Santa's Pooped…Get Your Own Damn Gifts This Year

It's that time again! 

That dreaded time for many of us accommodators/over-giving empaths to navigate the Olympic-grade obstacle course that is getting through the holidays…without losing it. Without losing ‘it’ AND/OR losing yourself in the process.

First up is the ‘long jump’ of tricky family dynamics; followed by the ‘track and field’ of losing-end, disproportionate gift exchanges (think model car collectible vs heating pad and ‘Do Epic Shit’ sign); and finally, the ‘100-meter hurdle race’ of jumping over one exhausting expectation after another…all while attempting to figure out what feels right for you, sans guilt. 

Man, anyone have a one-way ticket to Mexico? ✈️

Accommodating is a go-to for many of us (especially women); making the holidays all the more anxiety-producing and shit-filled. I know for me, I constantly have to recalibrate and scale back from my over-giving tendencies; ground myself and reorient my inner compass to determine how much time, energy, support and even gifts I give (or not). And the good news is that, this year, I feel hella good in my skin and I have already scaled back on all the forced-joy-infused, tinsel-wrapped madness.

It might be weird for someone with an online gift shop to encourage less giving, but if you got the gist of my small business, you know things like mental health and showing up authentically matter to me as well. And sometimes, authentic will look like: ‘f*ck this and f*ck everyone’. Plus- no one said you can’t gift yourself a nice frame and poem combo.

Anyway, I’m happy to report that I was in the Christmas spirit for the parts that very specifically mattered to me this year; and the rest, unapologetically, went out the window. Bye Felicia!

It was a combination of the ghosts of Christmas past disappointments, and the soul work I did this past year that have helped me shift the status quo on how I face and manage the holidays (and life!).

Although the holiday season is officially over now, people-pleasing and over-giving is a year-round activity for many of us; so now’s as good a time as any to bring this up. Plus, there are a number of other holidays being celebrated at different dates…which means this post could come at a perfect time for you!

So keep that one-way ticket to Mexico after all (just give me a round-trip one instead); and let’s see how I managed to feel better about the holidays this year…in case it inspires you to follow suit.

Let's start with my wins!

-we said NO to hosting this year. My husband and I felt exhausted this month and were firm in communicating that we just don’t want to host- period. And even if we did host, it would have gone down way differently than previous years. Long gone are the days I bust my ass off and start cooking at 10:00 a.m. and don’t even go to the bathroom for several hours, so I can finish a number of dishes on time…only to have people cancel an hour before, and others leave super early...and others fall asleep on the couch. And others throw an impromptu party the next day that everyone had no issue attending (a.k.a. a slap in the face). NO THANKS. And the bathroom scale as a present only added insult to injury, as you can imagine 🤪. We have hosted potluck versions as well, but oh yeah there was that one year when the person who insisted on being in charge of the main meal (turkey) bailed at the last minute so we ate side dishes only…huh, writing all this made me want to never host again for certain people!

-I flat-out said NO to a last-minute invite. I had to repeat myself a couple of times because the person seemed oblivious to the holiday season, and dismissive of my responses. But I was politely firm and told myself if my presence was that important to them, I would have had more than a day’s notice for plans that fell on what is the busiest time of the year for many. The old me would have danced around a response and felt guilty, etc. etc.

-I worked around non-committal folks. I can often be non-committal, so I get this. Reason being- stuff, like: I could be pumped and twerking to a Lil’ John song on a Monday afternoon, and make exciting plans for Saturday in that moment…only for Saturday to roll around and I’ve turned into a meek Librarian lady who wants nothing more than to sip on tea and read a book in my pajamas. A lot can change in 5 days!  But holidays are different. Dinner and festivity spots fill up fast, so it’s not the best time to have a fluid schedule. One person’s indecision and uncertainty can hold several people’s plans hostage, so I negotiated this year when I was left in limbo for too long. For some reason, we also have 624 birthdays in our family in December (or at least it feels like it!), and so when I couldn’t get an answer on what plans we had one weekend, I finally decided to go ahead with my ‘yearly dinner with girlfriends’ plan; but I requested that it start a bit earlier than usual…that way, if plans were made I could do my best to join the other event later.

