Better & Bolder the Blog

low expectations

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I don’t hate the holidays. I sort of hate my birthday. Do I really have to have a happy birthday? What if I’m not happy that day? It’s too much pressure. Because the winter holidays go on and on and on, nobody really expects me to be jolly all month.

I have very low expectations for the winter holidays, and low expectations are great. If I don’t expect much, whatever I get feels pretty good. The winter is difficult for me, which means every day when the sun is out, I think, okay, good, at least today has some sun. When I light a candle and soak in the tub, I am inordinately proud of myself: look how well I’m nurturing myself. My bar for success is low. That helps.

If you love everything about the holidays, maybe just stop reading this now. You’re good. Go enjoy yourself. The rest of us need a reminder that the reason we have holidays is because winter is dark and long and cold. When the holiday was, like, a day, I’m sure everyone was pretty excited about it.

When the holidays bring us down or bring up difficult memories, everything about the season cues us to remember those things. And that’s okay. It’s just what’s happening. We can’t avoid depression and anxiety; they’re part of being human. The deal is that joy, pleasure, compassion, happy tears, all of that is also part of being human. Humans love to play and sing and make art. Keep the expectations low and let yourself sometimes enjoy yourself.

If your ratio is 10% joy and 90% misery, see if you can shift so you’ve got a bit more time in the pleasure zone. Let that little bit of shift be enough. Release your expectations about what you could or should experience. Kristin Neff’s The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook is lovely and nurturing. Treat yourself to some self-care.

Alternatively, put on music or movies that make you cry. Go at it, girl. Use this month to go deep into your emotions and cry it all out. Our tears contain bits of pain-killer hormones. Crying is purposeful. When we’re done crying, and we’re exhausted, we can rest. That makes room for other things in our lives.

Maybe you cannot find one single happy ho ho ho all damn December. So be it. Go help others. Donate. Call a friend. Make others happy, and let that be enough.