First, I’ll wish you a very Merry Christmas/ Holiday Season and a Happy 2023. I really want you to have a good time and make the best of them. Then, if you’re worried that that might not be easy to achieve, let me give you some tips on how to achieve it.
I’m in India at the moment, with my mum, writing my book. I haven’t always gotten on well with my mum but we do okay now and we laugh a lot. That’s been a big key for us in healing our relationship and getting onto a good enough footing where we can spend a whole month together.
In the past, I’ve written a survival guide to Christmas for the Huffington Post. That advice still stands and please do read it if you’re worried about Christmas with family, you can’t do much better than that – you can find it here
But as I’ve been writing my book, I’ve realised that there is something deeper that we can all work on with family, and people we find difficult to deal with in general. This can really change our lives – on many levels. So I wanted to share it with you before Christmas.
I’ve realised that the key to being able to have difficult conversations or be around people we find challenging, is building our self-esteem and learning how to hand onto it in challenging moments. That may sound far off and highfalutin but it’s not and it’s not as difficult to begin to achieve as you might imagine.
Let me go back a bit, before I move forwards. They key to good relationships and conversations is differentiation. Knowing that you are different from the other person, that it is okay for them to have a different opinion from you and knowing that their opinion about you is not definitive and possibly says as much or more about them that it does about you.
Don’t let yourself be defined by someone else’s opinion of you – good or bad.
In order to be able to differentiate, it helps to have good self-esteem. Now self-esteem is not a fixed thing like an object. It’s more of a muscle that we have to build and remember to use. Here is how you flex your self-esteem muscle in the moment. The more you do this, the stronger it will get – I promise, I do this all the time and it has changed my life:
- Imagine a porous boundary around you – things, words, can come through it but when they reach the boundary, they slow down so you get a chance to look at them (a bit like in the Matrix when Neo catches the bullet in slow motion),
- As the words (and/or actions, tone and body language etc.) come through the boundary – don’t react to them, pause, soften, pick them up and take a look at them (like Neo does with that bullet). Consider what the other person is saying. It is not necessarily true but there may be some truth in it.
- Ask yourself “What do I think about this?” Be honest with yourself. For example, if someone’s criticised you harshly, you may think something like. “Well, I could have done that better, but it wasn’t that bad and I definitely don’t think I deserved to be spoken to like that”. Great. Now you have your own opinion. Trust that.
I want to acknowledge that in addition to mediation, I’ve been doing quite a bit of work with couples this year and I got this idea from Terrence Real. He is great on relationships. This is my version of his advice on self-esteem
Another quick couple of tips I want to give you – don’t expect people to be different than they are but be open to the possibility of them changing if you change your demeanour and attitude. See if you can have a positive attitude, even under fire. It’s good practice no matter what happens.
I hope it helps. Consider taking this practice into the New Year and making it your New Year’s resolution to build your self-esteem. There is nothing more helpful and valuable in life.
With love and best wishes for this season and the next,
Story Box – This was a game changer for me:
When I was in my early 20s, my mum and I had a difficult relationship. I was always trying to placate her and stop her from getting irritated. One day, I had a realisation – around my mum, I just didn’t respect myself and I wasn’t being myself. And then I thought “If I don’t respect myself, how can I possibly expect her to respect me?” From that moment, our relationship began to change. I had my views, my opinion, my life and I was more willing to share them with her and stand up for myself. Even if I thought she may not like them.