After my third intense conversation with my in-laws about how EXACTLY we were going to proceed with gifts this past holiday season – from preferences, to spending caps, to gift receipt requirements – I got to wondering, what ever happened to the holiday spirit? Then it hit me EXACTLY what happened…

I scrooged it. 

Specifically, one of my worst personality traits scrooged it. If you know me, you may be wondering, “Which one?!” because, yes, I have a few. Was it my “Best in Bath” trait, the one that likes to wallow in worries? Or was it my School Marm trait, the one that doesn’t mind putting you in your spot: down.


The negative character trait of mine that reared its head this past holiday season was the one I have dubbed the “High Frequency Stickler”. And, no, it’s not the first time she’s shown. That’s right, give “HFS” something fun to host, lead, a multi-step plan, and/or a deadline (a.k.a. a holiday) and, let’s just say, she doesn’t so much excel at holidays as much as she Excel spreadsheets ‘em!

Turns out, I’m not “home alone” in this.

During the season when all the marketing suggests the warmth of friends, food, and family, we can all be a bit susceptible to being left in the coal’d if we don’t keep our bad traits in check. Good news, with a few practiced steps, we can “regift” the traits getting in the way of your (and my family’s!) merriment.

First step: Know you have at least one bad trait! Own it.

NOTE: If you’re thinking “your side of the street” is as white as snow, all you need to do is ask around. A simple interview of your nearest and dearest (and honest!) about what’s great about you or, in this case, not so great about you during the holidays. This will reveal if you’ve been more naughty than nice!

Through the help of some gentle feedback from my loved ones, I realized I was HF-Sticklering my family and not at all in the holiday spirit! The minute I could see the trait for what it was, was the minute I could opt to let go of it. I stopped pushing, and everything fell into place.

But, I didn’t stop my investigating there. I wanted to find out what was behind this trait of mine and why exactly it springs up around the holiday season.

What I do know about myself is that I DO NOT like the vulnerability of being with my feelings and most of the time, if I’m being a “High Frequency Stickler”, it’s because I actually feel scared or vulnerable.

Truth is, I really care what everyone thinks and I’m watching everyone’s face (age seven to 70) to see if they’re happy. And, let’s face it (and my bad traits!) there’s nothing like the holidays to put everyone’s needs, desires, and preferences into high gear.

Even if I make a list and check it twice, and then twice more – I’ll never get the plans and gifts right with everyone. Trying to control everything gave me the illusion that I might, BUT it certainly didn’t lead to people feeling loved and cared for.

In fact, quite the opposite.

Second step: Find your funny.

Oh, yeah, that. Leashing these pesky traits literally REQUIRES a sense of humor. So identify your trait and while you’re at it, give it a funny, or punny, dead-on name.

Third step: Investigate the trait’s history in your lineage.

Here’s some background with me and holidays: I was raised by an anti-consumerist, atheist-ish, dad who does not believe in holiday gifts or celebrations, and a mother who is well, I love you mom, but also a control freak and has a compulsion to try to make everyone happy.

My version? A control freak who wants to make everyone happy but doesn’t even really believe in all the gift giving bullshit anyway. Me = my mom + my dad. Obviously, my operating system has a few glitches. But knowing this gave me the much needed distance from the stocking stuffed with traits I was born with, and a chance to understand and giggle at it, AND forgive my lineage and myself. In that pause, I chose  to evolve it.

Fourth step: Have fun leashing the trait.

Let your trusted ones help and while you’re at it, in the holiday spirit, exchange it.

So here is my holiday commitment, my promise (a bit stronger, more specific and more keepable than a New Year’s resolution) to you, and most importantly, to me: I’m committed to outwitting the holidays from now on. From here forward, I am replacing HFC with a new trait called “Jingle Bells” and I hereby promise it’s oh what fun to be on this ride with me. Yes, even if I have to pay extra for priority delivery on something. And should I ever scrooge with my family at the holidays again, I also put in a self-imposed consequence: I lose my chocolate treats on vacation. Seems even HFC fights more for her sugar than her own sweetness. So be it. Welcome to the species.

This year, why not join me, take the steering wheel of your sleigh too, and slay 2020!

I ho-ho-hope this helps!



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Laurie Gerber is a Senior Coach and Co-President of Handel Group® Life Coaching. For over 15 years, Laurie has led international events and private coaching courses. She has appeared on MTV’s True Life, A&E’s The Marriage Test, Dr. Phil and TODAY.

Image courtesy of Daria Shevtsova.