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Confronting Holiday Ghosts

Don’t tell people you have changed. Be the change.

The holidays are one of those times of year when we are confronted with the ghosts of our old selves. When we are back in old neighborhoods, our old homes, or around our old childhood friends, our old patterns often start to come back up.

This week, you may encounter friends, family members, or acquaintances who only know the old version of you, and you might feel yourself slipping back into old patterns. If you have been working on yourself, having your old self be triggered by family patterns, or highlighted in family stories, can be painful and discouraging.

Sometimes, this can send us into self-protection mode and we attempt to convince others of how much we have changed. “I’m not that guy anymore — see??” However, acting from a place of frustration to “prove our change” can lead to a lovely little paradox where we highlight instead how much has not changed.

This holiday season, remember that your growth belongs to you. Even though it might be hard to realize that your family and friends might not see the change yet, remind yourself that your changes- even though they might be undramatic- are a step in your new direction toward health. Over time, your actions, presence, and behavior will prove your changes far more effectively than a 3-hour lecture or argument with your family member will.

When you can show, rather than tell, others about the changes you have made, you allow yourself to shift from the “I’ll show them” energy (that can often lead to family conflict) to the embodied energy of simply being the change. Living as your best and healthiest self in an old and unhealthy environment is the true test of growth and lasting change.

This holiday season, focus your energy on setting healthy boundaries, maintaining good self-care, giving yourself compassion when needed, and reminding yourself that- as in nature, growth deep underground has to happen before others can appreciate the flower’s bloom.

You got this.

Kristal DeSantis, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional is the author of STRONG: A Relationship Field Guide for the Modern Man (available for pre-order now

Follow my instagram @atxtherapist | Facebook @strongloveatx | TikTok @atx_therapist

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