As we all know this time of year can be stressful, not least because the list of ingredients for the ‘perfect Christmas’ seems to get longer each year. Advertisers persuade us of the need for ‘table gifts’, Christmas pyjamas, dog advent calendars and more! Our time and energy can be consumed in curating this image of perfection, leaving us depleted and unable to enjoy the simple pleasures of being with loved ones over the holidays.
Research shows a significant increase in perfectionism since the 1980s in three forms, each of which are much in evidence at this time of year:
- Self-oriented perfectionism: where we link our self-worth to achievements and are unable to feel lasting satisfaction from those achievements.
- Socially prescribed perfectionism: perceiving that perfection is demanded in our immediate social environment and through broader cultural values.
- Perfectionism directed towards others.
A recent study commissioned by the Wellcome shows that in chronic form, perfectionism is linked to depression and anxiety. Therapeutically, debilitating perfectionism can be alleviated through re-evaluating goals, recognising the value of mistakes and broadening self-worth through a focus on more than just achievements.
Engineering some imperfection into your festive season can bring unanticipated joy. Why not try:
- Delegating Christmas tree decorating to younger members of the household. It can bring weird and wonderful results with a lot of fun along the way.
- Ask other family members to take on a Christmas-related task (gift-wrapping meister, Boxing-day walk organiser). This can create new traditions that are unique and meaningful.
- Borrowing (and adapting) Coco Chanel’s advice; before you launch into the festive season, try to take one or two things off your to-do list.
Wishing you a happy, imperfect Christmas!
Catherine O’Connell PhD, Solution Focused Hypnotherapist
Source: The Wellcome (2021) What science has shown can help young people with anxiety and depression: Identifying and reviewing the ‘active ingredients’ of effective interventions. October 2021. https://tinyurl.com/2fnkjv7v