-We aren’t cooking on the 24th. My mom and I hung up our oven mitts this year in favour of being served at a nice restaurant and foregoing clean-up! I usually have a fancypants pork roast and potatoes dish planned, while my mom does a second side dish and/or a salad and dessert. The last two years were disappointing AF (last year my brother AND husband ended up super sick and had to miss out; and the year before we had a surprise guest who monopolized every ‘conversation’ that night. This year we're off to a nearby restaurant and there may or may not be a secret after-party that continues at home later. 

-New game plan for grinches this year (under review). I’m still working on this, but I started out with acceptance and good intentions in terms of tolerating one of the same old grinches. I had this whole be-merry-or-not-idgaf mindset and that was gonna be it. Well, that sure backfired! Resentment got the best of me when this grinch had an excuse to miss the one and only activity they were to take part in. And then I gave them a piece of my mind the next day. oopsy. 

This at least helped me with empathy (reposted from @decolonizemyself, originally from @millenial.therapist on IG):

Words I should frigging get tattooed on my forehead! (with the amount of selfies I take, I would see it often.) It was a good reminder that the grinch only became the grinch because of his sad, isolating experience with Christmas in his childhood. There is usually a good reason why people turn out the way they do; that likely has nothing, I repeat nothing to do with jolly old you. It’s just easy to take things personally, when their ‘story’ collides with yours and creates a yuletide double-whammy as a general vibe. But like the meme says, certain things (like trauma!) don’t take a break no matter what day it is. So I managed to find some tucked-away empathy. 

AND I also think this particular grinch has too many enablers who don’t call out hurtful behaviour enough; which only keeps them in their self-absorbed little bubble of not making the slightest bit of effort…ever. I think the win in this example is that I’m still taking notes and collecting data to try and better manage this in the future. It's tricky but one part empathy, one part acceptance and one part effectively communicating my feelings from the get-go is the game plan I'm working on. And bonus if we can find better compromises in the future (doubt it, but here's to hoping- 🥂).

-I effectively managed guilt that came up over missed activities. Whether it’s virtual ugly sweater festivities or the big work party, I always feel ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t’ participate. When I skipped the Secret Santa at my day job this year and felt guilty, I reminded myself- 1- remember last time it was just an extra thing to stress about, that didn’t add much to my experience (or theirs, I’m sure)? 2- there are so many new staff, I would probably get someone I literally did not even know existed until that moment. Which, 3- more likely means- blah, generic gift from both sides. Am I really missing out? I also missed the big work party and felt a bit guilty. Then I thought- girl, you just pinched a nerve in your lower back last week when you tried to wash your foot like an ape in the shower (why are my injuries always so stupid?). It was excruciating pain and I had trouble walking and moving in/out of positions for a few days. I basically gave myself permission to just give myself a break. Stupid injuries don’t take a break at Christmas either (especially if you’re me- I’m pretty much always one match away from blowing my eyebrows off!). Although I still could have made the effort, I do believe that there are other ways to show appreciation when you’re not feeling the big stuff (example: I gifted my friend at work a potato as a joke because of an ‘old wives tale’ she told me about. The best part was she didn’t make the connection till I reminded her so I just looked completely insane as she happily accepted it and that made my day. It reminded me of Michael's terrible Scarecrow gift to Oscar. She must have the lowest opinion of me!


-We are practising minimal gift giving this year- for REALSIES. My husband and I agreed to treat ourselves to a mini getaway at some point (spa/hotel overnight stay package is one idea); instead of stressing about gifts and buying ones that potentially end up collecting dust on a shelf. We agreed that going forward, we want gifts that are shared experiences in place of material (I mean, if a heating pad and a ‘Do Epic Shit’ sign don’t send you in this direction, what will?). I mostly kept my end of the agreement this year. Next year might be different, who knows. If we are more organized, it would be nice to get a few gifts. That's the beauty of it- you can keep trying and tweaking to see what feels right. And 'what feels right' is always subject to change; based on moods, the year you had, what else is going on, etc.

