The holiday season can be difficult for many of us. Although the prevailing belief is that the holidays are a time for family, friends, giving, and hope, it seems that this is not always true for a majority of people. The holidays can be difficult. From an existential perspective, they can be difficult for many reasons, but most importantly because it is a time of year when we are forced to be real with ourselves. We are forced to be honest about what is going on in our lives.
Throughout the year, many individuals find themselves going through the motions, living almost robotically, just getting through the days. When the holidays come around, it hits us: “What did I accomplish this year?” We are forced to think about how we spent the past year and the things both positive and negative that we are responsible for, the things we did and did not do. We start to anticipate the holiday parties, dinners, stress … and questions. We may lie, make up stories, anything to make us feel somewhat worthy, accomplished, and good compared to others. Without realizing it, we may create a “life” for ourselves that we are not sure we even want.
Before you beat yourself up, here a couple of things to consider:
Evaluating Your Values
What are YOUR values? When we anticipate social engagements where we will be forced to “explain” our lives, without realizing it we create values based on what we believe others would want them to be. Our stories evolve in ways to fit the values of others rather than our own, leading us to lose sight of what our real values are.
So, as you reflect, think about your values. They can vary, they can be general, and they can be specific. They will change from time to time throughout life. But if we do not stop to reflect on our values, we may not even realize that we may already be living up to them.
For example, say you value your friendships. When you look back at the year and reflect on your relationships, you may find that this value was something you continued to nurture throughout the year. Perhaps you have a friend who values nature and wanted to go on hikes every weekend. This is his or her value. Not hiking with this person every weekend does not mean you did not value or nurture your friendship, but that being in nature is not your value but his/hers. When these minor internal conflicts happen, such as in the example above, we tend to use them to justify our self-loathing, when in reality it is not necessary.
So as you reflect on your year, take time to ask yourself, “Is that something that I truly value, or is it something that someone else values but I was supportive of?”
Scoring Your Goals
Why does it feel as though the past year did not turn out the way you had hoped? Where did this idea come from? Did you create goals at the beginning of the year? What were they? Did you write them down?
Similar to values, over time we may start to mistake our own goals for those of others. This can happen when we do not take time to acknowledge to ourselves what our goals are. When creating goals, it is important to create realistic, tangible ones, with measurable outcomes. Creating the goals is not enough; you want to reflect on them throughout the year and change them if necessary. When the end of the year comes and you ask yourself what you accomplished, you can reflect back to see.
Of my nine goals this year, 4.5 were accomplished. This is a good percentage when compared to past years. In previous years I may have accomplished one or two goals, but even those years felt successful. When you create goals, the point is to have an idea of the direction you wish to go, knowing it may not all happen. When you create goals at the beginning of the year and reflect back at the end of the year, you may find that you did, in fact, accomplish a lot, even though you did not complete all the goals that others may have had for you.
As humans, we place a lot of emphasis on the opinions, feelings, values, and beliefs of others. However, in order to feel successful and accomplished, it is important to distinguish which of those things are important to you. You may find that the feelings, values, and beliefs of others are important to you, and if that is the case that is great; however, take a moment to reframe them in your mind to make them your own. We are more likely to accomplish something when we do it for ourselves and are self-motivated.
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Pooja Shah, PsyD, therapist in Bakersfield, California
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