“Honey, you’re gorgeous, but I’ve never, ever seen you this big before.” I looked my father straight in the face and smiled and walked away. I know he means well. I know he adores me and loves me unconditionally and has been my fiercest champion. I know he’s in his 80s and is two generations above me… but the words sting, nonetheless.
There are days I feel good and don’t care. I laugh it off and point at his own portly belly. We hug and kiss and then move on. But there are days when my energy is low, and the comments hurt. I also know there’s no use telling him anything because I recognize that the only thing I can really control is how I react to things. Which, I have to admit, is not always well.
I know I’m not the only one. “Tumaba ka”—“You got fat”—is quite literally a holiday greeting that’s almost as ubiquitous here as “Merry Christmas!” From close family to distant cousins, relatives from overseas and random titos and titas, everyone seems to have an opinion about your life. If it’s not about weight gain, it’s all other kinds of probing and judgmental questions. Why are you not married? What happened to your ex? Why no boyfriend? When will you have a baby? When is your next baby? You could be a family of five kids, and they’d still not be satisfied.
Amidst the judgments and intentioned critiques I opt to preserve my energy by embracing who I truly am. I envision a shield of love surrounding me while also seeking connections, with others. My response is rooted in kindness. I wholeheartedly celebrate myself in this universe without any apologies.
Add this to the Merrymaking Maritesses and their flurry of gossip under the guise of kwentuhan; sometimes I’d rather just sit out the festivities because I come home feeling far from festive.
I don’t exactly want to be a hermit either, and Christmas is such a special time to reconnect with people—so what is one to do? How do we keep that magic and sparkle while keeping our peace and sanity?
Here are five ways to protect your energy this holiday season.
1. Choose wisely.
Prioritize your physical and emotional well-being at all times. Choose where you spend your energy wisely. It’s a very precious and valuable commodity and you should treat it with respect. Assess the reasons why you WISH to attend an event rather than why you SHOULD. If you’re having to think twice already, perhaps it’s a sign to just decline. If there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it’s okay, even preferred, to send regrets when you’re feeling rundown or unwell. It’s the same for your emotional and mental health. Don’t ghost, just be honest and up-front. Share that you are really not feeling your best and that you apologize for not being able to come. People who love you and value you will understand and not take it against you. And if they are upset by it, then perhaps it’s time to reassess your relationship with them anyways.
You may also choose to walk away from conversations that don’t align with your values. You are not obliged to subject yourself to an angry tirade or negative gossiping. Simply excuse yourself to get a drink or go to the loo and move on.
2. Imagine a ball of protective light around you.
Before I step out of my home and into a party, I visualize being surrounded in a ball of protective light. I imagine my aura expanding and radiating only love and joy. This light is like an armor against negative feelings, emotions, and thoughts that might be projected on you. It also serves to contain your energy. When you start to feel depleted at a party, just excuse yourself. Never feel pressured to stay longer than you want to.
3. Seek meaningful connections.
At most parties, people tend to just coast on superficial small talk or gossip. This, I find, is very draining. On the other hand, I have noticed that I feel energized when I’ve had meaningful conversations with people. I come home happy and inspired. When people ask you how you are, rather than always answering the usual “I’m fine”—be honest and vulnerable. Let people surprise you with their own vulnerability and frankness. When you meet someone new, try to connect over something you have in common. Ask about passion points like hobbies, films, books, or even simply what they like to do in their downtime. Chances are it will launch a deeper and more enjoyable conversation. Lastly, don’t talk about people, talk about ideas. Avoid the gossip and engage in real conversations instead. Start by sharing about an experience or ask others about their thoughts on a topic.
4. Embody kindness and compassion.
When someone throws at you the dreaded “Tumaba ka” or its other derivatives… this can be harder to practice. The best way to respond is to say something nice about them. Imagine replying: “And you look gorgeous as always! I really love your hair!” It really changes the tone and vibration of the whole conversation. Rather than perpetuate the negative cycle, why not be the beacon that brings light to a room? Positive feedback, support, and validation from social connections can uplift your spirits. Begin by giving it to others. Pay an unsolicited compliment to someone. Spontaneous kindness goes a long way. And, quite frankly, elegantly puts haters in their place.
5. Be unapologetically you.
There is no need to “fake it” in any situation. If this is how you feel, then just don’t go. Love yourself and be proud of yourself. Be your most authentic self at every occasion. This also means exercising your right to privacy. If it’s not respected, it’s fine to politely walk away. You are a wonderful and divine creature of this glorious universe, and no one should ever make you feel any less than that. Most especially not yourself. So celebrate you and always be proud of where you are at this very moment.