The holiday season — this time of year — can be filled with so much pressure. Pressure around getting the right gift for folks, having the money to get gifts and having enough food and the time to prepare those holiday meals. But even greater is the pressure to feel happy, loving and, of course, loved.
The emotional pressure to feel loved, accepted by others and like we really belong can sometimes be the hardest part of this season. Sometimes we can have the feeling that everyone but us is surrounded by family and friends, feeling a sense of belonging and being loved.
It can really pour salt into the gaping wound of loneliness.
And sometimes, when struggling inside ourselves, we can even be surrounded by those who do love us but still feel alone. We can feel disconnected, unseen, unheard, unaccepted, misunderstood. Despite the love and kinship we may have — it’s not reaching us.
I’ve had many a holiday season like this: longing to feel that sense of belonging to a loving family, community, a place where I am accepted and safe, cared for and celebrated. I’ve had those times where I was faking happiness while feeling all alone and deeply hurting inside. And to make things even harder, I didn’t actually believe that anyone would ever really love me — I felt utterly unlovable.
I was unwittingly swirling in an excruciating, internal trap of feelings and beliefs created by my past traumas and wounds.
Thirty years ago, in my first holiday 12-Step meeting, I was given a glimmer of a new truth. I witnessed that I was not the only one masquerading happiness and cheer while feeling alone, broken and hurting. In a room filled with others wanting to heal, I was compassionately met in the dim caves of myself. I was given the opportunity to crack my protective shell, to let myself be seen in my vulnerability and tenderness —and to be accepted right where I was in my struggle.
This was really scary!
I remember thinking, “What if I get hurt, shamed, humiliated or rejected?” Being seen like this felt so risky, but some part of me knew that this vulnerability was the only way to let in the love and belonging I longed for. I had to risk rejection to find and feel connection and love.
Opening in this way was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Little by little, over the years, I have learned to value myself as lovable and trust others to love me. It has been a sacred, life-changing gift of the season.
May you feel lovingly held this holiday! My wish for you is to truly know how precious, needed and lovable you are.
Read more of the Dec. 13–19, 2023 issue.