Ahh, Thanksgiving. It’s nearly here. I love this time of year. I also hate it. ‘Tis the season for ambivalence. I know I am not alone in my complicated feelings regarding holidays known for food, family, and friends. Three F holidays (as I think of them) are fraught with tough emotions for many of us, and the F bringing the most tension to the holiday season is usually family.
Nothing can challenge one’s commitment to authenticity quite like complicated family dynamics. Some people cope with the behavior, expectations, and judgments of their family members by selling themselves out and saying or doing whatever it takes to gain even the smallest crumb of approval or affirmation. Others cope by busting through the doors, loud and seemingly proud, not so subtly declaring through their words and actions that their family can take them as they are or go to hell. I’ve been guilty of both reactions at different times in my life, guilty of trying to protect myself through please-just-love-me conformity or abrasive bravado. No matter which suit of armor I’ve donned, I’ve always walked away from the encounter feeling angry. Either I was angry with myself for my falseness or I was angry with the people I thought were sizing me up and judging me as unfit and unworthy and angry with myself for believing them. Speaking from experience, it is nearly impossible to enjoy the holidays when the warm glow inside you comes from animosity rather than joy and goodwill toward humankind.
Staying connected with the core of our authentic selves is not something that happens by accident. Even during the best of times, it requires intentional work and mindfulness. With the holiday season looming before us, now is the time to commit to being our wholehearted selves as much as possible in spite of the hustle, tension, stress, and defensiveness which calls us away from our center. It is also a good time to create a map back to our true selves for those moments when we lose our way.
Taking a shower, reading poetry, talking to my best friend, walking, and finding a quiet space where I can decompress and figure out what is really going on inside are all points on my map back to wholehearted, worthy Leah. If you are so inclined, would you share with me the ways you find your authentic self again after a break in the connection? How do you stay committed to self-respect when those around you might not honor that commitment?