Do you suffer from self-inflicted expectations?

Peace of Mind

Holiday expectations. House cleaning. Decorating. Making the perfect meal. Sending cards on time. Shopping for the right presents. Hosting family. Oh my goodness, this time of year is filled with expectations.

This past week, I had at least four conversations with patients about their stress over holiday preparations. But during the conversations, what came up is this:

Many – not all – but many of these stressors and expectations are SELF-INFLICTED.

You are doing this to yourself.

We often have blind spots when it comes to our own behaviors. But the blessing is, once you are aware of it, you have the power to do something about this and make your holidays more enjoyable. As a recovering perfectionist, I say this with the utmost empathy and compassion – please be kinder to yourself and see what expectations can be set aside this season.

Here are some questions to help you decide what to let go of:

Most importantly: Do I WANT to do this?

If the answer is anything but “Yes! I’m so excited for this!”, then ask yourself:

Who am I trying to please?

[There is usually someone else you are trying to please, and it may even be someone not very close to you or someone who has passed away.]

Does this REALLY need to be done?

[Default answer is typically Yes until you see the answer to the next question.]

What would happen if I didn’t do this?

[Often “Nothing.” Nothing bad will happen, no one will notice, so maybe it doesn’t really need to be done.]

How would I feel if I didn’t do this?

[After a moment of awkwardness telling someone no, or a few minutes of guilt, relief is the most common answer.]

Here are more tips to help:

If you find something you want to take off your list but you’re hesitating, be confident in your “no.” Here’s an example:

“I’m sorry we won’t be at your party this year.” [End of sentence. Just leave it at that.]


“I’m sorry I thought we would come, but we can’t. We have so much running to do, we’ll be busy that day, and grandpa isn’t doing too well, and I don’t think we should leave him, but maybe next week we can get together, or next Christmas for sure.” [Lots of excuses never feels good to either person.]

If you are overwhelmed by the sheer length of the to-do list, pick the worst thing and do that first. You will gain momentum rather than increase your dread.

If you are overwhelmed by how long things will take, set a timer for 15 minutes and just start. When the timer goes off, you will have a sense of “at least something got done.”

If you feel guilty because the thing you want to give up is part of a tradition – “we always do it that way” – reflect back over past holidays, and you will probably find other examples where your traditions have changed over the years. This won’t be the first change, or the last, and it might just make for a more enjoyable time.

My loving challenge to you this holiday season is to find something to let go of, that will give you a sense of relief and enjoyment.

Your peace of mind is worth it.

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