“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence.”   Frederick Douglass
As we finish off Thanksgiving leftovers and enter into the apex of the holiday season, many of us have idealistic thoughts of how those around us should behave during this sacrificial time of year. Christmas is a wonderful holiday for many reasons. Specifically for bringing together family and friends, some of which we may not see any other time of year. Social media would have us believe that everyone should get along and have cheerful conversations during the holidays, but that’s not always realistic. This time of year brings together people from many different places, who are all trying to make the most of life, sometimes in very different ways. So, how do we maintain confidence in our own beliefs and actions while still respecting the perspectives of others? 
Fredrick Douglass, an African American political figure who grew up as a slave in the south during the 1800s, took advantage of the infinite opportunities he had to practice his people skills. He had a strong personality, was a firm believer in equality for all people and believed that good communication was the key to creating alliances. He fought for the rights of his people at a time when being an outspoken black man was not easy.  It was a fine line to walk, but Douglass did it well. The ability to converse with people of many different opinions and ethics while maintaining confidence in your own opinions and ethics is a skill that must be practiced in order to be mastered. Being discerning of when to listen, when to respond and when to give the other person the last word without resentment, is an art worth developing, not only in the political arena or during the holidays, but in daily life everywhere. 
Enjoying the “holiday madness” has a lot to do with continuing to be yourself even if everyone around you seems different in one way or another. Sometimes it takes a little mental preparation to walk in to a room full of opinions and be able to hold on to your own. But being yourself, even if it’s not what everyone else wants you to be, is crucial to being happy.  After all, you’re the one who has to live with you.  The tricky part is learning how to be gracious while also maintaining your own values and integrity.  And that, I think, is worth reflecting on….

By: Francine Costanza, LCPC