It was Christmas 1984 when I received my first Cabbage Patch Kid from Santa Claus. I ripped open the Christmas wrapping paper, shrieking with delight as I hugged my little kid tightly.
After the holidays, I raced to school to show her off to my friends. It was then that my first lesson in acceptance came about. I was told by the well meaning but self-righteous seven-year old owner of a ‘Real Cabbage Patch Kid’, that my kid was indeed a fake.
“See.” She said as she pulled down my doll’s trousers.
“She doesn’t have a signature on her bottom, that means she’s a FAKE”.
My heart sank. I knew deep down that I had to defend my kid, despite my embarrassment. After all, I had played with her all holidays, before I knew she wasn’t the real deal. So, why would a little signature absent on her bottom change my love for her?!
In tears I raced home to tell my mother, who confirmed to me that my cabbage patch kid wasn’t what society had labeled as a ‘Real Cabbage Patch’. However, she reassured me, my kid was as real as anyone else’s and that no two dolls will ever be the same, just as no two people will ever be the same.
My kid didn’t need a signature on her bottom. She was perfect just the way she was.
There is a societal image projected on us, that Christmas should be the most joyful time of the year. Yet, according to the National Institute of Health, people experience the highest incidence of depression during the Christmas period.
Many people report that Christmas brings forth anxiety because of expectations for social gatherings with family and friends. For some people, it appears to trigger a feeling of comparison and inadequacy; the fear of their lives being under scrutiny, stirring up feelings of not being good enough.
In order to get a grip on your going home for Christmas anxiety, it will instantly help you if you stop looking for acceptance from anyone outside of yourself. Stop expecting your parents, adult siblings, their partners, extended friends and family to be like you.
Here are my 5 tips on turning a negative Christmas experience into a positive one. As you drive, fly or train it home this year, keep the image of a little fake Cabbage Patch Kid in the back of your mind and remember that no two people are alike.
5 Simple Ways To Turn Christmas Into A Positive
1. Take the path of least resistance. Instead of getting upset by comparisons - repeat this mantra. I accept myself exactly as I am today, not who I will be, or who I have been, but who I am in this moment. I am enough.
So, when the inevitable questions start flying at you, like: How much do you earn? How far up the ladder are you? When are you going to get a boyfriend? When are you going to settle down and have kids? Or get a mortgage? Or stop studying and start working? You will have your self acceptance mantra replaying in your mind.
Do not, I repeat, do not take the bait and get frustrated or upset. You will start singing Merry Christmas once more when you realize that the only acceptance you need in life is self-acceptance.
2. Choose your battles wisely. It is probably not the best time to start controversial conversations at the dinner table when people are eating. So don’t talk about your desire to see everyone stop funding animal cruelty when your brother has his mouth full of meat, it will start a fight. And, if it’s a long-term belief you hold, you really need to save your energy for when you have a chance to present your case calmly. Likewise, best not to bring up the fact that no one bothered to call you for your birthday. Let it go.
3. Laughter releases stress chemicals. Tap into a healthy dose of humor, not sarcasm or any other sentiment at the expense of another, but good family friendly humor. When difficulties arise, try to put a light hearted spin on the conversation. Remember when you were young and less serious about everything? Go back to that free spirit and learn to have a sense of humor around family. Laughter is a great way to relax together and it will ensure that everyone is less defensive and on edge around each other.
4. Compliment your loved ones. Why people are so stingy with compliments, is beyond me. It doesn’t take away from you to focus for a moment on the positives you see in another person. Give the gift of a compliment at Christmas. It’s free, uplifting, acts like a boomerang and is incredibly healing.
5. We don’t live forever. Remind yourself that, one day, someone in your family may not be here to pester you. What would that feel like when they are gone? Is it worth holding onto a grudge, is it worth putting each other down, or desperately looking forward to escaping until next Christmas? Try engaging with the people in your family that you may not easily connect with. At least if you try you won’t have regrets down the line. We don’t always have tomorrow, so live this Christmas as if it’s the last one you will ever share.
Have compassion when others show resistance
There is a growth opportunity for everyone at Christmas time. Be the bigger person. Don’t go home with a chip on your shoulder. Go home with the intention to be non-judgmental, accepting of yourself and others and start enjoying Christmas the way you did when you were a kid.