For my final tip of this holiday season, I’m dedicating it to those of you who struggle to differentiate your desires, thoughts and opinions from that of those around you. This might be someone you love, distant acquaintances, or even the voices calling out to you from advertisements in magazines. I think that this time of year is especially rife with shoulds and shouldn’ts – about what you’re supposed to be doing with your life, what you should be feeling, who you should or shouldn’t be hanging out with, how you should look, what movies, books and music you should or shouldn’t be paying attention to. But I say it’s all bunk if you’re not following through with what actually resonates within you. The problem sometimes is that we get so used to denying our own feelings and opinions that we can lose sight of them altogether.
So this year, give yourself the gift of pausing – a moment to check within yourself, maybe deep, deep down, to see what’s really there – before answering yes to everything. Do you really want to go to that New Year’s Eve party that will likely end in drunken brawls, or would it be more fun to simply invite a few friends over and drink hot cocoa while playing cards in front of the fireplace as you watch the ball drop on tv? Or maybe you’re at the party and you happen to like the movie that everyone is bashing. What would happen if you shared your reasons why?
Don’t get me wrong, connection is great and I’m not suggesting that you go against the grain just for the sake of going against the grain. There will always be plenty of opportunity to agree with what everyone is saying and/or doing if that’s what you want to do. But just for a night, try experimenting and honor what is true for you just to see what happens. Just once. Or twice. Maybe you’ll feel just a little bit less anxious. Or maybe you’ll wake up feeling slightly less depressed the next day. I can’t promise anything, but I suspect that there’s a part of you that will be really thankful.
If you’re still feeling a little hesitant about all this, rest assured that while you’re taking that introspective pause, you can also do a bit of pros and cons work using a few simple goals to guide you: Will my response effect my health in some way? Will it keep me safe? Will my response improve my relationships somehow, or let people get to know me in a more authentic way? Feel free to add your own concerns here, but I strongly urge you to base your decisions on a path of health and wellness. Safety should come first of course, so even if you have to make a contrary decision based on keeping yourself safe, it’s still helpful for you to know your truth and it may help to guide you in taking action at other times down the road. There are always opportunities to make wise decisions – we may not get it right every time, but I believe that when you honor your truth, over time you’ll be headed in the right direction.
Here’s to seeing more of all that is you in 2018 – Happy New Year everyone!
Copyright 2017 © Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.
Rachel Braun, ATR-BC Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA
Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders.