3 tips for perfectionists on managing holiday expectations

Dreamy candlelit dinners and cozy nights with family around the fire.

Leisurely shopping trips, delightful conversations with relatives, beautifully wrapped gifts.

Is this how you picture the holiday season? 

I have a tendency to romanticize seasons and holidays. (Oh, won't it be lovely when the ground is covered in a blanket of magical snow and frost is on all the trees and we'll be drinking hot cocoa and wearing cozy sweaters all the time?!) Then reality hits me like a ton of bricks when my car is sliding all over the interstate in said magical snow and my life is flashing before my eyes.

There's nothing wrong with looking forward to the holiday season. But it can become problematic when our expectations are way out of line with reality- when perfectionism takes over. Perfectionism tells you that you must create the idyllic holiday season for yourself and everyone in your life- from attending every festive event in your city, to decorating your home perfectly to impress your holiday party guests. Perfectionism during the holidays can rob your sense of peace.

Here are a few ideas on managing your expectations so you can more fully enjoy the season:

1. Do a little reality-checking. When you catch yourself fantasizing about how perfect this holiday season will be, ask yourself if it's possible you're fantasizing about a Norman Rockwell painting rather than being honest about your actual circumstances. 

2. Notice if you're putting unrealistic expectations on family members. Unpleasant family dynamics don't magically go away just because it's Christmas. In fact, some issues will appear magnified with a busier schedule and more family gatherings. Instead, focus on yourself- your own words and actions- not on what other people might say or do. Realize that what your Uncle Scott says over Christmas dinner might be super offensive- and that is has nothing to do with you. 

3. Reflect on how much time and effort you're putting into making the holiday season just right. It's easy to get caught up in all the parties and gatherings, but what if you could inject some of that enthusiasm and magical feeling into your everyday life? Here in the Twin Cities, frigid temperatures and snow last at least through March. I've mentioned before how important it is to plan something exciting during the darker, frozen months. Whether it's embracing the cold by going ice skating, or chasing the sun for a beach vacation in the middle of February, be intentional about your winter activities post-holiday season. It'll take the pressure off these precious few weeks.

Above all, give yourself grace. When something doesn't go according to your holiday plans (and something will), treat yourself like you would someone you love. Be kind and compassionate to yourself. In a season devoted to joy and peace, give yourself the gift of self-love.

Is perfectionism making it harder for you to enjoy the holiday season? Counseling can help you learn to recognize and respond to the voice of perfectionism. Schedule an appointment to get started today.