-I’m thinking of my future self a lot more. Giving (be it with presents, time, energy, listening, etc.) is an area where I need to watch myself. I sometimes over-give, because being thoughtful is second nature to me (see the ‘About’ page- this is actually how my business started!). It obviously does feel super gratifying and all to give in the moment. But then I get reminded with time that it is not second nature to others…so I can end up feeling short-changed or hurt when it is never reciprocated, and let’s say I’m having a bad day. I have my own back first now. And this is something I keep adjusting and am getting used to as I go. 

So, what these wins all boil down to, is:
I am more clear on what matters to me. Hallelujah. Clarity on values is taking shape. A stronger sense of self is continuing to emerge. And the best gifts I could give myself this year are making me feel good on the regular- boundaries and prioritizing what matters to me. Oh, and 'Option C's'- another gem I learned about this past year, that is often helpful! Instead of thinking we only have 2 possible options, there are several in-between's that can help us compromise and stay out of all-or-nothing decision-making. I named a few in my examples above. Anyway, this continues to be a work in progress. But I'm feeling better already.

And if the accommodator in you is especially stubborn and needs more convincing to scale back a little, here are some observations I made, from a history of people-pleasing (and to be clear, I’m no Mother Theresa here and have surely been on both ends of some of these…unintentionally!):

-How easily people forget. It's easy for people to forget things when they weren’t the ones putting in all the effort. Whether they simply don’t realise how much effort it took; or they take you for granted, or both…it feels…maybe not as dramatic as a slap in the face, but at least like a good stepping on the toe when someone makes a comment and you’re like: really?! Oh I’m sorry, do you not remember X,Y,Z?? And then they’re casually like ‘oh, yeah…’ when you remind them. So factor that in- they may not appreciate, let alone remember (!) all the effort you put in. So the effort you give is better off being proportionate to how gratifying it feels for YOU to simply give it, in that moment alone.

-Often times people don’t care (or even notice!) until you stop. Forget 'forgetting', how about not even noticing?! There is nothing more disorienting to people who have benefited from your people-pleasing tendencies for years, than a full-on STOP to the people-pleasing. They look like they just woke up in the first round of Squid Games and have no idea what’s going on. There is no reason for you to keep a pattern going that only serves others, just because it has always been that way.

-People prioritize folks whose approval they seek. Loving people unconditionally sure is a great quality…but it doesn’t always land you appreciation. Or gifts. I have been completely dumbfounded a few times when a huge gift was presented to someone…when that someone clearly mistreated the person giving them the gift not long before. And yet I am the one whose birthday gets forgotten, who won’t even be gifted anything, who gets the ‘oh sorry, I was sick/stressed/going through something, etc. etc. etc.’ excuse for the 3rd time in a row. Yeah- where’s my freaking gift?! Oh that’s right- you have my approval so it’s easy to overlook and take me for granted. Whether it’s people wanting to impress others in their community, ways to make amends or people subconsciously wanting approval from others, it sure seems like the ‘nice guy finishes last’ a lot in this case.

-Cold and indifferent wins the race. What? Oddly enough, I have noticed that some people (mostly ones with difficult personalities) respond better when you act like you couldn’t care less about them. For years, you try to show them genuine love and understanding and support. And you get rejected and mistreated. This seems so backwards; but I have theorized that these people just aren’t receptive to love, so it makes them uncomfortable and turns them borderline diabolical so they can repel you from doing what makes them feel weird inside. Or maybe they perceive easy, unconditional love as weakness, and feel respect has to be earned (maybe there’s some truth to that!). Anyway, try it sometime! If there is someone with whom you can’t win, try not giving a shit about their existence and see if that does the trick!

-Kids inherit accommodating tendencies...Do you think I ended up with iffy boundaries and accommodating tendencies because I just love people so much? HA! Spoiler alert: I did not. I simply emulated what I absorbed and watched, from my upbringing, and from the influences around me. Plus, there's the whole story of low self-worth and the need to fit in that led to accommodating...which is a whole other blog post! But I would say the best way to teach kids healthy boundaries (and bonus: not spoil them!) is to have them yourself. Set the example and exhibit behaviours that they can later benefit from practising themselves.

