More or less once Hallowe’en is done here in Canada, the Christmas/holiday decorations start going up. They’ve already been available in stores since Thanksgiving, but after October 31st is when it really starts getting laid on us thick. Commercials start playing Christmas music, the Christian Children’s Fund starts using their commercial with that John Lennon song and we start seeing commercials for toys that haven’t been popular in over a decade. Yup, here comes Christmas.
Generally speaking, people are pretty excited about it and really get into the spirit. Besides decorating, people buy and wrap gifts for their loved ones, start playing Christmas tunes around the house and start planning get-togethers with big meals. Sounds like an all around good time, and maybe we get lucky with some snow to help the holiday spirit.
On the other hand, the holidays can be stressful. Maybe you don’t have quite enough money to get those perfect gifts, or you have to go to that Christmas party where your annoying co-worker won’t leave you alone, or maybe you even have to work. Maybe it’s something else entirely. Sometimes it can simply be difficult to enjoy the holidays even though every else seems to be going along effortlessly.
I wanted to write a post about dealing with BFRBs over the holidays because I know how stressful it can be for me, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write. Did I try to cover all possible scenarios? Did I generalize? I had some scribbles of ideas down on a page in my notebook, but no sense of what I wanted to do with it. Lucky for me, I had the Toronto Peer Support group to help me out, and they helped me realize something that I was overlooking entirely.
While there are a number of different situations I could talk about—parties, family get-togethers, even just going out with a loved one—sometimes the biggest issue is even getting out the door.
If we’re already feeling terribly about ourselves, it can be a challenge to get motivated to go out at all. But even if we do get up the gumption to go, there’s still the getting ready stage, and that tends to be where it all just falls apart. Either we can’t get our hair to look just right, or our makeup isn’t co-operating, or the clothes just won’t fit the way they’re supposed to. And even if it all does work out the way it should, sometimes when we look in the mirror we still just feel like crap because we know that underneath all the layers it isn’t perfect.
In the end, we’ll probably get tearfully frustrated, maybe even have a panic attack, and decide that it’s just better to stay home after all. I’ve been there and I imagine many of you have been, too.
So what do we do? Never leave the house again? While that may seem like a really enticing idea, that’s not all too healthy either because then we’re left alone to wallow in our negative thoughts and potentially do more damage to our skin or hair.
In all honesty, we have to make an effort to get to the point of forgetting the flaws and just going anyway. As scary as that might be, a good chunk of the time we end up regretting not going anyhow, right? We wish we’d had the bravery to just go and know that we might have had a good time. We deny ourselves a chance at enjoying ourselves with our friends and family because our disorders convinced us that we didn’t look good enough to go. But here’s the thing, and it was one of my favourite things said during the peer support meeting:
We have to give ourselves permission to be imperfect.
That’s right. Realize that despite any flaws, we deserve to have a good time, too. Go not to be best dressed or to impress, but because we want to. Go because we want the chance to create a good memory. Go for ourselves and try not to worry what everyone else might be thinking. Don’t show up with the best guise of having it all together; go in all your amazing imperfection and as yourself.
Most of the time, everyone else it too wrapped up with worrying about their own flaws to even notice yours anyway. These disorders make us hyper-sensitive and fearful of judgement, but if we can just let that go long enough to get ourselves to that party or family gathering, we might even realize before long that we’re enjoying ourselves. When we look back at the end of the night, we’ll realize we forgot all about how bad we felt, that we have these disorders at all, and just had a good time.
So we might have to make an extra effort to step away from that mirror and tell ourselves it’s okay, but if we get out the door by giving a firm be quiet to those anxieties, we give ourselves a chance. We can’t hole ourselves up forever and most of us really don’t want to, even if in the moment it feels like we do.
All that being said, my advice to you this holiday season—no matter which holiday or how you celebrate—is to let yourself be imperfect. Allow yourself to go out because you want to, not because there’s someone to impress. Go as a gift to yourself and instead of sitting at home wishing you had gone to whatever it is, save yourself the regret and take a chance.
From myself and the rest of the CBSN team, happy holidays.