I hate family holiday parties because there is one person who completely ruins them for me. They are negative and critical, and they never fail to insult me in some way. Do you have any advice for managing this situation, since I am expected to attend like it or not?
You are not alone in dreading this part of the holidays. Many people find family gatherings trying. If it’s not annoying relatives, it’s dreading the questions people will ask about your life (and your lack of good answers). Most families today are made of people with different beliefs, values, standards and ideas too, and these differences can create conflict, defensiveness and arguments.
There are a couple key things to remember to help you survive these parties:
1. Differences don’t mean better or worse, or right or wrong — they just mean different
The reason differences might scare us and make us feel judged and criticized by others is we might assume someone is right and better, and the other is wrong or worse. That's not true, it's just a perspective option, but it’s not your only perspective option.
You could choose to believe that all human beings have the same, unchanging, infinite, intrinsic worth — no matter their differences. This means different can’t make anyone better or less than anyone else. If you choose this perspective, you can be bulletproof at family parties or any other social setting. No one can judge you as less or worse and hurt you with their opinions, unless you let them. You can choose to believe you still have the same value as they do. If you choose this though, you also have to give up judgment and stop seeing them as bad or worse. Can you do that? Can you give infinite, absolute value to everyone else? If you can you will at the same time choose it for yourself, and no one can hurt you with their opinions again.
2. Give up judgment of others and let them all have the same value as you
You may subconsciously like being in a place of judgment toward certain family members and like spending the holidays complaining about them. You may do this because placing blame on these “bad people” makes you feel superior in some way. If you have low self-esteem (and are afraid you aren’t good enough) blaming or judging others might be part of your coping strategy. Be honest with yourself. Is there an ego part of you that likes complaining and gossiping about this person? Or are you ready to change yourself to feel better?
3. Choose to see life as a classroom and your relatives as your perfect teachers
I believe the real purpose for our being on this planet is to learn and to grow and the most important lesson we are here to learn is to love ourselves and other people. If this is truth, it means every single thing that happens to you here is a lesson on learning to love at a deeper level.
It also means the annoying, hurtful, bossy, rude people in your life might be here to serve as teachers and bring your fears, defensiveness and weaknesses to the surface so you can work on them. It's really important you see your family as your perfect classroom. It's no accident that this person is in your life and you are in theirs. Think about that annoying relative and ask yourself how they could be the perfect teacher for you. Do they trigger a fear or insecurity that you need to work on? Do they inspire you to be different than how they are? In what way could they possibly be here to help you grow? When you see them as here to serve you, you might be less bothered and more compassionate toward them.
4. Everyone is in their own perfect classroom journey experience, learning different lessons from yours, but they still have the same value
This also helps you stay out of judgment and stop comparing your life with theirs. The lessons you need to learn are different from theirs, so your experiences and struggles will be different too. Allow them room to be a work in progress with much more to learn (just like you).
5. Ask yourself these questions to help process your feelings toward this annoying relative:
Do this because it’s the kind of person you’ve decided to be. Spend your time at the family party asking questions and listening to others. Show people you value them at the deepest level and see their infinite worth. The more you do this, the better you may feel about yourself.
During those family parties, remember no one can hurt or diminish you because your value is infinite and absolute. Don’t give anyone the power to take away your peace and joy.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.