Ah, the holidays. Family gathers; we spend time with loved ones. It’s a time for fellowship – and in some cases for hard-wired pain points to come to the fore. Some truly dread the holidays because of the stress and family drama. We armor ourselves mentally and trudge into the season expecting the worst – a defense mechanism built from past insults and disappointments (real or perceived).

Selective Hearing

Before the season gets too far gone, have you had your hearing checked? Yes, your regular hearing is important, but I’m talking mental hearing – the filters you apply to the things people say. One of the hardest parts of your wellness journey is appreciating and valuing yourself properly. It can be second nature to hear implied criticism or backhanded compliments, even when it’s not at all intended that way.

Friend – “You look great today!”

Me, usually internal – “Oh, so normally I don’t look good?”

This issue gets worse as we become more of a text-driven society. SMS messages and emails are quick and convenient ways to communicate – but even with (way too many) emojis, it’s a lot harder to determine tone. I find myself applying the tone to match my own feelings; when I’m having a down day I mentally read that email in a down voice. That turns an innocent comment into a smack to my ego – and most of the time the sender has no idea what just happened!

Don’t Jump to Conclusions

Our stupid brains love to throw what ifs around. “What if what she’s just telling you that to be nice?” “What if he doesn’t actually like your idea at all?” That self-doubt, those nagging thoughts, can lead to a lot of pain.

Often, we hear what we expect to be said. Those filters kick in and change the conversation in our minds. As the old saying goes, don’t assume because… well, you know. Assumptions set up disappointment, and create problems. Be honest with yourself about what you are hearing, take the time to listen and ask questions – don’t jump to conclusions!

We had a long conversation with The Boy at dinner the other night. It’s important to think for himself and have a basis for his opinions. To that end, he needs to be able to listen to opposing viewpoints and understand where they may be coming from. That comes back to listening and taking the time to understand someone else’s motives.

By understanding and supporting your own opinions, you can refine them. By understanding someone else’s motives you can decide how much value you want to give them in your life. A true tribe member will want what is best for you. If, however, their main motivation is maintaining the status quo while you try to grow and improve, they may not have your best interests at heart.

When that is the case, you are fully justified in apply the (forgive the language) go fuck yourself threshold. That’s right, when someone is spewing opinions because they like the sound of their own voice, you don’t have to listen or care. You don’t owe them anything, but you do owe one thing to yourself: to be in the best possible place to feel vulnerable. If that’s not the case where you are, it’s time to leave!

(Gift)Wrapping It Up

To survive and flourish this holiday season, try to set aside the past and surround yourself with people who love and support you the way you do them. Don’t assume another’s motives are good (or bad) – but if they show they are not on your side, don’t be afraid to move on. It can be a hard thing to do now, but short term pain is your long term gain.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash