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The holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration when friends and families get together to share food, fun, gifts, and love. They are supposed to be a time of giving, caring and connection when we celebrate important and meaningful events. Why, then, are they often so stressful and what can we do to make them more fun and peaceful? Changing the holiday season from stressful to peaceful depends upon one thing: INTENT. Your intent is whatever is most important to you in any particular moment or situation.
At any given moment, we are always in one of two intents. Put in simple terms, it is either more important to you in any given moment to:
1) Be loving to yourself and others, or
2) Get love and approval
Your intent determines your behavior and your feelings. Let’s take an example.
Amanda is married with two children. Amanda grew up in a family where she was trained to define her self- worth through other’s approval – that is, Amanda believes that if others value what she does, she is okay, but if they don’t, then she is unworthy and unlovable.
Therefore, Amanda’s almost constant intent is to get love and approval. She does this by trying to do everything perfectly – the house has to be perfect, the food has to be perfect, she has to get everyone the perfect gifts. She believes that if everything is perfect, she can have control over how others feel about her and she will get the approval she believes she needs to feel worthy. The problem is that trying to do everything perfectly creates a lot of stress.
Whatever means we use – whether it be perfection, compliance, anger or blame - we will always be stressed when the intent is to have control over getting love and approval. Because Amanda does not know how to define her own worth, she feels empty inside until she gets approval. Once she gets the approval, she feels a moment of fullness, which rapidly disappears and then needs to be filled again with more approval. Others around her feel her pull for approval, and may also feel stressed in the face of it. They may like what she does for them, but they may not feel loved by her giving to them to get their approval.
Elizabeth is also married with children. Elizabeth also grew up to believe that her worth was based on other’s approval. However, Elizabeth has done enough inner emotional and spiritual work to learn to define her own worth. Because she is no longer dependent upon others’ approval to define her worth, she is free to express herself in ways that are loving to herself and others.
Rather than worrying about what anyone will think of her, Elizabeth joyfully goes about decorating, cooking and buying presents because it’s fun for her to do so. For Elizabeth, the holidays are an opportunity to express herself and her love for others. Because she is defining and expressing her own worth, she feels full inside. Approval may be the icing on the cake, but it is not the cake itself. Because Elizabeth receives such joy from expressing herself and giving to others without needing anything in return to feel worthy, others feel loved by her giving.
While others may be stressed if they are giving to get approval, Elizabeth herself remains peaceful and joyful. We all have a choice each moment to decide who we want to be – a person who is trying to have control over getting love and approval, or a person who is giving love to ourselves and others. Who we decide to be determines how we feel. If our intent is to get love and approval, then we may think that others determine our feelings, but it is really our own intent that is responsible for how we end up feeling. Why not start now, before the holidays, noticing your intent? Why not open now to giving yourself – the child within you – the approval he or she needs to feel worthy? If you start to practice today being in the intent to love yourself and others, perhaps by the time the holidays come around you can really have a good time!