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Friday, November 26, 2021  

The expectations of othersPublished 12/2/2003

The Holiday season is upon us and along with the joy and festivities may come the additional stress and tension that sometimes accompanies the expectations of others. Are you always the one who hosts Christmas dinner? Or is your family always "expected" to go home to see the folks. Or perhaps you are studying your finances again wondering how you’re going to afford all those Christmas presents for your 6 siblings and their offspring in addition to all your friends at work and your children’s friends as well. How many times do you get stuck in the boxx of the "Expectations of Others" and you just ‘take it’ year after year?

For example, let’s say that each year you go home to visit your family you just know that your father is going to pick a fight with your husband again about the time you sit down to dinner. Your dad hasn’t liked the fact that your soul mate is a musician and has had long hair since the day you married him 20 years ago. It doesn’t matter that he has a great day job as well and that you are both very successful and happy. Every year your blood pressure starts to rise as much as two weeks before Christmas Day when you know the joys of the Holiday are going to be offset by the tension that will surely erupt between your father and your husband just as you’re all about to carve the turkey. Well, where does it say that you have to "take it" year after year?

Or all those Christmas presents that everyone "expects" you to give – from your co-workers to your beautician. Each year you feel obligated to buy everyone something and then spend months digging yourself out of the financial burden those extra gifts placed upon you and your family. And why? Because you get caught in the Boxx of the Expectations of Others.

So, why do we do these things? Because we get caught up in believing that what other people think should run our lives. From television pounding us with messages of "spend, spend, spend" to memories of our parents teaching us not to be selfish, the brainwashing has gone on for years. Add to that the fact that we nurses are compassionate caregivers and giving is just what we do. We give of ourselves and frequently take care of ourselves last.

Now, let me elaborate for a minute. I’m not saying that you should shun your family, not give gifts, or not enjoy the Holidays. However, I AM saying that by letting yourself get sucked in to other people’s expectations you can end up paying dearly in the long run.

The bottom line? You must take care of YOU first. If buying gifts for everyone leaves you in the poorhouse for months, then let everyone know ahead of time that you’re cutting back this year and that you request they not give you gifts either. (Who knows – they may appreciate the break too!)

Perhaps instead of dealing with the stress, increased blood pressure, and gastric ulcer your father adds to the occasion when he and your husband go head to head at Christmas dinner, how about an alternate Christmas? Maybe one you share with only your immediate family in a mountain cabin or on a trip to the beach.

Ask yourself this one question … why should the expectations of others run your life? If you were in a coma for six months, how many of those "others" would sit by you day and night holding your hand? I suspect not many. If that’s the case, why should they have power over the decisions you make in your life? They don’t walk in your shoes. They are not in charge of your life. YOU are!

So, this holiday, take care of you first, for a change. Determine where additional stresses are attacking you and decide which ones you can eliminate. It might be as simple as saying no to your kids who want the most expensive new Game Boy. It might be giving loaves of home made bread to your friends and your beautician, instead of store-bought gifts. It might mean spending Christmas with friends instead of family – if your friends are nicer to you.

And maybe Dad might figure out that his behavior has cost him his usual punching bag for Christmas. Who knows – it might just force him to change his behavior!

Mary Jo Fay is an author and motivational speaker. To buy her book or set up a workshop, she can be reached at (be sure to use 2 x’s on boxx or you won’t find her,) or at 303-841-7691.

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