I know, because I’m perpetually hung over and I feel like I’m pregnant with the world’s biggest food baby. I love this time of year, honest, I do. I love the twinkly lights, being all snug, bundled up in cosy layers, watching The Holiday and Love Actually over and over, mince pies, presents, mince pies, presents… and mince pies.
But. Of course there is a but. (And not just my butt, which is getting wider by the minute.)
As a shy person, there are certain aspects of the holiday season which are a little, erm, challenging.
For starters, there are so many people. EVERYWHERE! You can’t go anywhere on foot, or in a car, without feeling having to get your elbows out. There are people in your personal space. There are people in your face.
I’m actually going to brave the supermarket later today because I forgot a few crucial items… and I’m even considering downing some kind of tranquilliser before I do. Or maybe I need a hip flask. Now there’s an idea.
There are people in your house too. Popping round, staying over. Suddenly you have to be presentable – constantly. And be sociable at random times, often without warning!
So. Much. Socialising. From brunch, to lunch, drinks, to dinners and not forgetting the crazeeee parties. It’s noisy. And chaotic. There’s pressure to be amusing and fascinating, and bubbly. To be sophisticated, but not too sophisticated. To have fun, but not too much fun.
And then there are the family gatherings, with random relatives working through and extensive checklist of intense questions about your life, your hopes and dreams, your job, your relationships and living situation. You wonder if they’ve been trained in interrogation by the special forces.
And of course there’s the whole present situation. The pressure to perform present-wise is a particularly challenging when you’re required to open presents in a group situation. Perhaps people won’t like what you’ve bought them? And will your face reveal the fact that although you mentioned in passing 8 years ago that you quite like otters, you’re not actually an otter fanatic, and don’t require every item of clothing or home decor to be adorned with otters.
All in all it’s a tinselly Christmas minefield of judgement and social etiquette. What if you say the wrong thing? Buy the wrong thing? Wear the wrong thing? Do the wrong thing?
Here’s a list of some of the many things that you worry about:
- Not being fun or interesting enough
- Not being successful enough
- Wearing the wrong thing
- Being too thin / too fat / too big / too small (you get the idea)
- Being shy
- Being accosted under the Mistletoe by Creepy Uncle Colin
- Being too loud
- Not being loud enough
- Not being able to relax
- Not being good enough
- Not being enough
You want to be social. You want to be part of it. To have fun. It’s just that often it’s awkward and difficult. And exhausting. You find yourself wanting to make excuses and stay at home, snuggling on the sofa and watching terrible TV.
It’s meant to be a time of good will and giving and kindness and a little magic. But what if the holiday season has become more the season for social awkwardness?
For years, I could never really understand why I felt so on edge at this time of year. But now that I’m owning my shyness, I’ve started to understand what’s going on. Now that I get it, I’ve figured out some simple strategies to help me relax and navigate my way through the festive season – quietly… and I’m going to share them with you.
It’s my Shy and Mighty Christmas Survival Guide!
Keep it Chill
If you’re not up for going to loads of parties. Don’t! Take control and rather than feeling like you’re being overwhelmed by invitations and other people’s plans, step up and make your own more laid back arrangements. Invite a couple of mates around for a Christmas movie marathon, go for a festive dog walk, or host a present wrapping party. Be the boss of your social arrangements and do stuff that works for you.
Take the pressure off yourself, by shifting your focus to helping other people at Christmas. Maybe you could volunteer at a food bank or homeless shelter, or simply visit your elderly neighbours. If more socialising is tricky, perhaps you offer to take care of people’s pets or take some presents to the local hospital. Thinking about other people gets you out of your head and presses pause on your own challenges.
Rather than being swept along with the Christmas current, and the way things have always been done around here, create new traditions that help you to relax. For example, if you prefer to do Christmas dinner at home do it. If you prefer the idea of going to the pub, do that. If you prefer to open presents in private, do that. If you prefer to spend Christmas Eve spending time quietly reflecting in Church, do that. If you prefer to spend NYE in front of the TV, do it. Rather than criticising the way things are done, or putting up with something that gives you anxiety, coming up with new ideas for your own festive tradition feels like a really lovely thing to do. Bring on the mulled wine, mince pies and sparklers!
