I love this time of year.
I love the variation of colored lights in all the neighborhoods. I love the colder weather that requires sweaters, scarves, and coats. I love the smell of a fire burning in a chimney in some house further down my brick-lined street.
I love wrapping gifts and stacking them in neatly arranged piles. I love addressing cards by hand and affixing them with postage stamps, then dropping them through the proper slot at the busy post office. I love the bustle of a store full of people shopping for the special someones in their lives.
I love watching Patrick Stewart’s version of A Christmas Carol. I love cozying up in pajamas while Christmas music fills the house with soft melodies. I love the Christmas incense smells. I love watching the person I most love open the gifts I picked especially for him and read the words I wrote only for him.
But this time of year also comes with its share of anxiety-provoking moments.
During these days we dress up for holiday gatherings. We descend on spaces full of people we know and don’t know. We catch up with folks we haven’t seen all year. We put our best foot forward in the way we look and the things we say.
These moments are hard for me.
Perhaps they are hard for you, too. If so, I hope the following words encourage you.
Earlier this year, a dear friend of mine spent extended time at a retreat with a group of women she didn’t know. She went as a favor to someone she loves. About halfway through the first evening, she sent me a text message that said being with this group of strangers was hard. She felt unknown and unseen, and there was still a full day left to go.
After thinking for a moment, I replied with the most sincere words I knew to say:
If only they knew how amazing you are.
I knew that any person in that room, if they really knew my friend, would count themselves lucky to know her. I knew this because it’s the way I feel about knowing her. I am lucky to know who she really is.
In the last week or so, I’ve had my share of awkward moments, social anxiety, and self-doubt in large social settings. I’ve dressed up for holiday gatherings and wondered if I looked okay. I’ve entered spaces full of people, unsure whether I would know anyone else. I’ve introduced myself to strangers and scrambled to keep the conversation going. I’ve wondered if what I had to say was interesting at all. I’ve wondered how to penetrate the small talk so prevalent in those spaces in order to ground the conversation in greater depth. I’ve wished I could sit down with the people I had met and share a cup of coffee and some more extended conversation.
Don’t get me wrong.
I had a lot of fun at all these engagements and met so many people I would like to know even more. I laughed a lot and lingered longer than I thought I would in some cases, simply because the time was so much fun. But I am also someone who, upon joining a large group gathering, would most likely be found throughout the night curled up on the couch in the corner with one or two other people, having one good conversation that lasts for several hours. That’s just the kind of person I am. That’s the way my energy best flows.
So a couple times in the past couple weeks or so, because my friend knew I was interacting in those large-group spaces and likely to have those socially introverted feelings, she reminded me of those words I had originally given to her. This time, she applied them to me:
Aren’t they lucky to get to know you!
How lucky they’ll be if they get to know you a little better.
Hearing those words really helped. It helps to be reminded that we are more than what we wear or how well we can connect with small talk. It helps to remember that we are more than our first impressions … or even our second, third, or fourth impressions.
And so I share the same with you.
In these days when we’re all preparing for moments shared with people we may not know very well, may not know at all, or may not see all that often throughout the rest of the year, take these words with you:
You are so much more than any social gathering can contain. You are infinitely mysterious and full of depth. You have thoughts, feelings, ideas, and impressions that surpass the limits of small talk. It takes time and intentionality to really know you, and you are so worth that time and intentionality.
These words are so true for each one of us. They’re true, too, of those we engage in those social spaces. Those persons, too, are full of mystery and depth we cannot possibly plumb in those few moments in time we share with them.
It is my hope that these words encourage you in a holiday that is special and full of meaning but also often fraught with anxiety-provoking moments. In these days left of this holiday season, remember that each person you encounter, if only they knew how amazing you are, would count themselves truly lucky to know you. I know that I do.