As we prepare to gather for the holidays, there's always a pit in my stomach. Call it what you will, I know it to be this recurring theme throughout my adult years that I'll be outside my comfort zone and in the land of someone else's expectations for me.
I've recently had conversations with some friends who are concerned about boundaries in their own life with friends and family, and the holidays brings them to the forefront. There are endless obligations, expectations, and masks we put on to hide the anxiety and pressure of this season- a season that is meant for joy, blessings, gratitude and abundance are often filled with deep depression and falling short.
I want to encourage you, as always to seek joy in EVERY season- especially the holiday season. So, I've put together a list of 5 simple boundaries you can start practicing to prepare you for all your holiday gatherings.
I even created a shirt for you to remember to be a joy seeker in this season! You can grab it from our Etsy shop today! Best news is... it comes in 5 amazing shirt color choices!
5 Simple Boundaries to Practice
I call this "practice" because it is something you have to do create into habits. You will have to do them over and over and over until they become normal for you. These are simple, but if you aren't used to them, they can often be scary and feel uncomfortable, at first. Stick with them. The more you put them into practice, the easier it is to shift your mindset into a natural response, instead of a quick reaction.
1. Learn to Say "No":
There are usually a long list of events and festivities being added to your calendar starting... yesterday. It's a list that sneaks up on us every single year. And, despite Covid, and the inward celebration for all of us introverts having less things on our list, we will still have that list of obligatory celebrations of tidings and joy to ring in the holidays. If you're like me, a simple Hallmark movie and a bowl full of popcorn on the couch with my boys would suffice for this gal. Can I get an amen?!
Ok, so how do you decide which holiday festivities are a must and which ones you can actually, get this... say "No. Sorry, this year we just can't."?!
Girlfriend, I learned this one last year; especially after losing my husband in January, I learned that my wellbeing meant I needed to put myself first. I found peace in knowing that my heart needed to at rest and be home and not practicing all the goodness of snowball throwing and happy family photos- so, I opted out. It was good for my soul just to be home.
Let's put this into a simple practice. Answer "Yes" or "No" to each of these. If you lean into the middle, assume it's a "No".
Could this event bring me and my immediate family joy?
Do I or my immediate family want to go?
Are there people at this event that I can talk to and feel at peace with?
If you answered "No" to any of these, you might better reconsider. Don't say "Yes" simply because you were asked.
2. Be Unashamedly You:
Being around family sometimes brings out the worst in us. Doesn't it?! We feel defensive, hurt, or like we will never measure up. You're probably wondering if it's Lauren Jackson still writing here- I assure you, it is.
I found myself in a rhythm of expectations several years ago. I would get this huge gut feeling that I was going to battle when I showed up in front of my family. I felt misunderstood, alone, and like a misfit. I'm not even sure they noticed, but it felt like I was in a fight with myself. The last thing I felt was joy and merry and bright when preparing to surround myself with people who were my blood. What is this awful feeling?
This is the fight of the enemy on family. Mostly, it is an inner war that we fight in the dark, alone. Satan's ultimate plan is to destroy family, because family was designed by God. I'm still learning to overcome this battle- of hurt and harbored feelings of my childhood, of favoritism and unfairness. But, the way I lose, is to give up and throw in the towel when my heart longs to be a family more than anything. I have learned that I have to create the family that I want- it starts with me and my mindset.
So, before I enter into this season of gathering, I will be working affirmations to remind myself of what God thinks of me- and that is all that matters. I encourage you to do this daily. Here are a few of my own.
Lie: I am different. I don't fit in.