It’s so difficult for perfectionists at this time of year. Whether you are the provider or the partaker of Christmas jollity, or as applies to many of us, a mixture of both, your head is crammed full with images and ideas about the ideal way to celebrate.
You want the meal or party to be perfect, you want the exchange of gifts to tick every conceivable box, you want the day to be just right with everyone getting on well and no rows. You put pressure on yourself to achieve the unachievable, and blame yourself when people and events don’t live up to your expectations.
This year, put less stress on yourself and on others by making a few adjustments to the way you deal with the festive season.
Nothing is actually like the pictures in magazines or on films and television. We are bombarded with suggestions about how to create amazing decorations, cook delicious meals, serve just the right drinks, choose appropriate and tasteful gifts, and it can be hard to resist the pressure to aspire to these heights.
But you know, don’t you, that these images are a mixture of fiction and commerce. Real life is different.
You will feel less stressed if you look forward to things going as well as they can, and accept that not everything will work according to plan.
Keep the big picture in mind
Big-picture questions do not begin with what, but with why. Ask:
Not what gifts will be exchanged between me and my significant other/friends/family members, but why do we perform this ritual?
Not what shall I cook/eat, but why is sharing this meal important to me?
Whatever the answer, it will help you to keep things in perspective.
Decide what are the most important things for you and remember what they are. You could write them down.
If you are driven to get the perfect present for your difficult nephew, or have the urge to to show your sister or mother-in-law that you can cook a better Christmas dinner than her (good luck with that, mister or missus), then channel your perfectionist ways into achieving that goal, and let chance take care of the rest.
Don’t think ‘It’s ruined!’
Perfectionists are expert at catastrophising. When something goes wrong, you find it difficult to carry on and make the best of the situation.
But Christmas won’t be ‘ruined’ because someone is late, or a present doesn’t arrive in time, or a dish is missing from the table. It’s annoying, that’s all. Try saying this to yourself whenever you feel a catastrophe looming.
Get rid of the ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’
Every time you find yourself thinking ‘I must find exactly the right thing’ or ‘I should invite everyone to mine’ or ‘I must get the decorations up early’. Stop and ask yourself two questions:
Who says I must?
What’s the worst thing that can happen if I don’t?
Don’t be a slave to tradition
Allow tradition to be something that changes and evolves with time.
Just because you have always done something a certain way, you are not obliged to continue doing it in exactly that way forever. Some traditions deserve to be cherished, others can be let go.
Prepare your social responses
You might dread social encounters which require you to give some account of your festive experiences.
Describing something less than perfect or which falls below your expectations may bring up your feelings of failure and insecurity. But just because someone asks doesn’t mean you are obliged to reveal details. Be ready with some bland replies which show you to be responsive but which don’t disclose too much.
If someone asks ‘What did you get?’ or ‘What did so-and-so give you?’ (questions which surely should stay in the playground, if there) smile and say ‘Lots of lovely things!’
If someone asks ‘How did the family gathering go?’ be prepared to say something like ‘On the whole, it was great!’
Treating ‘disasters’ with humour is a great strategy, but perfectionists might want to hold back on the self-deprecating accounts. They are a little too near home.
It’s about people, not things
When you kiss under the mistletoe, who cares if the decorations aren’t of a professional standard?
When you clink glasses with a friend, who cares if the glasses don’t match?
When you give a present to one of your nearest and dearest, who cares if you ran out of the posh wrapping paper and had to make do?
Roast potatoes, now, that’s a different matter. They really do need to be perfect.