Friends toasting at Christmas dinnerIt’s that time of year again! Here comes your past, in the form of extended family and childhood friends. That’s a good thing, right? So how come it’s such a source of stress and anxiety? Because nobody but nobody pushes your buttons like the near and dear. Let’s face it–imminent reunions conjure mixed feelings– even fear. Rules of civility that apply as you interact with reasonably respectful civilians in your daily life somehow get thrown out the window when it’s family-of-origin time. Sarcasm, competition, limiting stereotypes, unhealthy patterns, interference, pretending to be perfect and unsolicited advice are just a few hazards of the holidays. Hyper sensitivity, acute annoyances and excessive bad behavior to escape it all surface like annual clockwork.

Fa-la-la-la-aaaahhhh!

With parents, siblings and extended family, beware of automatically falling back into old patterns, no matter how mature and composed you may be these days. It’s natural to emotionally regress and adopt a former way of being to fit the old mold. Even if you’ve grown by leaps and bounds, your place at the table comes with a label and the expectation that you’re the same. Here are some examples: Phil’s “the shy one.” Brad’s “a hoot!” Katie’s “scatterbrained.” Darleen’s “a genius.” Dan’s “a late bloomer.” Whether your former familial role was on target or way off base, don’t fall into acting the part. It’s not your job to prove them right. It’s your job to be yourself. Instead of focusing on fitting their obsolete definition of you, focus on being authentic. This year, let them get to know the True You. Now that’s giving.