Give yourself permission to celebrate your own way

As we head into the holidays, the pressure to conform to others’ expectations often intensifies. Employers, colleagues, family, friends, and even our children can have high hopes and big plans for how they want to celebrate the holidays. And even with the best of intentions—yours and theirs—it’s impossible to satisfy everyone.

Rather than run yourself ragged trying to keep up, consider this: Give yourself permission to celebrate the holidays your own way! This may mean developing your ability to kindly and firmly say No.

No to the parties you don’t really want to go to.

No to the presents you can’t really afford.

No to the travel plans you don’t really want to make.

No to gifts that are given out of obligation.

No to wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows that will only end up in landfills.

No to the meal planning, shopping, preparation, and clean-up that falls predominantly on you.

No to the neighborhood expectations to compete in holiday decorations.

No to the many things you might genuinely love to do, but just can’t manage right now.

Making difficult choices is simply part of being an adult. As much as you might really love both chocolate cake AND cheesecake, you know that you probably won’t feel good about eating them both at once. The same principle applies to social engagements. If you try to attend too many, you end up not enjoying any of them. Unfortunately, many of us have learned to put everyone else’s wishes and expectations ahead of our own. Saying No to our family, friends, and colleagues can be uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier—and more comfortable—with practice.

It helps to remember that every time you say “No” to one thing, you’re freeing time and energy to say “Yes” to something else.

As we become a more culturally diverse society—and a more globally connected world—we realize that all cultures have their own traditions and celebrations to mark the end of the year. This essentially offers a degree of permission to “just say No.” Since so many people celebrate the holidays in their own unique way, you are entitled to define what celebrations and traditions you want to keep and which you want to let pass. Since everyone is doing it differently, you might as well mark the holidays in the ways that are best for you.

In a nutshell, this is the essence of my personal philosophy—and my wishes for you in the coming year: That you will take the time to discern and then commit to honoring the choices that are best for you. There’s really no one else you need to impress.

Ironically, when you give yourself permission to say no, you may experience a rush of energy, joy, and a willingness to say Yes! Because now that you’ve given yourself permission to choose, you’ll find that freedom is empowering. Now you can say:

Yes to time with the people who matter most to you.

Yes to the rituals that matter the most to you.

Yes to time for self-care.

Yes to the ability to be generous because you’re no longer running on empty.

You’re even likely to find yourself appreciating your celebrations more than ever because you’ve given yourself the time and mental space to savor them. You can be more fully present because you’re not mentally planning for the next obligation you need to fulfill. Simplicity is often the richest gift. Presence is often the best present.

Happy holidays!


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