Make this your first holiday dinner without hurt feelings

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, one of America’s favorite holidays.

Coming from Romania, Thanksgiving is something I knew nothing about until a few years ago, except for the image I gleaned from Hollywood: a big family dinner full of all the uncles you never want to have over for dinner, and lots of tasty food.

Once I came to the United States, I got the confirmation that, for many people, that’s exactly what Thanksgiving is: a big family dinner (with its good and bad), full of delicious food, mixed in with some gratitude and followed by a killer football game.

I come from a country known for its big, loud, obnoxious family gatherings with tons of food (Romanians are a lot like Italians in that respect). I’ve had my fair share of hurt feelings and awkward questions around the dinner table.

Coming together with people from your extended family is never easy – especially not when grandma is obsessed with asking you when you’re getting married and uncle George always has to bring up some controversial topic that makes everyone scream at each other.

This holiday season, I have a proposition for you: don’t let your feelings get hurt.

11-27-13 Thanksgiving1. Keep healthy boundaries

Establish ahead of time what you’re willing to share and respect these boundaries at the dinner table.

You don’t have to explain any of your decisions to anyone. But, in order to resist the temptation to jump into an endless explanation, you need to be 100% secure in your reasons for this decision – so much so that you don’t need anyone’s permission to make or justify that decision for yourself.

When someone tries to push too hard:

  • inform them that this is your choice, and
  • ask them a question about themselves (this little trick makes them talk about themselves – something people love – and takes you out of the judging spotlight)

When listening to their story, resist the temptation to judge them back. Judgment comes from fear and instills fear. When they are sharing their decisions with you, deep down they are afraid that you will label and judge them back.

Fear is like darkness. The only way you can remove it is by turning on the light, which is love. So by loving them, even though you may not agree with them, you can replace that fear within both of you and improve your relationship.

How’s that for a dinner conversation?

2. Don’t compare yourself to others

Your cousin has a seemingly perfect life, and your uncle has created a million-dollar company that allows him to travel the world. You? You spend hours reading blog posts to make you feel better, while your bank account (and happiness level) stay the same.

Unfortunately, family gatherings provide fantastic fodder for jealousy. More often than not, that jealousy brings about the “what’s wrong with me?” question, aka victim syndrome.

Let’s clear this up once and for all: There. Is. Absolutely. NOTHING. Wrong. With. You.

Nothing whatsoever. Zilch. Nada.

In fact, you are perfect just the way you are.

Perfectly lovable, capable, wonderful. And enviable.

If you want to look at your sister, uncle, or cousin with a smile on your face and think “they have a wonderful life, just like I do”, then it’s time to put the victimhood and fear aside and embrace your own perfection with love.

And what better time to do this than Thanksgiving? Pull out your journal and write down all of the things that you are grateful for and that you appreciate you, your life, and everyone around you for. Ready? Go!

If you write 300, e-mail me with your list (or a photo of it) and I will give you a FREE 1-hour coaching session with me. Because you, my friend, ROCK.

3. Own your feelings

What other people say or think about you or topics of interest to you is none of your business.

You don’t have to feel disappointed that your mom judged you.

You don’t have to feel hurt that your sister said something about your diet.

You don’t have to get irritated with uncle Billy for being obnoxious and egging you on to start stupid arguments.

They are in charge of their actions. You are in charge of your feelings.

Being around family triggers our need for approval. In all three of these situations you are really upset because your family, those closest to you and who you expect to support you, don’t approve of your choices.

Hurt feelings come from the difference between our expectations and reality.

You can want other people to be a certain way, to say certain things, to relate to you in a particular way. But, no matter what you do, you can’t control what they say and how they are in reality. When you are disappointed or hurt, you have become disillusioned by your expectations and desires.

The only way to keep your feelings from being hurt is to (1) observe your desires and expectations, and to (2) accept what happens without trying to change it.

The truth is, you don’t need anyone’s approval to be who you are, or to make any decision. Use every hurt feeling as an opportunity to observe the way expectations make you feel, learn acceptance, and remind yourself that the only approval you need is your own.

How are you preparing to survive family holiday dinners?

Be fearless.
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