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6 Ways for Perfectionists to Have a Happily Imperfect Holiday

6 Ways Perfectionists Can Have a Happily Imperfect Holiday

We all know that the holidays can be joyful, but also stressful. Perfectionists can get caught up in the to-do lists, the decisions, and the planning. We may overthink all the details from the party menu to buying the perfect gift for everyone on our list. As people-pleasers, we are focused on creating the perfect holiday for our loved ones. We have high expectations of ourselves and others. We have a vision of what the holidays “should” look like.

This adds unnecessary pressure to the already hectic holiday season. I’d like to offer you a few ideas for overcoming perfectionism and having a happily imperfect holiday.

  1. Expect the unexpected. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that things don’t go as planned. Case in point, I’m writing this post from my son’s hospital room (he’s going to be fine). Spending the week in the hospital was not what I’d planned! The shopping and baking didn’t get done, but I adjusted. I may have to scale back some things this year, but it’s not worth spending energy being upset about it.
  2. Have a sense of humor. Laughing has repeatedly been shown to have a positive impact on mental and physical health. Being able to laugh at yourself or the situation is a resilient coping skill. Sometimes we don’t have to take everything so seriously.
  3. Failures often make the best memories. My family likes to reminisce about the year the gingerbread house wouldn’t stand up (see photo). You might also like to read my post about our God-awful family hike or check out Redbook’s list of holiday cooking failures. Sometimes perfect is boring!
  4. Eliminate “should” from your vocabulary. It’s a judgmental word and we need to be careful about what we’re saying to ourselves. “Should” is also full of pleasing others. Where do your needs and wants fit into your holiday plans? Instead of getting tangled in “I should send out Christmas cards”, I could free myself from this “should” and spend my time and money on something that really matters to me.
  5. Remember the true meaning of holidays. I know it’s a cliche, but what can I say? It’s true. Christmas isn’t about the gifts just like a birthday party isn’t about the cake. I love Dr. Seuss’ classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. It turned out that the Whos didn’t need their fancy trees, pantookas or roast beast for a happy Christmas. And I’m not just talking about getting away from commercialism. I’m talking about being in the moment and enjoying what really matters most. Maybe sit down with your guests and enjoy their company instead of fussing over the perfect table setting or cleaning the kitchen.
  6. Manage your expectations. If your Uncle Bob gets drunk and says inappropriate things every year, assume that he will do the same this holiday. When you set realistic expectations you avoid disappointment. Being realistic also allows you to identify some coping strategies before you are in the stressful situation. I also find that too much time looking at Pinterest or women’s magazines sets unrealistic expectations. They are full of expertly done crafts, decorating, and cooking. Remember, Martha Stewart has a whole staff of people to make that lavish buffet in her magazine. You don’t have to do it all by yourself! (And trying to, may leave you frustrated.)

I hope this helps you embrace imperfection a bit this holiday season.

A happy holiday is really a happily imperfect holiday!




Festive Christmas Table Decoration photo thanks to Apolonia at

6 Ways for Perfectionists to Have a Happily Imperfect Holiday

Sharon Martin, LCSW

Sharon Martin is a licensed psychotherapist and codependency expert practicing in San Jose, CA. She is the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism: Evidence-Based Skills to Help You Let Go of Self-Criticism, Build Self-Esteem, and Find Balance and several ebooks including Navigating the Codependency Maze.  

To learn more, visit Sharon's website. And please sign-up for free access to her resource library HERE (worksheets, tips, meditations, and resources for healing codependency, perfectionism, anxiety and more).

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APA Reference
Martin, S. (2018). 6 Ways for Perfectionists to Have a Happily Imperfect Holiday. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Mar 2018
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