Don’t risk getting in a flap, or fretting your’ve missed the fashion mark. Plan what to wear ahead of time and avoid those fashion faux pas. Find out what other people are wearing so you can make sure you’re on the right track. You don’t want to turn up in a onesie if everyone else is going full on glam. Try on outfits ahead of time. Avoid things that show sweat patches, (no pale blue shirts boys) things that are itchy, or things that have the potential to go awry. If it needs tit tape, don’t go there. Elasticated waist bands are a god send. And so are comfy shoes. If you tend to blush across your neck and chest, try a higher neck or wear a scarf. Basically, a little planning goes a long way, people.
Arm yourself with an arsenal of beauty tools to help you manage any unwanted side effects of shyness. Travel size anti-perspirant to take out with you. Green based primer to tone down redness and blushing. Oil blotting sheets to take away shine. Evian spray to calm and cool, without ruining your make up. Because, sometimes, mother nature needs a helping hand.
Whoever said being late was fashionable, clearly wasn’t shy! Making an entrance when the party is in full swing and everyone is already in their groups chatting is soooo awkward. Avoid all eyes being on you by being one of the first to arrive. If you’re one of the first to arrive, people will come over and say hi to you, not the other way around. Plus, when you’re early things are quieter, and gradually transition into mayhem – without you really noticing!
Don’t fly solo. Take a wing person with you to help you navigate small talk and any awkward moments. Be honest about finding certain social situations a little awks. They’ll understand. Arrive together. Stick together. Party together.
Drink Up (a little)
Yes it helps loosen things up, but relying on getting hammered is not a good thing for so many reasons. If you drink loads and end up dancing on the tables – not ideal. If you end up puking all over someone’s shoes – not ideal. If you end up talking to the person you’ve had a crush on for months – and talking absolute gibberish- not ideal. Not wishing to sound like your mum, but I will say it anyway… be sensible!
Miss the Kiss
When entering any room at Christmas scan for mistletoe and give it a very wide berth. There’s nothing worse than having to bat away the unwanted advances of some creepy old relative, or pissed up work colleague. If public displays of affection make you cringe, agree ahead of time with any potential suitors (very Jane Austen) that you’re not going to go in for a full on snog when the clock strikes midnight (not very Jane Austen). And if in doubt hide the mistletoe. Or torch it.
Small talk is the devil’s work. It’s awkward and boring and makes us worry we’re going to say something silly. Instead of getting tongue tied, ask people questions instead. People who are not shy love talking about themselves! If you’re not sure what to say, you could even write some things down on your phone and then in a quiet moment just check your notes!
If you have having your picture taken, don’t leave things to chance. It’s tempting to run for cover as soon as anyone mentions the P word. Instead, try offering to take the picture for them – people won’t notice you’ve totally swerved being in it. Another cunning ruse is to brave the pic, but hold on to something small and cute, like a pet or a baby in the picture. Having something else to focus on, something lovely, will help you to relax and you can always hold the cute little fluffy thing up in front of you.
Being bombarded with questions about your life choices by relatives and old friends is not comfortable at the best of times. Do some prep to avoid getting flustered or upset. If someone questions why you’re not married / pregnant / graduated / more successful / living somewhere more appropriate etc, DO NOT APOLOGISE. Simply, close the conversation down, with the Shy and Mighty strategy.
- Thank them “I’m happy with the way things are. Thanks.”
- If you want to keep talking, change the subject “How about you? How is your job / divorce / legal case/ ingrown toenail going?”
- Walk away.
If you need a break from the noise and the chaos, make yourself useful. Hiding in the kitchen and helping with the washing up or cocktail preparation is a perfectly legitimate thing to do. Having something to do to keep busy, something that is actually helpful and will be appreciated is always a winner.
Don’t forget to breathe and take some time out to chill and snuggle on your own or with a select few of the people you love most of all. After all, that’s what Christmas is really about.
If you have any other suggestions to help us become shy and mighty this holiday, please comment below.
Have a happy Christmas and fantastic new year!
See you soon