Christmas Expectations: Overcoming Fear of Failure


By Anne Garboczi Evans

I read a Christmas traditions quiz once. It asked when it comes to Christmas traditions are you:

1. A Christmas Elf

2. (something I can’t remember)

3. (something I can’t remember)

4. (something I can’t remember

5. The Grinch

I scored a straight 5–grinchy as they come. I mean, sure I dragged my almost three-year-old to the requisite Santa shoot. I bought him presents during my Black Friday shopping. And I even bought a Pillsbury pack of cinnamon rolls as a token to the lavish Christmas brunches my mom always made growing up.

But Christmas decorations? Well, my husband extricated our artificial tree from the basement a week ago. I personally was just going to let it sit down there. I’m going to the candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church. Unlike during childhood, I no longer have to wait an entire year to play with live flame. But I still wouldn’t miss those Christmas Eve candles. (Yes, I’m one of those who waits until every single candle has been blown out and the church elders start giving you “the eye” before finally extinguishing mine.)

Besides this arson-mania though, I really am very grinchy. I love my family and relatives, well almost all of them. 😉 I have a beautiful home, a child, and enough discretionary income to make a memorable holiday for him. So why am I not into Christmas?

I think it’s because of expectations. If I make a beautiful meal on August 15th, everyone will “ooh” and “ahh.” If I make just as lovely a meal on Christmas day, it might not be good enough to live up to the last four hundred years of American Christmas food. If I buy my son a “just-because” present on April 18th, he’ll be thrilled. But there’s pretty high expectations of what a Christmas present should look like.

If I have a great time with extended family on February 3rd, it’s a great time. But if I have a great time with extended family on Christmas, maybe it’s still not magical enough to match the Thomas Kinkade pictures.

Sometimes the perfect’s the enemy of the good. It’s not just true for holidays, but also for careers, jobs, houses, even relationships. I remember a time during my first month of college when one student got extremely sick and missed a couple weeks of classes. I, already freaking out about my credit load, had dropped a class and was studying into the wee hours of the night. The sick student will certainly never catch up with the work she missed, I thought. If it was me, I’d feel compelled to drop out now.

But the student didn’t drop out. She didn’t even drop classes. She went on to finish that semester and her entire college career. Sure the sickness probably hurt her grades that semester, but she finished. Unlike me, she wasn’t held back by the expectation of perfection.

Do you ever find yourself crippled by expectations? Is there something you’d love to do, but you’re not sure you can do it well enough to live up to your own or others’ expectations? In just a few more days, we’ll be writing up our New Year’s resolutions. I’d encourage you to not let overly high expectations hold you back from doing something that you want to do. Maybe you won’t be perfect, but that doesn’t mean you’ll fail. Often times good, average, or even below norm really is good enough.

Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to do that worry about failure has held you back from? Comment below. And if you’re a writer, do any of your characters struggle with this kind of dilemma?