OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot feeling like you around the holidays?

It’s the holiday season, and along with last-minute shopping, sipping hot chocolate, and watching cheesy Christmas movies, chances are you’re planning to visit family and friends over the next few weeks. As wonderful as these visits can be, you may have noticed something a bit off about your feelings and actions around your friends and loved ones. There is an interesting phenomenon, that you may have already anticipated, and it involves reverting back to an older version of you when you find yourself in a particularly familiar environment. No matter how much you’ve grown as a person or how long you’ve been apart from family or friends, you always seem to slip back into that old way of interacting with them.

This new development in your thinking and behavior can be startling! The disorientation you feel may be coming from the ways in which your current behavior is inconsistent or incongruent with who you perceive yourself to be. Maybe you have struggled with being awkward socially in the past, but, with time, you have found a new self-confidence. Yet, when around those who have known you all your life, you act like your old self and they treat you in a way that doesn’t match up with your current identity. This may mean you are feeling like you have lost much of the progress and growth you worked hard to achieve, and a return of old habits and patterns can leave you wishing these behaviors were really as long-gone as you had thought they were.

As seemingly automatic as this phenomenon may appear, I can assure you that it is not inescapable and you haven’t really lost yourself. That should be wonderful news: you HAVE grown, you ARE different than you used to be, and that’s OKAY! You see, environments have a powerful influence on the mind and behaviors. You will speak differently to your boss than to your roommate; you will be a different version of yourself when sitting for a final exam than on vacation.

However, these environmental changes do not fundamentally change who you are. In any situation, whether you feel as though you are “yourself” or not, there is a core part of who you are that remains the same. That part of you luckily retains all of the growth, courage, and personality you could ever embody. The very fact that you can pick up on changes in your behavior when you are in a different setting, perhaps around the Christmas dinner table, says a lot about who you are.

You are one who is capable, in the midst of what should be a familiar scenario, of understanding that something is different, that you are different, and that means you are operating from a different viewpoint than the old you. This awareness is the clue that you are no longer operating from your previous default settings. You are not the person you used to be. Now you are able to begin establishing new patterns within this old environment (yes, even with your relatives).

The new patterns that you have established for yourself may be met with mixed reactions from your friends and family. Perhaps by behaving differently, you will bring about unwelcome responses from those who are not used to this newer you. It is important to remember in these moments that others’ reactions, whether positive or negative, do not change who you are. Given enough time, they will get used to the changes and come to understand you. And if they don’t, that is their loss! Take time to explore other’s responses to how you have grown as a person. It is an experiment in which your new behaviors and habits will produce new results, as opposed to the tried-and-true patterns you are used to. Forge ahead along this new path and see where it will take you – even in your oldest and dearest relationships!

You may be thinking that all of this sounds nice in theory, but in reality it’s terrifying. I know that this new model of thinking about who you are during the holidays is a risky one, but I hope that you will see the return to your old environment as a chance to help your family and friends get acquainted with who you really are. Don’t feel obligated to reassure them that you are the same person you have always been.

Laura Lanier, LPC Intern under supervision by Christy Graham, LPC S

If this is a meaningful discussion to you, I would love to further process it with you, before or after the holidays!

Laura Lanier specializes in working with adults and adolescents who are growing and changing. Incorporating those changes into our most significant relationships can be difficult, especially when these changes are in world view, and lifestyle. Call her for an appointment today at 940-222-8703 ext 705 or schedule online.

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