Updated: Nov 16, 2020
It’s that time of year, Christmas, and it’s both a magical time and a time of stress and disappointment. Have you ever wondered why that is?
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that my “I should” mentality is triggered more at this time of year.
I should is another addiction for me. You might not relate to I should, however, reflect and see how often you use “I shouldn’t .., I have to …, I must …, or I need to…” I should has a purpose in my life, it’s a great way for me to feel immense guilt. I torture myself with guilt and feel like I’m to blame for absolutely everything. I do this because it’s easier to be upset with myself than to be angry or disappointed in others because that is unkind and feeling that way is a character flaw somehow.
I should seems like a motivation tool, but the truth is that it is dictating our expectations of how we think we should think, feel, or behave. Where do these expectations come from?
Our expectations are based on our external influences, what we believe will make us happy or successful based on social norms. What I’ve learned is that I have very high expectations of myself, I expect myself to be perfect and once I’m perfect I’ll be rewarded and finally be happy and successful. Writing that seems absurd but that’s how I’m programmed and I’m slowly trying to unlearn that.
When I live in the I should mentality I struggle with nagging thoughts, feeling overwhelmed, am disappointed and feel unfulfilled. Even when I do complete an I should task the enjoyment lasts seconds and my mind jumps to the next I should, it’s never-ending. The guilt from I should is draining and depletes my motivation and robs from me the satisfaction of having a meaningful existence.
Christmas unlike at other times of the year overwhelms us with obligations. Whether it’s buying gifts, attending parties, spending time with family, cooking and baking whatever traditions you feel are required for the season. The desire to make Christmas magical and perfect in itself is unrealistic. We quickly forget about the insanity and when the holiday reappears we do it all again and the cycle of disappointment continues. Is it really necessary to do all of our I should’s, I expect not and I expect that it won’t make Christmas any less magical, in fact, I think it would increase it.
Over the last year I have started asking myself these questions:
1. Do I want to do this? 2. Why do I want to do this? 3. How will it make me feel?
By asking myself these questions it allows me to let go of the I should mentality.
What I’ve realized is that my time and energy are extremely valuable and to honour myself I need to protect it. I used to joke and say I didn’t like people, working in a caring profession I would constantly give to others and by the time I got home I didn’t have much reserve left. When I felt like I should do things in this depleted state it left me resentful and unfulfilled by my interactions making me think I didn’t like people. I’ve learned that I enjoy solitude and my own company a lot and require a lot of alone time to recharge. By focusing on self-care to replenish my reserves and letting go of the I should mentality allows me to be fully present in the activities and interactions I choose to engage in. I’ve learned that it’s ok to be selective in how I spend my personal time and only engaging in things that bring me joy and fill me up, not deplete me. This is the greatest gesture of self-compassion and self-love I can show myself. The other thing I’ve realized is that managing my own expectations of others, identifying and accepting what people are capable to give and not wasting time wishing it were different while setting boundaries around these interactions allows me to be fully present and enjoy these moments deeply.
My holidays have been greatly simplified over the years and it has been a time of rest and rejuvenation rather than chaos. I ask you what can you give up this holiday season that does not serve you?
Here are some of my self-care essentials:
1. Movement – mostly walking but occasionally running and yoga. 2. Nourishing my body the best I can with a variety of foods. 3. Adequate sleep – 8hrs per night. 4. Nature – long walks in nature. 5. Hot baths with sea salt and essential oils. 6. Lots of quiet time alone.
A “No” uttered from deepest conviction is better than a “Yes” merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. Mahatma Gandhi
NO is a complete sentence. It does not require an explanation. – Unknown