-Ignorance hates ignorance. (This was shared with permission, of course!). A friend of mine has had to deal with comments from her in-laws for years. YEARS! Example- she had just given birth and her FIL visiting the hospital says ‘you’re going to have to do something about your stomach’. 😡🤬 🤯 I can barely muster the energy to appropriately comment here on how F*$£$D-UP that is. Forget that she somehow looked as glamorous as she always does, even right after giving birth. But even if she didn't; even if she looked like Jabba the Hutt it would be inappropriate; given that she, you know, just BIRTHED A WHOLE-ASS HUMAN INTO THE WORLD FROM HER BODY. Anyway, she has dealt with this BS for years and she repeatedly tried the ‘be the better person thing’, or tried respectfully explaining when something was insensitive; or got hurt, got angry, etc. Nothing changed. You know what finally helped?! Whenever the MIL says something offensive now, she condescendingly pats her on the the head and says ‘aw, you’re so funny with your little comments’; And wouldn't you know the comments have decreased. When my friend gives her in-laws a taste of their own medicine, they don't like that so much. Sometimes ‘being the better person’ or trying to educate ignorant people keeps you on the losing end. Instead, find a way to mirror their stupidity back onto them and see if that does the trick.

-Right-fighters delight in the fights. And then there's our old friend Reverse-Psychology. My friend has also learned that when she just agrees with her in-laws on whatever insult is given on a particular day, it shuts things down vs keeps them going. She said that when she tries to justify/defend/explain herself, it only gives them more fuel...and almost validates their points. And then she unintentionally engages in a back and forth debate that puts her insecurities on blast and makes things worse. So rather than spend energy on this nonsense, a simple response like 'you're right, I am all over the place sometimes' shows that she accepts herself and also makes them STFU a lot sooner. Don't give them the satisfaction of a fight! Save your precious energy for something you actually care about.

-When you value yourself more, bonus: others do to. I can attest to this! It is odd sometimes how my outside world really seems like a reflection of my inner world. Okay, if that sounds too new-agey for you, let's say it's simply because people take your lead on how to treat you. Do you know someone who never gets messed with, and you know it's because if someone dares try, they have that 'say one more thing and I'll cut you' look on their face? People know not to mess with them. It is tricky when you're an accommodator- you don't want to be 'too sensitive', you don't want to make a scene, ruin the party, make others uncomfortable, be a 'bitch', etc. You may even want to be liked in some circles so you become a yes-person and cut yourself off from getting your own needs met. When you start genuinely valuing yourself, you gain confidence with every little instance of something you did differently. And the weird, unexpected bonus for me has been watching a few people follow my lead and treat me better...once I realized I deserved better.

 -Define 'bitch'. It might be a case of re-define, actually. Depending on how you were socialized, simply being assertive with your needs and not prioritizing everyone else and their uncle above yourself might equal 'bitch' to you. It takes a lot of unlearning and there is so much in mainstream media and society that reinforces and 'keeps alive' these notions that women should be happily accommodating lunatics at all times. But it's worth taking the time to dig a little and find out how that could be informing your behaviours today. You likely aren't a 'bitch'. You're just a full human with a range of emotions and needs.

I hope these points help a little!

Where to?

''What do I want from this? What's important to me''? is the recurring, million-dollar question that I learned in my soul teachings; that helps me re-orient my 'inner values' compass when I need to. It's the perfect question to ask yourself when you feel overwhelmed about plans or feel all over the place. It's not always a clear answer, but can become more clear with time, tweaking and practice. It's the 'Re-center' arrow on your GPS. Your old modus operandi is the same old saved destination, that is always on in the background. But one day, you take a different side street instead. Boo-boop- Re-center. Or the next time, you choose a scenic route instead of the highway. Boo-boopRe-Center. Or one day you think- hey I don't have to accept mistreatment from this person, just because they are family. Boo-boopRe-Center. And your GPS will save all these new destination routes as future options. And before you know it, you are somewhere completely different in a year...because you are now in the driver's seat baby and it feels DAMN GOOD to press on the gas, or pump the brakes or even do a five point turn to change directions on a narrow street...based on where YOU want to go.

Speaking of Options C's and values, I was on the Insatiable podcast that aired December 28th about these topics, in the context of body discomfort. Find it here:

Insatiable- Values-Gap Driven Body Discomfort 

Cheers to navigating the holidays, and life, with patience, insight and, you guessed it- boundaries!

Happy New Year, folks! 






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