Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thoughts on Stress

It’s that time of year. Christmas. Our to-do list is a little longer. Our schedules are a little fuller. Our responsibilities are a little greater. Many of us are busy, tired, and stressed out.

I’m not sure if this is what God had in mind for a day that is supposed to be sacred and set apart. A day we celebrate Jesus entering the world. A day where God’s invitation to enter our lives still stands.

Not much stress happening here

Is it surprising the most stressful time of the year for many of us is Christmas and the weeks leading up to it? Probably not. You even know the reason why—we want everything to be perfect. Or at least close enough. The meals. The cookies. The family pictures. The family relationships. The presents. The house. The schedule.

Consider giving yourself something this Christmas. Something really cool. The gift of self-compassion. Socrates was compelling in that we should know ourselves and understand ourselves. But something even more compelling exists: loving ourselves.

Trying to attain the impossible isn’t showing self-compassion. It is setting us up for a lifetime of failure. Loving ourselves means learning to trust ourselves, being kind to ourselves, and treating ourselves with respect.

A perfectionist is generally trying to earn or win the approval of another. Perfectionists are raised to believe: I am what I accomplish. In sports, academics, or rule-following. Perfectionism is other focused: what will they think? Healthy growth is self-focused: how can I get better? 

Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly—I can avoid or minimize the pain in my life. But perfection is unattainable. Perfectionism says: “Ugh. Nothing fits. I’m fat and not attractive. I need to be different than I am right now to be worthy of love and belonging.”

Healthy growth says: “I want this for me. I want to feel better and be healthier. The scale or the measuring tape doesn’t tell me if I am loved or not. I am loved by God and worthy of being loved by others right now.”

A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. If your Christmas card isn’t perfect or you don’t get one out this year—it’s okay. If you don’t get to every party—life will go on. If you don’t get to see all your family or if you see all your family and things aren’t perfect—you are human.

A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life. Replacing perfectionism and its related need for approval with self-compassion and grace will move us from stress and anxiety to peace and abundance. And that is a good move.

The best it yet to come…


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