The holidays are upon us. The fragrance of pumpkin spice lattes is in the air. You’re making your lists and checking them twice.
The most wonderful time of the year, right? Or…does it just stress you out?
Last year around this time, Beth Moore wrote this on her Instagram and it stuck with me: “We want so badly for everything to go perfectly in our gatherings on Christmas, but if humans could come up with perfect, there’d be no Christmas.”
That truth stopped me right in my tracks. We all have this image of a perfect Christmas, but it’s causing us to lose sight of the very reason we celebrate, isn’t it? So let’s talk about how to take the stress out of the holidays.
There is a fascinating phenomenon racing through social media these days, and we’ve all seen it. It’s there, lurking in most of the posts you see online. I’m talking about the humblebrag.
- “Look at what my amazing husband gave me for Christmas! #blessed”
- “This view of the ocean is absolutely breathtaking! #todaysoffice”
- “No white Christmas for us this year! #disneyherewecome”
I’m the first one to admit I’ve been guilty of using #blessed in the past, but once I became more aware of this habit of comparison living, I started paying more attention to when, where, and why people throw in that little hashtag. And almost every time I see it now, I translate it as a humblebrag.
Am I saying that everyone who uses #blessed means to imply that? No way. I know some of the sweetest, most caring, and generous people in the world who don’t use it that way. There are others, though, who know exactly what they’re implying with it.
If we seriously want to eliminate our holiday stress and spending, we’ve got to take control of our thoughts and reactions to other people’s stuff and success. We need to stop chasing perfection and spending money to impress others.
I’m still working on this myself, but I can share with you some specific steps I’ve taken in my own life to help me focus on creating the holiday season I want for myself:
Let Go of Perfect
One of my friends is a great example of this. A few Christmases back, she had just moved into a brand-new house before it was 100 percent finished. The walls were empty, and she didn’t even have furniture in many of the rooms, but she didn’t let that stop her from throwing one of the best Christmas parties I’ve ever attended.
We ate on paper plates with plastic forks. She wasn’t worried about the house being “perfect;” she just wanted to celebrate with friends.
Change your perspective
Social media doesn’t always reflect reality. It’s never the complete picture of someone’s life; it’s just the highlight reel. We see the brand-new car with the big, red bow parked in the driveway, or the happy family wearing monogrammed, matching designer pajamas on the Christmas card photo. But what we don’t see is what it took to get there — whether it’s diligence or debt.
Maybe that couple is working a side hustle or cut restaurants out of the budget for months to save up for that new car. Maybe their parents helped them out. Or maybe there’s a stack of bills and piles of stress on their marriage as a result of debt. The picture on the outside may not match the truth on the inside.
On the other hand, their success and hard work shouldn’t make you feel “less than.”
Don’t feel like you’re losing just because someone else is winning. Their success has nothing to do with you, so celebrate their success sincerely while you keep working toward your own.
I actually created The Contentment Journal to help all of us with this. It’s a 90-day guided journal with prompts that will take you from feeling unhappy and unfulfilled to living a life with gratitude, focusing on what matters most to you.
Own Your Christmas
Growing up, I always heard my parents say, “It’s OK to have nice stuff; just don’t let your nice stuff have you.” What they meant is that we sometimes give in to the pursuit of stuff for the wrong reasons.
People make bad decisions and go into debt for things they don’t need and can’t afford, especially this time of year. In fact, the average American household takes on $1,054 of holiday debt each year, and that number is growing.
This year, make yourself a holiday budget. Decide ahead of time what you can actually afford, then write down what you’ll spend on Thanksgiving groceries, Black Friday deals, gifts, wrapping supplies … all the things. But don’t be afraid to cut back. Then stick to the budget. You’re not comparing your Christmas to anyone else’s.
Beth Moore concluded her message with this: “Take heart, fellow earthlings. Be unashamed of the unfixed. Open wide the door of your imperfect home to Him. To this Immanuel came.”
Jesus didn’t come so that we would feel pressured once a year to go into debt. He didn’t come expecting a perfect holiday table. Jesus’ birth to the world was a free gift, a blessing — and that’s better than #blessed, any day.
This article is adapted from HomeLife Magazine.