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Do Holiday Expectations Cause You Angst? 12 Ways to Help

The holidays are not a magical wand to transform families.

Holiday Expectations

Expectations can get us in trouble during the holiday season. Why is it that we somehow still hang onto the vision that we can suddenly transform the family into what we want during the holidays and all those old wounds, stories, and disappointments will shrink away when the bells start ringing and Santa’s sleigh starts flying? The sparkle of the season adorned with gorgeous music, spirituality, bright lights and massive decorations has a way of tricking us into thinking anything is possible.

What is not possible though is changing other people, and especially our families. We know we can’t do therapy on our own families even if we have the experience and wisdom to do so. But give us the holidays and we will suddenly see our co-dependent selves’ rise to the occasion. We begin to hope and wish that this year will be different and maybe we can change things. This is the most common and painful mistake I see people make during the holiday season. We all have that longing and desire for closeness and we love seeing families together enjoying their wonderful traditions. We want this to be us! But when it’s not, we suffer with angst and disappointment.

But, what if you come from a family with some dysfunction? And who doesn’t? What to do? Can you change it? Do those strained relationships become reformed because we bought lovely gifts and Silent Night is playing softly in the background? Can our own power and love change it just this year or this season? Maybe if we are just a little nicer, or a little better in some way, things will be different.

But, seriously, we cannot change anyone but ourselves. We have to accept who our families are and decide for ourselves how to deal with this special time of year. Here are twelve reminders that could help if you are having difficulties sorting it out:

The 12 Holiday Gifts For You

  1. Keep your expectations of others at bay. If you have expectations, let them be for you and your own growth and learning.
  2. Stop with aiming for external perfection and focus on the joy and allowing things and people to be what and who they are.
  3. Remember you can’t control others or change them, so don’t even try. Relax.
  4. Set healthy boundaries for yourself so you are doing what is right for you and allow others to deal with this in their own way. Don’t take it on! You are not responsible for the feelings or reactions of others.
  5. If you have triggers during the season and some past trauma comes up, embrace it and see it as a way to continue your growth and recovery.
  6. Don’t “fake it till you make it,” but instead allow yourself to embrace all feelings this season and see them as an important part of you so that you can nurture yourself and heal.
  7. Give yourself the gift of self-care! Wrap that up in a great big box for you and only you! You’re on Santa’s “nice” list.
  8. Worry less about gifts and more about loving those you love. They will remember the good times and the love more than any gift you will find them.
  9. If you find yourself feeling sad and lonely, do something with it! Use the time to make a plan for recovery and finding new friends and support.
  10. Allow your own authenticity to come alive and dance to the beat of your own drum while also being respectful of all the other beats out there!
  11. If your family is too toxic and you feel it is healthier to stay away and do your own thing, do it. Don’t allow abuse of any kind.
  12. If you don’t feel loved and cared about…start giving just what you want to yourself and start filling up your own tank with all the nurture you can muster. Do this with self-compassion and your own form of spirituality.

Remember it is our expectations that get us in trouble. It’s another year, another season, another holiday, but this one could be different, if you focus on you and don’t worry so much about what others think, say, or do. It is our job to create our own content and peaceful experience and we can do it! If we don’t, who will? The legacy of distorted love can be stopped in this important time of your life. It might be hard. But when you do hard things, they’re hard! And that’s ok.

Accept joy and have a peaceful and wonderful holiday. Make it about you and those you love and all the gifts of the season will be yours. Many blessings to our readers here and may the New Year bring you all that you desire and deserve.

Additional Resources for Recovery:

Resource Website:

Book: Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers

Audio Book:

Workshop: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers Virtual Workshop. Work recovery in the privacy of your own home, complete with video presentations and homework assignments:



Daughter Intensives: One on one sessions with Dr. McBride.

“Is this your Mom?” Take the survey:

More from Karyl McBride Ph.D.
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