The holiday season is for getting together with loved ones. So the more the merrier, right? Wrong. When family members get together under one roof, they bring accumulated grievances, grudges, and all-around discord with them. Am I the only person who thinks this might be a ticking time bomb?
While their thinly veiled “keeping it together” facades may fool one another, they don’t fool me. As a highly sensitive introvert, I can feel the disharmony like a disturbance in the air that keeps prickling at my imperceptible energy fields.
Don’t get me wrong. I want everyone I love to get together, have fun, and enjoy one another’s company this holiday season. But if I had it my way, it would be authentic or nothing at all.
Humans Crave Authentic Community
This is the age-old quality vs. quantity debate. Would you rather have a bunch of insincere friends or a few genuine ones? I won’t bother addressing the former; we’re all like-minded here.
Research into longevity suggests that frequent involvement with family and friends is one of the keys to a longer, healthier life. I don’t disagree, but I think that fact needs some qualifying: frequent, authentic involvement is the key.
So what is authentic when it comes to social communication? For starters, these Tiny Buddha tips don’t disappoint. But at the heart of it, authentic communication is:
- Cooperative and collaborative, not competitive
- Open minded and receptive
- Unstructured and spontaneous
- Acknowledging, not steamrolling
It’s also an energy exchange. Since I got Reiki certified and attuned, my highly sensitive person (HSP) superpowers seem to have been turbocharged. Now every interaction, whether verbal or nonverbal, gets filtered on a subconscious, bioenergetic level. Before I might have sat through a family dinner, grimacing my way through the charade with a migraine by the end of it; now I leave when I feel an introvert hangover coming on, or I don’t go in the first place.
Some may say this is melodramatic. I say it’s self-protection. I’m literally protecting myself from energy vampires and conversations that make my inner love-starved roses wilt.
I Prefer the View From Out Here
The expectation to socialize is something I battle every holiday. If you’re not an introvert or HSP, you may not understand this struggle. In fact, it might seem silly to you. You should feel the safest and the most authentic with your family, right? They love you no matter what. They’ve known you the longest. But does that mean they truly know me and understand what I need? ‘Fraid not.
This is why I stand up for myself. This is why I moved out of my family’s house to live on my own—the environment they provided wasn’t conducive to my personal growth. This is why, during the holidays, I’m a little bit more of a hermit than usual.
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I love the view from out here. In fact, I get more joy from jogging past homes and glimpsing the dainty presents bunched under the tree, ripe with jubilant anticipation, than I would get from stuffing presents under my own family’s Christmas tree. No matter that I’m only targeting the positive emotions and not seeing the stress behind those dainty presents. I don’t need that negativity. Nor am I being an energy vampire and taking it from them. I am simply basking in their holiday glow, an outsider who is getting a positive peek at what it can ideally feel like on the inside. As Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”
It’s Not You, It’s Me
It’s definitely me. All me. And I’m owning that.
I understand that when I decline a holiday get-together, it may seem like just another millennial-minded act of rebellion. I have tried to explain my need for solitude, in many shapes and forms, but at some point, I just have to live and let live. There is beauty to letting go, and while I wish other people understood my need to be around authentic energy, I respectfully understand their need for tradition. I’ve just never been one for tradition. As Dan Millman explains, “It is better for you to take responsibility for your life as it is, instead of blaming others, or circumstances, for your predicament. As your eyes open, you’ll see that your state of health, happiness, and every circumstance of your life has been, in large part, arranged by you—consciously or unconsciously.”
Call it delusions of grandeur, but I rather like thinking of myself as a unicorn. A unicorn with a lot of other unicorn friends. Sure, we millennials have been getting awards for showing up to things since we were toddlers, but I’ll take an award over the unknowing mental abuse, aka “gaslighting,” of grating social interactions.
To my family and friends, please understand that I like and love you. But I like the unadulterated, pristine image of holidays I hold in my head more. In this image, holidays are unlike every other day of the year. Because every day, you support me, both with your words and with your hugs. Every day, disagreements are met with emotional intelligence and compassion. Every day, our communication is open and cooperative. Every day, we strive for authenticity, not perfection.
How do you create authenticity in your interactions? On the flip-side, how do you say no to insincerity? Leave a comment below so we can learn from one another.
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