Being a perfectionist around the holidays can be a truly terrible affliction. Not just for the perfectionist, for you the whole family of one (and we have two in our house!) It creates this vortex of colossal expectations, one-shot opportunities, stressful expense of energy and money, shame, shame, oh, the shame - So. Much. Pressure. Usually with a lot of people around.
I've always been the holiday queen in this house. My husband is not really into holidays, though he tries to be a good sport (after we've had many conversations about how much they mean to me). But, I do everything I can physically do myself. This includes putting up our exterior lights and getting down most of the heavy boxes. When I get into "holiday mode" I want everything done my way, on my timetable (now!) and with cheer. This is why I do not wait for my husband. Our dynamic usually requires respect and patience and I don't exude either very well in these crucial holiday prep moments. So I do the classic perfectionist move (passive aggressive) of taking it all on myself so it can be done perfectly. I highly recommend this healthy choice.
I'm very emotionally invested in how all my hard work, dreams and extensive planning plays out. Not only must everything go well (exactly as I imagined), look beautiful, but everyone better have fun and be happy -- or else! The icing on the cake is that my therapist likes to point out that somewhere in all this expectation, exhaustion, total lack of grace for myself and others, I'm truly looking for appreciation. So, I run around hoping that everything goes according to my perfect expectations (very interesting when you remember that this involves two very spirited young children) while expecting every member of my family to be filled with gratitude after I've told them all exactly how and how not to have fun.
This dynamic has never been more apparent to me than last night. I was in a really bad place to begin with, which is an indication to me that it was probably not a great night to add in all the holiday hooplah involved in decorating the house. But I still operate under the illusions that holidays are fun. Sweet, right? So when I'd had a bad day and I love Christmas, why wouldn't I unknowingly make the mistake of suggesting to your energetic six year old that it's the perfect time to decorate?
As the usual crazy unfolded, I was also trying to put the baby down for a nap, keep our oldest from digging through the breakables, setting everything out "just so", and of course - secretly prepping our homemade Advent calendar because duh, it's also December 1st. Oh, and a school night. And I had an insane Thanksgiving week filled with hosting, endless cooking, traveling alone with 2 kids, lots of driving, working, shopping, plus a SHITTY day to begin with. All that means is, I didn't have any emotional energy to be patient, kind, generous, calm or gracious to myself or my family. This situation called upon my shame voice, just to be on standby for any human moments. All it takes is one broken treasured item, one terse word exchanged for it to start shouting. "See! It doesn't matter how much you run around. This isn't even fun. You're not having any fun and neither is anyone else." Or this self-pity gem, "Why do you even bother? All you do is make your daughter feel bad when you want to re-do her 6 year old decorating because it's not perfect. Sure, you're trying so hard to rein it in and let her help, but you just can't let everything go. You might as well be a tyrant. You've got to "correct" her sometimes and that hurts her. Look at how she's stomping her foot and turning away from you. Now you're shaming her too." Ha, even my shaming voice shames me about shaming my daughter. Who can win in that situation?
If you thought I was going to end this post with all these loose ends neatly tied up, loaded with tips on how to simplify your life this Christmas season and all my personal anecdotes on how to give yourself grace and be victorious over perfectionism, you're not gonna get that from me. This was where I was at last night, people. Not much growth happens while you sleep. All I'm prepared to do at this point is identify how unhelpful shame is in this hot mess of unfair expectations, very poor self-care, and a total lack of giving grace. Sometimes just seeing yourself objectively is all you can do to say, huh, this isn't working.
At least I have a whole 36 hours to figure it out, before we plan on cutting down our tree and decorate that thing too.