As we approach the holiday period, we are constantly presented with multi media messages promoting idyllic families where everyone is gathered together and having the most perfect time.
Often this is not the case..the greatest illusion in life is that it should be perfect - and if its not,a sense of fear, anxiety arises as we compare our lives to that of others.
As a result of this illusion, we strive each year trying to make the perfect Christmas then the perfect summer holiday, the perfect birthday whatever it may be..we look at social media ..we even try and perfect ourselves with trying to have the perfect body..the perfect hair, face all in an effort to fit in with the daily bombardment of how we “should” be living our lives...
We may feel like we have lost control of ourselves and our lives in this race to achieve such perfection, it can lead to obsessive, intrusive negative thoughts that over a period of time can lead to chronic stress or feelings of depression or low mood.
This fear of imperfection and not fitting into the mold of what is perceived as "perfect" all derives from our very early ancestors. We have evolved from tribal beings and it is in our inner most instinctive nature to belong to a tribe its how we survived as human beings.
Therefore not fitting in with what we see as perfect - how we "should" be living brings with it a fear of not being part of a tribe and this can indicate danger to our brain resulting in an overload of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
Such stress hormones are absolutely what we need and help us when we are facing "real danger" like an oncoming car or running from a fierce animal. However, these can become chronic and lead to inflammation and stress in the body over a longer period of time when we think negative thoughts about "perceived danger" such as not having a perfect family, perfect life or perfect body - whatever negative thoughts ruminate in our mind - you know the ones - they sound like a broken record by now I'm sure.
Its only when we break free from the “Shoulds” and “Coulds” when it comes to the rules of how life should be and embrace the beauty of imperfection and stop giving ourselves such a hard time for not living up to unrealistic expectations.
Wouldn't it be less stressful to belong in a tribe of like minded people, rather than going against our authentic selves and beliefs by trying to "fit in" to a tribe of what we are told we should be doing?
Belonging to a tribe/family/network brings much more happiness and contentment than the constant pressure of "fitting in" just for the sake of rules and beliefs that are not of our choosing.
Life is more beautiful when it is imperfect as only them do we get to truly appreciate the true meaning of life...we are all beautifully imperfect that’s what makes us each unique and when we look at our lives its all the imperfect times that makes us strong...and that has shaped our character. We would not be the person we are today without both the joy and sadness in our lives.
Life is messy. Families are messy. People are perfectly imperfect just as we should be...if we look to nature and see the beautiful Swan gliding along our lake...yes, the swan may look beautiful but beneath the surface there’s alot of hard work going on to make it that way...the same is true also with us humans.
So this Christmas let’s try and go for acceptance of what is..and not what it should be to see the difference it could make. what would happen if we become our own best friend instead of trying to punish ourselves for not being the model of perfection we are constantly expected to achieve?
Perhaps if we approach the holiday season by looking inwards instead of seeking to make ourselves happy by purchasing material items and instead shifting focus to improve our own mental wellbeing instead - seeing how a simple shift in focus could impact our perception and experience of life for the year ahead. Its certainly worth a try...
What positive things could we do to take care of ourselves this Christmas that doesn’t cost money? Perhaps it’s taking time to spend with family and friends and be more “present” instead of being distracted in their company?
Maybe we could give the gift of our time in doing things for others instead of giving a material gift - this connection and offering to others our most valuable resource which is the gift of time would mean so much more.
The seasons that come and go in our lives are strong teachers of of life is ever changing. Today is Winter Solstice and it is a reminder that even after the darkest times there is much brightness on the horizon.
This idea brings much comfort in the ephemeral nature of life that this too shall pass...
Every aspect in life is constantly moving and changing – we have no control over this – however our control lies within our response. Once we accept this and stop striving for perfection, our anxiety levels drop over time and the amount if positive we notice in our lives increase...
If you are happy and with people you love, take some time to truly appreciate this..as we can often go through life in autopilot and the good times come and go so quickly. How often do we show those around us that we appreciate them…maybe by a small act of kindness if you are not good with words... If you are alone and feeling a bit lost in life take comfort in knowing that this does not have to be long lasting. Just like Winter Solstice there may be a brighter future ahead that is closer than we realise. Perhaps there are ways to connect with others maybe through volunteering or even connecting online if we are unable to leave home right now.
As tribal beings, we are instinctively rewarded with an influx of "rest and digest" hormones when connect with others- that is where the true joy and happiness comes from as we become flooded with feel good hormones such as serotonin when we help or smile at others - or perhaps oxytocin when we give someone a hug.
Buying material gifts may bring happiness however, it is short-lived – the true joy comes in the longer lasting authentic connections we make with those around us that naturally increases our levels of serotonin that help us cope with day to day live and gives us motivation to look after our own wellbeing.
So know that whatever you are facing this season, you are not alone - we are all tribal beings who are connected in our imperfections, joys and struggles.
When we admit this and connect with others we will often strengthen our relationships and become closer as our imperfections as human beings is the universal thing that unites rather than separates us...
Remember that this Christmas, and please reach out and connect with friends family or a support group or network...never, ever feel you are alone.
Wishing you all a Happy, Peaceful Christmas and a New Year filled with Joy and Hope.