For years I was proud of my ability to go along to get along. As a daughter of divorced parents, being a people pleaser and peace keeper came naturally to me. It wasn’t until my first Christmas with my now husband that I started to see what I was missing by keeping the peace.
Growing up, my holiday season often felt like being in the movie “Four Christmases,” with Reese Witherspoon & Vince Vaughn. A full 48 hours of running all over town to see and celebrate with each of my four families.
There was always tons of communication, planning and juggling required to fit it all in. Be in place A for an hour and a half, eat ⅓- ½ half of a meal in order to not get too full (so there’s room to eat at the next place), unwrap gifts efficiently, shovel some dessert or coffee down your throat trying to savor it, and say hasty ‘thank yous and goodbyes.’
All of this while attempting to emote peace, gratitude and joy. Then rush to the car for 30-45 min drive across town to next party. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
When I met my (now) husband, and four places to visit turned into six. Being the planner I am, I sat down and tried to plan out our Christmas route. I made phone calls to get updates on when we were supposed to be where, looked at the geography of it all trying to map out appropriate travel time, and it suddenly dawned on me it just wasn’t possible.
Too many different spread out locations, over-lapping event timelines, far more time in the car driving than actually in any one place. It was impossible and sounded miserable. I didn’t immediately know what to do, it was unthinkable to not be with everyone for the holidays.
I was defeated, I wanted to have it all. See Everyone. Be everywhere. And it just wasn’t going to work. It is so not like me to give up, accepting this impossibility was not an option. I am NOT a quitter. I wanted to do it all and there just had to be a way to make it happen.
So, I decided to consult my then boyfriend to figure out what our options were. I quickly learned that while I was used to doing the musical chairs version of Christmas, he was not. He had no shame in telling me spending the holiday in the car sounded more like a nightmare than a funny holiday.
And I thought “well yeah, of course that’s not fun… it’s nuts, but it’s how I’ve always done Christmas. Everyone will be so disappointed if we don’t go. Christmas is about family and togetherness not fun!”
I slowly realized I never thought I’d had the right to do what I wanted or prioritize “fun.” To plan my day according to what I felt like doing rather than what was expected or wanted of me by my loved ones, it seemed so selfish, uncaring and totally foreign….
Hearing him articulate his preference to quickly, so confidently, so matter of fact made me realize how much I’d been oblivious to my own needs or wants. I realized, as silly as it may sound, I was actually allowed and able to do that.
Ultimately, we decided to do quality over quantity and be intentional about where we going and who we were going to celebrate with. We chose one place to go on Christmas Eve and another for Christmas Day in order to really be present wherever we were. Then we politely informed the other family members that we loved them, would miss them and regretted being unable to attend their celebrations.
No rushing to leave on time to make it to the next place, no need to limit how much we ate at each place in order to not offend the next group by not eating, no preoccupation with passive aggressive comments that we had arrived too late or were leaving too early thus disappointing someone.
It was freeing, it was a glorious relief and it felt good. Now I could actually enjoy the holiday and everything/everyone there without being totally stressed the entire time. And it was all because I had allowed myself to prioritize my own happiness even if it meant disappointing others, especially those closest to me.
Over time it became clear to me that this lesson actually applies to all relationships and events, not just holidays. For years I attended rock-climbing events and gatherings to support my boyfriend, despite not being a rock climber myself. I decided it was okay to not go sometimes. Or even most times.While he went off to go rock climbing I met up with friends, caught up on my reading or enjoyed some alone time.
And it was the best thing I could have done for our relationship. By not needing to accommodate and taking a quality over quantity approach to our time together I was able to please myself. Which in turn made me more fun to be with, at least that’s what he tells me.
The bottom line is that being able to make choices that allow you to feel the most happy gets you closer and closer to being the most vibrant, alive and attractive version of yourself. Don’t dilute your value and appeal by perpetually trying to not let other people down. It’s impossible, it’s draining and it is really holding you back.
In order to show up 100% I had to realize that people pleasing was crazy making for me. And I was sabotaging myself, nobody else was doing it. Are their ways you self sabotage to keep the peace?
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Want to learn more about how to stop people pleasing? Here are some recommended resources: