“Family togetherness” can be as challenging as it is rewarding. I’ve heard some people say after a holiday season (where they spent LOTS of time in close quarters with family) that they’d had enough family time to last until NEXT holiday season!
Why is it that extended time with the people we (should) love can be so difficult?
Well, for one, it’s because we often put on our “everything is A-okay” masks and don’t express ourselves as honestly and deeply as we could. We’re afraid to share how we really feel about things to avoid vulnerability. So we stuff our emotions, pretend everything is okay, and sweep any conflict or complaints under the carpet (‘til next year). Or, we find the path of least resistance is to keep a grudge rather than reconcile. Hmm…how’s that working for you?
For some reason, many believe that sharing feelings is a sign of weakness…especially us guys! But whether from our upbringing or a distorted perception of “weakness,” we pay a price if we don’t express our feelings.
First, it deprives the other party of knowing how you really feel. Second, suppressed feelings can cause stress and, if severe, illness and depression. Third, they can cause explosive reactions when they’re eventually released (usually at the worst possible moment). The balloon pops rather than gently losing its air. Not good!
Wouldn’t the world be a better place (and all of us healthier) if we learned to freely and appropriately express our feelings to each other? Here’s a short test to help you judge how easy (or not) it is for you to be “real.” Consider the following phrases and ask yourself how often you share them with others:
I love you I’m proud of you I respect you
I appreciate you I made a mistake I admire you
I was wrong I care about you Please forgive me
I’m sorry I’m grateful for you I’m worried about…
Some of these are naturally easier to express than others, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Expressing your feelings and communicating openly and honestly are life skills that CAN be learned and refined.
I hope you prioritize and enjoy your times of family togetherness. Use them to practice expressing the “real you” and maybe to repair a strained relationship. Remember, successful people express themselves not only for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of others. It’s a gift that keeps giving.
How would you rate on the “express yourself meter?” Are there phrases on the above list that you have difficulty saying? Why? Please share your ideas and experiences with us by commenting below.