Give Yourself This One Holiday Gift

Coping with Self-Criticism and Disappointment

Woman laying in field with heart balloons
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It's been established that the holidays can be a challenge, especially if you live with lupus or another chronic illness. There are many suggestions online about how to manage stress and conflict during the holidays, from pre-planning to setting boundaries to deep breathing. And while you are perfectly capable of practicing these skills, they can sometimes be easier said than done because reality isn't neat.

 

For example, maybe you're in a lot of pain and this causes you to lose your patience with someone at a holiday dinner. Maybe you don't care that writing a heartfelt card is a nice alternative to a gift when money is tight. And not having enough money for gifts makes you frustrated, angry, and sad no matter what you do. Or maybe you had no choice but to leave all of your holiday planning until the last minute and now you're not only rushing but you are falling deeper and deeper into fatigue. This is how things work in real life. Things get in the way, and that's to be expected. And it is understandable.

The One Gift to ​Give Yourself

However, when we don't meet our own goals and expectations, we might feel disappointed in and upset with ourselves. But there is one gift that you can give yourself during the holidays that could help. It's to practice a simple form of self-compassion. And you can do it in three simple steps:

  1. Whenever you find yourself experiencing stress because of the holidays and that stress turns into self-criticism ask yourself, "What would I tell [insert name of loved one] if they were in the same situation?"

  2. Then imagine what you would say to that person when you realize how hard they are being on themselves and how stressful that is for them.

  1. Then take what you would say to them and say it to yourself. You can say it over and over again, as many times as you need to, and especially when those self-critical thoughts arise.

You would never say to a friend "What's wrong with you? Why can't you be better? You're a disappointment." And you definitely would not say these things to a friend who is doing their best to manage all of life's demands while also managing a chronic illness. Actually, you might feel saddened to learn that your friend feels that way and would want to help them feel supported and loved, instead.

We are often much harder on ourselves than we are on our loved ones in similar situations. Where we strive to be perfect, we are forgiving when others do not meet perfection. When it comes to loved ones, we recognize when their expectations of themselves are too high or unfair. Yet, we have a hard time extending that same compassion and understanding toward ourselves. And we have a harder time setting more reasonable and fair expectations for ourselves.

It's very common -- and definitely nothing to criticize yourself about!

Ask for Help

Maybe practicing these three steps still feels too hard. That's okay. Sometimes self-compassion is hard to accept, especially if a particular emotion feels too intense. One strategy is to ask others for help. Let a friend, family member, and/or your support group know how you are feeling and why. Say, "Please remind me why I am not a failure or a disappointment because [insert what is upsetting you]." Be sure to seek out people who you can already count on for support and encouragement. 

Remember, You Deserve Compassion

What is certain is that you do not deserve punishing self-criticism. You are doing your best with a situation that is far from easy. And as you move through the holidays and their challenges, you deserve compassion. You would tell a friend that they deserve to be supported, loved, and to be treated with kindness and patience. Treating yourself with the same supportiveness is one of the best gifts you can give yourself any time of year, but it's especially helpful during periods of added stress, like around holidays.

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