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In the midst of holiday season I often find myself grappling with two challenges over and over again:
I have resisted, avoided and tried to "solve" these obstacles. Yet, the Zen proverb has held true over and over again: the obstacle is the path.
Value Based Purchases.
Overspending helped me realize that my need for giving gifts may be related to my inability to truly receive them. I awakened to this realization when a guest came over for dinner and brought gifts for my kids. Immediately my mind began to think of the gifts I can get for them. I have done this subconsciously for years and now that I could clearly see the thought actualizing an action, I began to unpack it. I realized that there is a part of me that feels the need to make things "even" based on a fear that I may not be seen as grateful or enough otherwise. Hmm. But that doesn't sound like gratitude or worthiness... that sounds like a need to control relationships so I can feel worthy. Wow! Where did this idea come from? Such inquiry led me down a road of deep realizations and reflections.
I challenged my autopilot spending decisions with questions like:
Such questions revealed how I sometimes spend money to protect myself from feeling my own insecurities and unworthiness. I saw how attached I was to the false belief that tells us to show people how much we love them by how much money we spend on them or how many things we give them; and if we don't, our worthiness to receive their love may be threatened. I also realized there is a part of me that feels deep joy from giving to my loved ones, especially experiences I know they will enjoy.
The "right" thing to do here is not to choose one way or the other. It is to find a mindful balance of both so that I can be in integrity with who I am and what I value, rooted in a deep Knowing that I am worthy no matter what.
I am now able to create deeply intentional, value-based and HARD money making decisions that feel true to me (instead of ideals enforced upon me so I can create a certain image of myself or meet society's expectations). And surprisingly, this shift within me not only strengthened my relationship with money but also my loved ones. When I was able to act with integrity with my money, my relationships became truer and more authentic which in turn created more joy. It truly is all connected isn't it?
One of our family's favorite value based decision is to make sure our kids know that love is priceless and intangible. So, our favorite gifts around this time of year are ones we make - with our own hands, heart and imagination.
Make a Plan & then Let Go.
In regards to emotional regulation, the game changer for me was letting go!
Let’s be real though, we need expectations. Having a plan and expectations is wonderful and essential. But inflexible expectations are my nervous system’s archnemesis.
So, I do my best to implement a plan for the holidays. And then, I zoom out to create some distance between my "self" and my ego's expectations so that I am not consumed by them and instead can see them as just a part of me. This allows me to be open to the idea that my expectations may not be met and then I do the (extremely hard) work of trusting that my plans may need to look a little different than I had imagined or perhaps... God forbid... even... be... REPLACED.
Don't take my word for it, though. Try it yourself and see what happens.
For me, letting go was nothing short of magic! It created space for the important things that I was hoping to get from the holidays anyways, such as:
And guess what? The meal that needed to be cooked gets made. The decorations that the kids love to put up get set up. It might not be on the day I needed them to be or the way in which I expected them to be, but the essential stuff gets done nonetheless.
When my nervous system isn't on overdrive from a never-ending list of inflexible expectations, I can trust in the imperfections of each moment wholeheartedly. And through this energy, I create space for the important and meaningful stuff to get done with the most magical ease.
One thing that is especially tricky for my deeply-feeling, introverted, solitude-seeking self is managing the intense socialization that comes with this time of year.
To address these needs, I have coached myself to feel no guilt in stepping away for a few minutes so I can spend some time alone. And without any pressure to entertain, I may choose silence over conversation. This is a necessary act of self-love that helps me show up with even more love and presence for every one I care for.
Therapy is still teaching me to feel gratitude for people who trigger me. IFS founder Dr. Schwartz calls such people our tor-MENTORS because they mentor us to realize what's tormenting us from within. So, instead of using my energy to gain other's approval or get consent, instead I use Dr. Becky's tip to "build up a voice that says, I believe in myself. I have my OWN approval. And that is enough."
Lastly, one of my favorite things to do before entering a social setting is to remind myself to see this person for who they are today, and not who my mind decided they were yesterday. This may seem to contradict the part about seeing people for who they consistently are, but sometimes people do surprise me. More importantly, I feel a lot lighter when I am able to release the burdens of my past.
With all this being said, we can't self-regulate without our "self". Do make sure to prioritize your needs, whatever they may. This is not the week to skip our workouts, meditations or journaling sessions. This is when we need these regulating tools the MOST.
I share all of this not because I have it all figured out. In fact, I just had a dysregulated moment yesterday when I realized that I ordered dining chairs for our Thanksgiving dinner to our old home address instead of our new one. I had to reread this blog to remind myself of how I want to be.
This work is never-ending...
What are some of your struggles around this time of year? What are some tools that help you navigate them?
My Outer-Self: B.S. from USC in Industrial & Systems Engineering, owner of Amna Dance, Co-founder of Hatch Brighter and You Matter Too.