Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson
Question: Once Christmas Day has arrived and the presents have been opened, my children always seem to be disappointed. They’re not ungrateful or bratty, but I’m curious if you have any suggestions on how to beat the “post-holiday blues”?
Dr. Dobson: For children and many adults, anticipation is all too often greater than realization. Our kids were no different. The happy days of Christmas came and went so quickly that my wife and I always sought a way to hold on to the pleasure a while longer. We developed a custom of saving our Christmas cards that came from friends and loved ones far and wide, and after New Year’s Day, we’d put them on a tray near the dinner table. Every night we selected four cards, one for each family member, and we read them and the enclosed letters. We then prayed for those families around our table. This tradition can take months to complete, depending on the number of cards received. With the busy days of Christmas behind us, we could better enjoy the beauty of the cards, and absorb the meaningful verses and personal notes.
The Christmas traditions that we developed through the years were not unique to the Dobson household. But they were extremely meaningful to each member of our family. These activities served to emphasize the two vitally important themes that embody the Christmas spirit: celebration of Jesus’ birth and life, and celebration of love for one another and for the entire human family.
Question: I am nineteen years old, and I have struggled with a bad self-concept all my life. It seems that everyone I know has more to offer than I do. I envy the girls who are better looking, more athletic, or smarter than I am. I just don’t measure up to my own expectations. How can I deal with my own insecurities?
Dr. Dobson: Someone said, “Comparison is the root of all inferiority.” It is true. When you look at another person’s strengths and compare them to your own weaknesses, there is no way to come out feeling good about yourself. That is what you are doing when you pit yourself against the “best and brightest” around you.
This destructive game begins in elementary school when we begin to evaluate ourselves critically. Even at that young age, our selfimage is shaped by how we stack up against our peers. It’s not how tall we are that matters — it’s who is tallest. It’s not how fast we can run — it’s who runs fastest. It’s not how smart we are — it’s who is smartest. It’s not how pretty or handsome we are — it’s who is most gorgeous.
Thus begins a pattern of selfdoubt that often becomes allconsuming during adolescence. For some people it continues well into adult life. This is why millions of women buy fashion magazines and then envy the beauty of the models. It’s why we watch Miss America contests and why some men read about successful and powerful businessmen. When we do that, we’re weighing ourselves against the most admired assets of others. It is an exercise that brings us nothing but pain, and yet we continue to engage in it.
It appears that you are caught up in this destructive pattern. Perhaps a wise counselor or pastor can help you see that you are a worthy human being exactly the way you are and that God has designed you for a specific purpose. Mental and spiritual health begin with an acceptance of life as it is and a willingness to make the most of what has been given. When that is achieved, comparison with others is no longer an important issue.
Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, (www.focusonthefamily.org).