One of the biggest challenges many people face this time of year is choosing the correct face to wear in front of family.
Either you need to be apolitical to avoid arguing with a Trump supporter; or you need to steer clear of anything having to do with religion and what you practice; or any talk of relationships, children, and the like has to be artfully dodged; any and all discussions about finances and jobs must be tiptoed around.
· In order to create or maintain peace between family members.
· To avoid making a bad impression.
· Because you don’t want to fight with anyone during a family gathering.
· To not upset your parents/siblings/extended family.
· So that you don’t upset the status quo.
· In order to avoid uncomfortable discussions, arguments, or being chewed out.
· Any combination of — or — all of the above.
Frequently, this is done in order to lessen everyone else’s stress. Unfortunately, it just increases your own. This is because being someone you are not, for the sake of other people, is cumbersome, disingenuous, uncomfortable, and can be mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting.
“But,” you may be thinking, “I can’t be me. It will upset my mom/dad/sister/brother/everyone. They don’t understand me, and I can’t ruin the holidays for everyone by being me.”
So is it actually a better idea to ruin the holidays for yourself by not being yourself?
Of course not. So can you be yourself without “ruining” everyone’s holiday? Yes. Here are some ideas for how.
Be yourself but adjust the volume
Rather than changing yourself to fit the needs of other people, you might just need to tone yourself down. How? By being mindful of your thoughts and feelings, but even more so of your actions.
For example, let’s say Uncle Bob is mansplaining to everyone about the greatness of all that Trump is doing. While you may be naturally inclined to stand-up to Uncle Bob and tell him how he’s wrong, obnoxious, and bullish…you might just need to walk away.
Isn’t that being disingenuous? Unless you have been directly engaged in the conversation (and let’s be blunt, when it comes to mansplaining ANY topic, it’s always indirect) it’s simply removing yourself. It’s choosing from multiple action options that may seem like it offers the least resistance. However, it’s equally as powerful as standing up to Uncle Bob and arguing pointlessly.
How do you adjust the volume in a direct situation? Let’s say, for example, that your mother draws you into a discussion about how, on a recent visit to France, she was stunned that everyone spoke French. She believes that, since they all know English because everyone knows English, they were extra-rude by speaking their native tongue.
Sure, you could explain to your mother, very patiently, how she’s mistaken about this attitude. Or, you could deflect this conversation by asking your sister about HER previous visit to Paris (though now you’ve taken attention away from your mother, which could light another fire).
OR — you could make a totally non-committal remark that doesn’t engage nor disengage the conversation. It’s also possible that, under your breath, you could make a snarky comment to yourself (or someone else) that your mother completely misses.
It may feel like this is not being yourself. Yet you are, just at a lower volume.
Be mindful about what you share
When you know that the family won’t understand about your new job, new relationship, or some other aspect of your life, be conscious of what you share.
I recognize that this may feel like you are putting on a face that is not your own. But that’s not the case. You are choosing how much of yourself to show.
For some people, this is not easy because you won’t want to be guarded. You want to express yourself fully and completely. Choosing not to share some of yourself feels like you are wearing a mask of some sort.
How is it different? Because a mask or different face is pretending to be something you are not. Choosing what to show of yourself, however, is still being yourself. But rather than presenting everything upfront you are keeping some in reserve.
For example, let’s say you and your significant other have a polyamorous relationship. Your family, however, can’t even remotely fathom the idea, let alone deal with it. So rather than share stories about the last visit you had with another of your loves or that trip you and a love took together, keep that to yourself. You are still being you, just not sharing parts of you.
I can’t deny that this may feel uncomfortable. This is your family. Shouldn’t you be able to be yourself?
When this is still uncomfortable, then you have another choice.
Just be yourself
To hell with what they think and feel. Why should you be uncomfortable in your own skin around the people who supposedly love you? They will deal with you…or they won’t.
This, like everything else in life, is a choice. You get to decide how to act, what to show, how to be in front of people.
There is nobody inside your head but you. You haven’t any power over how anyone else thinks, feels, or acts. Keeping that in mind, there is nothing you can do to change another person’s attitude, mindset, feelings, and so on.
The only person whom you have any true influence and control over is you.
Maybe you are going to upset people by being you. Perhaps the family cannot handle your true self. It’s possible, if you be yourself, you will never be invited to another family gathering again.
Is that really all that terrible? Yes, I recognize that family is important…but what about when they are toxic to your health? What happens when getting together with family is uber-taxing mentally, emotionally, and physically? Is it really best to not be yourself and put your health at risk for the sake of anyone else?
I can’t answer these questions for YOU, I can only answer them for me. I know what I will choose when it comes to being with the various gatherings of my family (and that happens in like 5 totally separate entities, but that’s a whole other topic).
Whether I turn down my personal volume, choose to be mindful about what I am sharing, or just let myself be myself, I am going to be me. No matter what that translates to, I alone get to choose.
Don’t be who you think they want you to be. Just be yourself.
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you and I matter. Just be.