Take a moment to think about what it’s like being human. What is it that makes you human? There’s your physical body. You also possess certain gifts that come with being human, like the ability to reason, plan, and relate with others. Then there are shortcomings all humans face. For example, you’ve only got a limited amount of strength, time, and resources.

This may all seem pretty obvious, but it can be easy at times to forget about being human. Instead, we begin operating in one of two ways:

  1. Superhuman: Take the holiday season, for instance. You may experience an enormous amount of pressure to operate outside of your limits: stretch the finances, attend every event, make everybody happy, do everything just right to create the perfect memories. And those aren’t bad things to desire – the only problem is that if we push ourselves to perform at a superhuman capacity, eventually our resources hit rock bottom, and that’s when feelings of failure and shame can creep in. The message we keep telling ourselves is, “You should be more than this!”
  2. Subhuman: When you struggle to meet expectations for yourself, or if you were treated poorly growing up or in important relationships, you can find yourself falling into a mindset that you’re somehow less than other people. Feeling subhuman can also happen during the holiday season, especially if we’re around others who put us down or bulldoze over boundaries. We may end up avoiding setting boundaries at all or try to fade into the background as guilt and shame set in. The message we end up telling ourselves here is, “You’ll never be enough.”   

Giving yourself the time and space to be human can be liberating. Instead of reaching for unattainable perfection or feeling so much despair you avoid reaching for anything at all, you get to be you. Being human means, you’re allowed to make mistakes without it being a sign of total personal failure. You also have the right to dignity and respect. The message for ourselves and everyone around us becomes, “It’s okay to be you.”

Pete Walker has a list on his website of specific rights all humans have: http://www.pete-walker.com/humanBillofRights.htm.  If you take a moment to skim through the list, what stands out to you? Which rights are easiest for you to claim? Which ones do you wrestle with? Think about which human rights you want to keep in mind this holiday season as you relate to others and to yourself.