3 Gifts to Give Yourself This Holiday Season

3 Gifts to Give Yourself This Holiday Season December 7, 2015

Photo by morguefile/dhester.
Photo by morguefile/dhester.

I just have to say, women rock.

Yesterday I went to a party for a young woman who recently quit a successful career as a public defender. She plans to teach yoga, spend more time with her adopted four-legged kids and train to become a massage therapist. To celebrate, she served the world’s best red velvet cake with buttercream frosting (with some broccoli and hummus on the side).

The room was filled with smart, courageous, thoughtful, creative women—many of whom I’ve had the privilege of working with through workshops and retreats. It got me thinking: What do women need most for the holidays this year? And what are gifts they deserve to give themselves?

There are many—and a lot of them have to do with chocolate. But on a deeper level, here are my top three. I hope you’ll give yourself these gifts this year, and pass this along as your gift to your favorite women, too.

1. The gift of being fully heard. At one of our recent women’s spirituality workshops, we did an activity where women asked one another about a positive experience they’d had—a moment of goodness that stood out in their memory.

For Diane, my partner in this program, the memory was about talking with a group of medical students and sharing her insights on healing. She felt a little like their mom—honored for her life experiences and wisdom, and opening their eyes to a new way of seeing their patients at the same time.

When we paired women up to have this kind of conversation with one another, we instructed them to be active listeners. “Ask about a time when your partner felt a sense of success or joy,” we said. “Then keep asking questions. See if you can draw out more specific details and a fuller picture of why this moment was so significant.”

As the women engaged with each other, we could hear the delight in their voices and see it on their faces. Think about it…when was the last time someone asked you to focus on a great memory and describe why it lit you up?

This activity does a few important things…it retrains your thoughts to focus on the good in your life rather than what’s wrong—a huge gift in itself, like a vacation for the mind. Plus, it feels awesome to be fully heard—to talk to someone who genuinely wants to walk with you in this little journey to a great moment in your past. And it can help you see what you want more of in your future.

For instance, Diane now realizes that she wants to spend more time sharing her wisdom with young people—something that she might have known but not acted on if she hadn’t had this conversation.

So, here’s the deal: Find someone in your life who is a good listener, and ask if she’s willing to do this as an exchange. Schedule some quiet time in a favorite location—maybe enjoying an afternoon latte in your favorite coffee shop—then be present for each other as you give one another the gift of being heard. Honestly, you’ll be amazed at what this can do for you.

2. The gift of doing what no one expects you to do. In the past year, I’ve seen Rachel (the attorney-turned-yoga-teacher we celebrated yesterday) cut her hair short as a way of saying goodbye to the past, a mom and a grandma take a month to walk across Spain, and a pharmacy tech summon the courage to go public with a long-time hobby and exhibit her paintings for the first time.

Like most women (a broad generalization, I know, but I believe it’s true), you probably spend a lot of time and energy meeting other people’s expectations and playing the roles you’ve carved out for yourself. But deep down, there’s probably a quiet voice in you that wants to jump the tracks and head off in a direction no one saw coming.

It reminds me of my sister-in-law, who once rode a horse across Iowa with a friend, encountering—and overcoming—all sorts of challenges along the way. (Think driving rain and nowhere to sleep.) It wasn’t exactly what her husband and three young daughters ever thought she would do, but it fulfilled a long-time dream for her. And I have to believe her courage gave her daughters permission to embrace their inner trailblazers, too.

You don’t need to dismantle your whole life or make it an act of defiance (unless you want to). Just fill in the blank: “No one would expect me to ____________.” Then, whatever it is—a night of karaoke, a girls’ weekend by the sea or an eight-week pole-dancing class—do the thing that expresses a part of you that’s been dormant for too long. You may literally feel yourself waking up from a long, deep sleep.

3. The gift of cleaning out the old stuff. Uncluttering your physical space lightens your spiritual load, too. And it’s much easier to get rid of stuff when it belongs to someone else, with no emotional attachments to slow you down.

So text a friend, offering to gift her a day or a few hours of clearing and de-cluttering if she’ll do the same for you. Plan your pitch-fests just after the holidays so you can start 2016 feeling unburdened, organized and open to new possibilities—a spiritual manifestation of “out with the old, in with the new.”

Less stuff. More joy. What could be a better gift than that?



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