Tag Archives: Practice

How to have the holiday you want: Part 2 ~ Practice your Boundaries

This is the second part of a two-part series about having the holiday you desire. You can read Part 1 here.

I’d like to suggest that this holiday can contain way more of what you love and less of what you loathe… and that you already have the power to make it so.

Step 3: Practice your Boundaries

One of the most powerful holiday-wreckers is the crazy/harmful stuff that some people in our lives believe they are allowed to say to us. {It’s not you… it’s them.}

Let’s imagine that you say no to an invitation. You’re feeling tired, or busy, or you’d like to spend more time with your family… or you know that what’s best for you is opting out of the toxic dynamics of a particular group of humans. Try this: “We won’t be joining you but thanks for thinking of us.” That is a complete sentence; both gracious and true. No further explanation is required. If you are not a person who has said no in the past, you’ll probably feel a bit guilty. That’s okay. The other person might pressure you into attending by saying something like, “You must come! It won’t be the same without you” to which you could simply smile and say, “Thank you.”

It’s true. People won’t like it. They might kick up a fuss. They might talk to their sisters or your sisters and speculate about the reasons why you’ve declined the invitation. The truth is that people who like to gossip were already gossiping about you… even when you went to that annual party that you dreaded… annually. What they think about you is not your business. Make a decision to stay in your own business where it’s calm… or whatever feeling you want to have.

Recently, a number of women have told me that they dread holiday gatherings because someone in their family feels entitled to pass loud, public judgment on their weight, appearance, relationship or job. Within the nuclear or extended family, this kind of “for your own good” talk may have become normalized and seem acceptable. But you get to decide what is acceptable for you. It can be incredibly challenging to speak up when this behaviour has been going on for years/decades but perhaps you are developing strength and skills that you didn’t have in the past.

Coach Susan Hyatt recommends using the line, “Why would you say something like that to me?” This puts the onus back on the person to explain themselves which they probably won’t be able to do. I also like a slight variation on this question: “Why do you feel/believe that you can say something like that to me?”

Of course, there’s a possibility that the person won’t get it… that they won’t understand how their words are offensive or hurtful to you OR they believe that you need to hear them for the good of your health/relationship/career. It’s time for you to try something more like, “I can’t allow you to say that to me anymore.” Be specific about what you don’t want them to say and tell them what will happen if they violate this boundary. You don’t have to tell them how their words makes you feel unless you want to.

Your inner lizard might be acting up like crazy right now… telling you that there’s no way you can stand up for yourself like that… that you’re not allowed… that it will make other people uncomfortable. These feelings are completely understandable and yes, you could absolutely choose to have this boundary conversation in private. You are the person who knows what is best for you. I have observed, however, that when you draw a boundary at a family gathering, other family members also learn what is and what is not okay for you. They might even learn how to do this for themselves.

However you move forward, please take action on behalf of yourself. Do for your own glorious self what you would done for a friend years ago. This person with his/her judgmental comments has probably been making you feel uncomfortable (and possibly in front of others) for a long time now. Isn’t it time to stop being polite?

So there it is.
1. How do you want to FEEL this holiday season?
2. Think about what specific activities, events and people would help you feel that way.
3. Draw boundaries with people who are disrespectful and unkind to you. It’s time.

I’m wishing you a very happy holiday filled with more of what lights you up.

This post was first published as The Sunday Reader. If you’d like to receive these posts directly in your mailbox, every two weeks or so, you can subscribe here. I’d love for you to share this post with your tender-hearted, like-minded friends.