Saying NO to obligation
This is your reminder that you don’t have to do things this holiday season that you don’t want to do.
You can choose you and if you need some prompts for how to set some boundaries with folks during the holidays, I include some below. (like how to get a family member to stop talking about harmful topics)
Maybe you really love the holiday season and love allll of the things that go along with it. That’s great. Do what brings you genuine joy!
This holiday season you may be dreading the meal with family where you have to do small talk or listen to the drunk racist uncle tell “jokes” that are harmful or offensive.
Hint: you don’t actually have to go to dinner. Radical idea, right?
One thing I remind myself of is to go where I’m celebrated, not where I’m tolerated.
This helps me see where I’m doing things out of obligation vs a genuine desire to do so.
These holidays, I’m finally choosing myself 100%. I asked myself if I was really willing to choose what I wanted to do and not feel pressure from family culture, what would I do?
I’m not having dinner with my husband’s family. I’m not hosting anything. I’m not going to do anything with my family. I’m not gathering with friends. My husband is going to his family’s for Thanksgiving meal and we are totally supportive of each other and what we are each choosing.
(It took us a few years to get to this point of not taking it personally if we did what we truly wanted to do.)
I’ll be picking up some Indian food for Thanksgiving (Chicken Saag and Vegetable Coconut Korma is my go-to order), which I’ll likely have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because yes, I love it that much.
I probably won’t be getting out of my PJs and I’ll spend the day reading, painting, watching a romcom, and hanging out with my dog. #bliss
I’m not planning on buying anything for Black Friday.
As the holidays approach, breathe and practice saying no to the things that make you feel like crap.
As a recovering people-pleaser myself, this is not something that usually happens overnight so honour the baby steps.
Tips for Setting Boundaries:
It’s okay for you to set a boundary with folks if they bring up topics like:
Discussing someone’s body and how it may have changed. Diet culture. Racism. Homophobia. Antisemitism. When someone is “finally” going to get married or have a baby. Etc.
And for the love, can we please stop asking children and teens if they have a crush on someone or if they’re dating someone, or what they want to be when they grow up? There are LOTS of other conversations to have with young people so let’s do better, okay?
When giving compliments, let’s also get more creative than commenting on someone’s body and how they look.
Diet Culture – If someone is talking about how much they’ll have to work out to burn off the pie they’re eating or they comment on what is on your plate:
“I choose to enjoy food and don’t want to judge it as good or bad. Let’s enjoy our meal.” And then change the subject.
Weight gain or weight loss – If someone comments on your body or someone else’s body:
“There are many reasons why people lose or gain weight and it’s none of our business. Let’s love each other as we are.” Then change the subject.
Pregnancy & Fertility – If someone asks you when you’re “finally” going to have a kid (this was said ALL THE TIME when my husband and I went through years of infertility and it was awful):
“There are many reasons people do or don’t have kids. If we decide to have kids, we’ll let you know and I find it really inappropriate to essentially be asking us why we have sex and if it’s resulted in a pregnancy yet.”
When you say this one with this confused look that makes it obvious this is a really personal question to be asking someone, it will shut people up quickly.
Politics and/or conspiracy theories – If someone talks about q-anon(sense), justifying the overturn of Roe vs Wade, or other right-wing policies that are harming people:
“I understand that you and I have very different beliefs, and while it’s astounding that anyone can support the oppression of people in the name of Christianity, we need to change the topic to something else.”
If that’s too much, then try this one: “I’m not going to discuss politics with you so let’s find one of the many other interesting things we can talk about.”
Then change the subject to something like, “I’d love to hear what people are grateful for this year and what they’re looking forward to next year. I’ll start.”
If you tend to go into a Fawn or Freeze response when someone says something harmful:
When someone is saying something harmful, I sometimes go into a freeze response because depending on the environment, my nervous system may not feel safe or supported to create a clear boundary.
Or speaking up to have a boundary may end up in an argument with a volatile person and that can be unsafe for you or someone else there depending on the situation.
Here are three things you can do:
- If you’re not sure what to say, then you can ignore the harmful comment and just ask everyone what they are grateful for and you start by saying what you’re grateful for. Then call on someone specific to share what they are grateful for.
- You can leave the room and take some breaths and decide if and how you want to engage.
- You can leave the event and you don’t need to explain why you are leaving.
The bottom line is, to honour YOU. Honour your nervous system. Baby steps are a wonderful way to start.
Go Where You are Celebrated,
Angella Johnson is an artist, nerd, rebel, visionary, intuitive marketer, writer, strategist, bullshit detector, introvert and community builder. She helps entrepreneurs with trauma aware marketing and messaging.
To find out more visit her website https://angellajohnson.com/