remember, It’s Just a Moment in Time.
Ever since my dad passed away, I’d give anything to go back to holidays when he was still with us. Beyond the obvious reason of having him present, I want more photographs with him. I want to relive all the conversations we had and the funny things he’d do to tease my sister and me. I want to pay better attention to everything, including the times he pissed me off and triggered me, so those things are burned in my brain. I want to remember every imperfection of every moment.
I now remind myself of this during the holidays when I’m triggered or feel like I want to punch someone in the face. Ah yes, this is just a moment in time. Let me remember that I want to punch her in the face right now. Just kidding. But I do remember that it is a moment in time that I won’t ever get back. So if you’re feeling tense or triggered, breathe and step back from yourself for a minute. Look around the dinner table or the living room, filled with people and chaos and remember, that particular day and its events won’t ever happen again. Take a picture of the moment in your mind and burn it there. There may be a time when you want to recall all of it, even the imperfect moments.
Those are my tried and trusted ways to get through the holidays while dealing with my perfectionist tendencies. Hopefully they will help you too. I’d love to hear what you do so I can add it to my list and use as necessary! Please comment below to share.
Wishing you a very happy and imperfect holiday season!
This blog was originally posted on The Huffington Post on November 15, 2016