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Do You Suffer From “Christmas Perfectionism”?

If you already struggle with perfectionism, the holiday season can be particularly difficult for stress management. For one thing, there are often higher expectations, more on your to do list, and more people to please. So, whether you struggle with perfectionism when it comes to buying the “perfect” gift, decorating the house “perfectly”, sending out the “perfect” Christmas card with the best family picture (mailed the day after Thanksgiving), or whether your obsessed with what to make for Christmas Eve dinner. Never fear! Here are a few tips to help you take a step back and let go of holiday perfectionism.

1) Says who?

Perfectionists tend to have rules about how things should be.

  • Write down a list of a few of your Christmas “shoulds” that weigh you down.
  • What if you thought about every tradition, decoration, gift as optional, as something you get to choose to do or attend or buy, or not?
  • Add the question “says who” at the end and actually answer the question. For example, if my rule is “I should give a handmade neighbor gift to everyone on my street…says who?” my answer may be “Martha Stewart”
  • Ask yourself if you want to accept that rule or reject that rule.

2) Traditions CAN be broken

Just because you’ve sent out 500 Christmas cards every year for 20 years doesn’t mean you have to send out cards this year. Just because you’ve always had Christmas Eve dinner at aunt Mary’s for 30 years doesn’t mean that you have to go. Be a rebel and consider breaking a family tradition, just this once.

3) Allow others to be disappointed

If you don’t find the exact gift your 10 year old wants, or you don’t get around sending out cards, expect that others will be disappointed. That’s OK. It’s not your job to keep everyone happy or make sure your children, or anyone else’s expectations are met.

4) Go for “good enough”

Anything worth doing is worth doing__________________(fill in the blank). If you’re a true perfectionist your answer will be “well” or “perfectly”. I prefer the fill in the blank with “badly”. Anything worth doing is worth doing badly. As a reformed perfectionist myself (or should I say a selective perfectionist), this phrase has helped give me permission to embrace mediocrity. Instead of seeking perfection, try going for “good enough”. Does the tree look good enough? Try it.

5) Focus on relationships over “stuff”

Remember that relationships are always more important that “stuff”. Have you ever heard of anyone on their death bed lament that they didn’t spend enough money or time or energy on Christmas gifts, lights, decor, shopping? What really matters are people — those special connections to the ones we love. Spending time, expressing gratitude, writing letters, and showing affection to loved ones is the most important part of holidays. Focus on your spiritual beliefs, your family, and on feeling grateful for all of the imperfect people in your life.

Photo credit © 2010 Hannah Bryant

About Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW:
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.

Comments

Rachelle

You always hit the nail on the head! You’re amazing!!! Merry Christmas!

Linda

“It’s not your job to keep everyone happy or make sure your children, or anyone else’s expectations are met.” Wish I’d known this a long long time ago! Thanks for reminding me!

Andrea

I love the thought, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly” . . . or half-way. . . or whatever. I think of that everytime I vacuum only the middle of my floor. I’m a recovering perfectionist too, and it’s such a relief compared to what I used to put myself through. : )

admin

Thanks Rachelle. Happy to help. Thanks so much for your support and have a Merry Christmas!

admin

Linda, yes, life would be much less stressful if we could all remember that! I have to remind myself constantly.

admin

I know. I love that quote too. Good for you Andrea! Merry Christmas.

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