One of the best pieces of advice I received from a good friend when Rob and I got engaged was, “Have 0 expectations of everyone and THEN when someone does something nice for you, you can truly enjoy it and appreciate it.” This was one of the best vaccines against the feared Bridezilla.
Those words served me well during that season of life! I felt I did appreciate things more. I was super excitable because literally everything was a surprise. When I did feel myself getting disappointed or annoyed with anyone it was a reminder to check myself to see if I had developed expectations on someone that I shouldn’t have.. That seemed to always be the cause of my disappointment and I had to kick my butt out of that unhealthy habit of entitlement and what I felt I deserved.
Now it is finally December and we are all planning our Christmas and New Years get togethers with friends and family which is usually met with excitement and for some dread. For us, Christmas and New Years are always split between Winnipeg and Saskatchewan to make sure we spend time with both sides of our families! We love Christmas and spending extra time with our loved ones is very special to us. When we begin planning these events naturally comes expectations of what the time together will look like.
Sure it is healthy to dream and plan but do those dreams and plans put unfair unrealistic expectations on ourselves, spouses, friends, or family? Do we build Christmas up to be something more than what it was designed to be? Are we just buying in to this consumer driven time of year that pushes people into spending and indulging five times more than they planned because they got swept up in the “magic” of it all? Not only do we put expectations on others, but we often put unhealthy expectations on ourselves to throw the best parties, give the best gifts, and overextend ourselves to too many obligations that we need a holiday after the holiday.
I will use my favorite Christmas movie as an example: Christmas Vacation. If you have never seen it, Clark Griswold is hosting his first big family Christmas for his immediate and extended family. He has so many plans and expectations and most of them don’t happen. He doesn’t get his holiday bonus cheque, unexpected freeloading family arrives, the exterior Christmas lights do not work, and both sides of the family do not get along. He was left disappointed.
This holiday season it is my goal to release the expectation of others and of myself so that I can truly enjoy the Christmas holidays. I’m choosing to not place expectations on others to protect my joy. I am choosing to look to what I do have instead of what I perceive to be lacking – and if I really look inward, we are not lacking anything! It is generally unfair to set expectations because the funny thing about them is they are generally internalized and not shared. When left unmet the other party is confused at what the frustration truly is and are taken aback by the sudden emotion, passive aggression, or hostility. Releasing expectations does not mean that we allow people to walk all over us or treat us in a disrespectful manner but more a walking in a posture of grace.
This Christmas, my challenge is that we let go of expectations and focus on what is really important. Tell a close love one that this is your plan so that they can help keep you in check! I think if we all get rid of the unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves, others, and Christmas itself the holidays will be filled with so much more joy!