A New Look at those Dreadful Holiday Letters
Who knew the Facebook “humble brag” could actually be a force for good?
It took some effort and time but I finally did it. I found a positive use for those “humble brag” Facebook posts or, for the few Luddites remaining, those holiday letters. You know what I mean, the epistles that describe our family’s life in glowing terms and leave out “minor” details.
“He is now gainfully employed with a six-figure income” (He’s selling drugs on the streets).
“She moved back home to save some money while she puts her BA to work” (She’s mooching off her parents while surfing the web only to find jobs that are below her).
When we read these posts, we may initially react with envy only to be followed by cynicism and scorn.
But what if we turned the tables just a little? There is a true positive value to these posts. We are all subject to bouts of self-pity. The neighbors have a better life than we do – more money, more romance, more successful – I don’t need to tell you all the negative and resentful thoughts that may occupy our minds and hearts.
In those destructive moments, we should compose a holiday letter. What would we tell other people about our family? We certainly wouldn’t focus on the negative if we were sending something out for family, friends, and many acquaintances to read. We would highlight the positive and not mention or certainly down play the negative.
We would excitedly report our daughter’s college graduation and not her couch potato existence. We would talk about how hard our children work and not how overwhelmed they are. We would emphasize the responsibilities our spouse has at work and not that the pay isn’t commensurate with said obligations. We would mention our last family vacation and detail the exciting adventures we had and not the moment when our teenager stormed off screaming “I hate you!”
Not because we’re dishonest. Everything we said would be true. It just wouldn’t be the whole picture. And why should it be? Everyone’s life is full of challenges but when we focus on them we get bogged down, sometimes in self-pity. But if we tell ourselves what we would tell others about our lives, we get a whole new perspective. We see the good. We appreciate the blessings we have. It doesn’t get rid of the struggles; it just takes our focus off them.
When we indulge in self-pity, we tell ourselves that we are alone in this, that the whole world has it better than we do (which if you live in a first world country today you know is patently absurd!). But even if we don’t take it quite to that extreme, we certainly feel that our friends have it better. But that’s because all we usually see of the lives of others is the “holiday letter”, the “humble brag” they present to the world. We don’t see what’s happening behind the scenes. And that’s okay.
Because that’s how we should look at our own lives as well. It’s not that we should ignore our tests; they are an opportunity for growth. But we shouldn’t be obsessed with them. We shouldn’t allow the challenges in our lives to overwhelm our perspective on the whole. We should tell ourselves what we would tell someone else about our lives – the good stories, the situations that made us laugh, the examples of kindness and caring.
The problems will still be there. But if we lift ourselves out of self-pity and manage to appreciate the tremendous good we all have, we will be able to address our challenges with new energy – from a place of gratitude and appreciation instead of bitterness and resentment.