by Motivational Speaker Connie Podesta
SPOILER ALERT: HOLIDAYS – Let’s do this! For some of you, this is an awesome time of the year filled with parties, gifts, friends and family galore. You love the hustle and bustle of the season and family gatherings are full of shared stories, games, tasty desserts, and wonderful memories. If that’s you and you’re over-the-moon about the season ahead, let me wish you the happiest of holiday seasons and wonderful memories ahead! Have a great time, take good care and please…DON’T READ ANY FURTHER!
If that’s NOT you and this season has the opposite feel – a little dread, a little anxiety and a whole lot of stress because of that OTHER side of family time, baggage, history, some addictive behaviors here and there, a few not-so-pleasant childhood memories, a little sibling rivalry, too much spending, junk-filled calories, spousal tension, in-laws, out-laws, a few ex’s here and there, behaviors that annoy us, attitudes that drive us crazy, too much noise, too many cooks, and often too little of that “joy and peace” we are supposed to feel – then welcome to the world of holiday co-dependency. The rest of this post is for you.
Let’s face it—for many people, their own family is the craziest place in the world in terms of happy and healthy relationships. There’s just a lot going on that has been developing over decades, even centuries. But…here’s the good part. You have a choice of how to deal with difficult people and personalities—even during the holidays. So what does co-dependency mean and why am I choosing this holiday season to bring up such a seemingly “downer” topic. Let’s first define co-dependency and see if this fits you at all with anyone in your life.
My definition of a co-dependent is anyone who is allowing someone else’s behavior to affect their own mood, behavior, attitude, confidence or outlook. And, as a result, they are trying to control, blame, change or fix the other person so they can finally be “happy”. In other words, you are being co-dependent when you allow someone else to push your buttons to the point where you feel good only if they feel good. You are only happy when they are happy. You are only confident when they validate you. You only feel worthy if they like you. You feel angry when they don’t agree with you. You feel sad when they disagree with you. You are more worried about being liked than doing what’s right. You are embarrassed because of their behavior. You feel responsible for their behavior. You give up things you want to do in order to keep the peace. You believe that if they would only change you would be fine. You feel if they loved you they would be different. Your life is a series of reacting to them, rather than acting on your own.
The problem with all of this is: when you are trying to change or control someone else’s behavior, you end up being controlled by them instead.
My best advice to you this holiday season is to give yourself a gift—an important gift. Stop being a reactionary. Stop reacting to other people’s behavior, moods, remarks, cattiness, tardiness, laziness, foolishness, and lack of communication. When you react it is in one of three ways: with fear, with anxiety, or with anger. None of those are good places for you to be. Learn to let go and begin to take care of yourself, worry about yourself, mind your own business, say what you mean, tell people what you need, and, most importantly, THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK! When we react and allow our buttons to be pushed, we will always lose a piece of our own self-esteem. Plus we give up our power to feel confident and in control.
My second piece of advice is to detach a little. Sit back and observe for a change. You don’t have to enter every little discussion, have a comeback to every little comment, make excuses for what you did or didn’t do, or defend who you are. Move quietly and smoothly through the holidays—stay a bit removed if that’s what the situation calls for. Keep your cool and your confidence intact.
Your family is definitely a plethora of personalities, attitudes, and histories. But YOU are special. Remember: You don’t need their approval to be a good person. You don’t need their acceptance to feel validated and worthy. And you don’t need their support to be successful. Would it be nice to have all of those? You bet! But your life is your life. If your family provides those things, then it is icing on the cake. But if they don’t, then welcome to the real world where we don’t always get what we want. YOU must believe that you have the ability, power, and confidence to succeed on your own.
Take a deep breath and enjoy the holidays ahead.