Welcome to my mind.
It is difficult for me to act all merry and cheery when I don’t feel like it. Yet, at the same time, I hate being the debbie-downer even more. So, I usually just pretend like I’m having fun and most people don’t notice.
The small family parties are usually OK. Each of them knows my struggles and understands to a certain degree. I feel no pressure to be anybody I’m not, and I feel no pressure to do something I’m not comfortable doing.
It’s the larger extended family things that get me in a tizzy. The anxiety I experience beforehand is overwhelming. I get caught up in thinking about what I will say, what I will wear, and what I will eat. The ceaseless worrying takes over the enjoyable anticipation.
I am so insecure about not working that when it comes to these kinds of events, I am tempted to make up a flashy career just so I will have something to say when people ask, “So, what have you been up to lately?”
I love staying home but I feel guilty when I talk about it with other hard working people. Sometimes, I don’t think others understand why I need to stay home. “Are they judging me?” In the end, even if they aren’t thinking it, I still feel lazy and bum-ish. Because, deep down inside, I feel like if I try harder I could be more “normal”.
In addition to the work thing, I get so worried about my weight in the days and weeks prior to the parties. I often focus all my anxious energy on body bashing and negative self-talk. In the past, this is when my eating disorder would be the worst. Now, I understand that what I am really worried about is whether or not I will be accepted. If I am truly honest with myself, I don’t think I am good enough the way I am. In my mind, if I was skinny and pretty, it would make up for my lack of social skills or interesting talents.
When the party turns to feasting, it is really difficult for me to eat in front of people I don’t know that well. I feel like I am being judged for everything I put in my mouth. It’s like I can hear what people are thinking, “You shouldn’t be eating that, it’s bad for you” or “it’s fattening” or “You shouldn’t be eating anything – you should run around the block to try to lose some weight.”
I hear other people’s insecurities or justifications when they say things like, “I guess I can eat more dessert since I ran six miles this morning” or “I better work out tomorrow after all I ate today!” I know where those words are coming from because I’ve been there myself once upon a time.
When all is said and done, things usually turn out OK. But needless to say, being at parties with this kind of anxiety is no fun.
So, this year, to make the holiday parties more enjoyable, I’m going to try a different angle.
1) Who cares what other people think? If they don’t think I’m good enough, then that’s their problem. By the way, they’re probably not thinking about me anyway – they’re probably thinking about how they look to other people. If I spend my whole life worrying about what other people will think of me, then I will miss out on the beauty of my own unique individuality.
2) Be a smiling face. Even if I don’t feel like it, try to smile more than not. Fake it till you make it. Not that I am trying to be “fake” or someone I’m not. Just that if I want to possess a virtue I don’t have, then I must imitate that virtue. I want to be positive, uplifting, and share the joy of Christ. There are other times and places to express the sorrow of the soul.
3) Eat what I want. If I am hungry, or even if I just feel like eating, I must remember that I do NOT have to earn the right to eat food. I can enjoy a good Christmas meal and seconds and thirds if I want. I’ll eat slowly and savor all the flavors that only come around once a year. I’ll be a good example of eating “normally”. And I won’t regret it after!
4) Embrace the awkwardness. Every conversation can’t be enlightening and at the epitome of class and grace. I am not perfect. Sometimes I say stupid stuff. Who cares anyway? Everybody does it from time to time. Laugh it off and move on.
5) Stay away from mirrors…during the party and beforehand. Since I am more tempted to beat myself up this time of year, it would be helpful not to put myself in situations where I have the opportunity. Right now, I’m at once a day while I brush my teeth. But if that proves too much, then I don’t know, I’ll have to cover it up with a poster or something. I am amazed at how much stronger my self-esteem is when I am not fighting with the mirror every day.
If I go into the holidays with this kind of attitude, I will be more likely to enjoy myself. I am also hoping that, by telling myself these things now, I won’t have the debilitating pre-party anxiety.
I hope you found these tips useful as well.
May your Christmas be filled with true joy and authentic peace. Have a nourishing holiday!