Celebrating the holidays without expectations can be challenging even for those of us who live an authentic life. How many of us dread the holidays because we have difficulty saying no, declining an invitation, or setting firm boundaries with our family members? Whether it be family traditions we feel obligated to continue, or relatives we feel we must visit, our minds are filled with endless to-do lists, expectations, and obligations at this particular time of year. Instead of it being a time of beauty, quiet reflection, and a celebration of our hearts, it becomes stressful trying to live up to the expectations of ourselves and others.
As the holidays approach, we often have difficulty finding time in our busy schedules to be quiet and listen inwardly. Yet, this automatically sets us up to follow the dictates of our head instead of our heart. These mental dictates such as “I must” or “I should” can get us into situations in which we would rather not be involved, such as going to a family holiday gathering we would prefer not to attend. Such an expectation or obligation can also be triggered when a person suddenly calls and asks if you are free without telling you the plans they have in mind. You then may feel obligated to answer “yes,” leaving you vulnerable to committing to an event in which you may have no interest in or may compromise you in an unhealthy way.
In such situations, it is essential that you practice healthy detachment. Patterns such as approval seeking, people pleasing, or co-dependency surface especially during the holidays because they are so fraught with expectations. Red flags such as blame, attack, or defensiveness can signal that a pattern has emerged. Practice pausing when you react, stepping back from the situation and asking yourself: Why am I reacting to this person or situation? What is going on within me that I need to shift? Instead of taking another person’s reaction personally, stay detached by not trying to fix their problem, work out their issues, and or give them advice. Remind them that you love and are hear for them. Next, instead of reacting in anger, frustration or irritation, respond from a more positive perspective—for instance, asking if you can call the person back. Finally, affirm to yourself that you always have the power of choice and inform the person of your preference.
- Be receptive to new experiences, ideas, and people in your daily routine. Let go every thought resonate with an intention of love to support yourself and others without conditions or expectations. Catch or change any negative thoughts as soon as you become aware of them, and replace them with positive ones, even if you are angry or upset. Let go of any expected outcomes, and welcome the enhanced love, joy, and play that streams into your life.
- Practice letting things be. Letting it all be also includes maintaining a healthy detachment from any expected result. Having expectations of ourselves, others, or situations can create energy blocks that interrupt the flow of love because expectations set us up for stress and disappointment. Moreover, attachments to specific results often prohibit the possibility of even better outcomes by keeping us locked within certain perimeters of expectation.
- Make more discerning choices by listening to your heart instead of your head. If anyone or anything does not feel aligned with your authentic self, trust your intuition, and change the situation as soon as possible.
- Give yourself permission to break with tradition: Give yourself permission to take quiet time for yourself. Be open to creating new experiences and breaking the predictable patterns of what you’ve always done around the holidays. Take a short get-away, visit friends, and spend more relaxed time with yourself.
- Practice giving yourself permission by doing one or both of the following activities: (a) Telling yourself, “I give myself permission to __________.” (b) Expressing your authentic self in some way.
Love without expectations, asserting your own agendas, or maintaining obligations. Release all fears of the holiday being less than perfect and trust yourself to co-create the experience just as it is meant to be. Let go of your expectations, trusting that one moment will unfold perfectly into the next. Enjoy the freedom of this precious moment.