How can we be more ourselves during the holiday season?

True Colors of a Holiday Season
By Helene Szabados

Light installations, intricate decorations, event planning and money flying out of our wallets, yes,  it is that time of year for families and friends to get together for food and reflections. Last Thursday, Peaceful World Foundation along with special guest facilitator, Nicola Wagenberg from Cultural Conservancy, hosted a conversation about how we can try to be more authentic to oneself during the holiday season. We had a small table of conversationalists which lead to an intimate conversation about the struggles of remaining true to oneself.

Nicola Wagenberg is also a clinical and cultural psychologist focusing on the transformation of historical and inter generational trauma.  We all discussed the struggles we share finding a common interest of conversation throughout different generations of family members. “We are evolving (as a species) at a fast rate and we have already accomplished more in less time than our predecessors. So it can be a challenge, at times, to find topics of conversation that appeal to all generations.”

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Neha, a member of No Bully, described her experience being the baby of a big family and the struggle she finds breaking the perceptions of her youth. She shared a method of conversation she uses to delicately show the members of her family that she is growing up. “Changing the conversation…” Neha said, “…talking about politics and current events help my family realize that I am keeping up with adult topics and it keeps them from prying into my personal life.”

Taylor, a member of Pachamama, spoke of the bitter-sweet transition from a long time family tradition to starting a fresh holiday custom with his fiancé. We discussed breaking the trend of expectations and what we believe is “supposed” to be done. Heidi related to Taylor, recounting the joy she feels in her decision to spend this holiday season with her son and close friends for the first time. We explored the guilt families can convey toward not spending time with them, but what about starting anew?

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When I struggle with differences in my family, I try to find someone within the family who can listen to me with an unbiased point of view. I described an experience I recently had while talking to my aunt about a family matter. She shared the technique of setting boundaries and explained it can sometimes be harder than it seems; especially when it comes to family, but one must take care of oneself. We discussed the importance of taking the time to give yourself space even if someone projects sensitivity towards your decision.

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Toward the end of our conversation we reverted back to Nicola and asked if she had any techniques or tips to staying authentic to oneself. “You have all been describing these techniques in your experiences and stories,” she responded. We considered all the techniques that were spoken of throughout the conversation:

– Changing the conversation to something more lighthearted

– Breaking the trend of expectation by making space for your own holiday

– Finding those family members to be your advocate through difficult moments

–  Keeping your humor

– Setting your boundaries

You cannot change your family but you can change how you respond by being more grounded in taking care of yourself.

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“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”  –Brene Brown, American author and public speaker

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