Blog Archives

The Gift (Yes, Gift!) of Mixed Blessings

The holidays are here again and with them there often comes a sense of mixed blessings. We are happy to see loved ones and celebrate the season together by sharing special foods and gifts. At the same time, relationships are often complicated. Indeed, they can become even more stressful when time and logistics make it difficult to see every one of our loved ones, when financial constraints make gift-giving challenging, or when we struggle to put together the perfect holiday meal or find the perfect gift for someone whom we feel ill-equipped to impress.

Why do we get so crazy during the holidays? Why do we put such pressure on ourselves? Why do we succumb to pressure from others? In order to gain a different and more positive perspective, let’s reframe what’s less than ideal as an opportunity to grow and learn. Here are some simple examples of ways to do this:

Stressor: “Dad is criticizing me again, I’ll never measure up.”
Reframe: “It’s time for me to validate myself and not base my happiness on approval from others, even if they are family members.”

Stressor: “I can’t afford to buy my child the new gadget that everyone is talking about.”
Reframe: “I don’t need to accept everything advertisers are telling me. I am a better parent if I do not buy what I cannot afford.”

Stressor: “If I don’t have a date for the holiday party, I look pathetic compared to all my friends who are paired up.”
Reframe: “Going to the party unattached gives me a chance to talk to whomever I please and stay as little or as long as I like. Being single is not bad and I refuse to buy into that outdated myth.”

Stressor: “My neighbors’ homes are fancier and more decorated than mine, I should have done more to be festive.”
Reframe: “I decide what’s important and I don’t need to have the same priorities as others to be worthy.”

Stressor: “I can’t believe Aunt Betty gave me another ugly sweater when I always buy her something special.”
Reframe:  “My appreciation of others is not dependent on the type of gifts I receive from them and I won’t give gifts if I cannot do so without undue expectations about how others will reciprocate.”

Self-Discovery Tool Number 56
Explore the gifts of mixed blessings. See the holidays as an opportunity to stretch, develop, and challenge yourself. Approach difficulties with a more constructive mindset and make the season – and your self-discovery – brighter!


Love Uniquely & Specifically

It is February and almost Valentine’s Day. At this time of year, traditional expressions of caring are popular. The media and the entertainment industry provide idealized images of lovers exchanging luxury items or dining in lavish restaurants. As appealing as these conventional approaches can be, what if we tried exchanging something very different yet equally beautiful to honor love?

This Valentine’s Day, why not give your thoughts and appreciation as gifts? How often do we take the time to tell significant others – whether lovers, family, or friends – how and why we value them? Do something unique and out of the ordinary by letting those you love know what specifically you find great about them. Here are few ideas to get you started:

  • Make a list of things you admire in your loved one
  • Share a cherished memory of time spent together
  • Fill in the blank, “You are wonderful because_________.”
  • Compose a poem featuring the positive attributes of your significant other
  • Write a story that illustrates your esteem
  • Play (or sing) a favorite song with lyrics that captures how you feel
  • Have a conversation where the goal is expressing appreciation
  • Say “Thank you” or “I love you” or “I care”

Try one of these simple but powerful suggestions. Most of us have not done this for those we care about in a long time and some of us have yet to try this. Be brave, as it may seem a little awkward to express your feelings, especially if it’s been awhile. Nevertheless, we think the benefits of goodwill will outweigh any initial discomfort you may feel and indeed may motivate you to reach out regularly to let important others know you care. After all, a holiday is not necessary to demonstrate caring.

Self-Discovery Tool #47
What difference could we make in our relationships if we simply told others what we admired about them? Instead of a grand gesture, or traditional or expensive gifts, what if we gave something infinitely sweeter and shared the truth in our hearts? Use this Valentine’s Day as a reason to tell your significant others why they are special – who knows, they may just do the same for you?!