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Are Women Putting Extra Pressure on Themselves at the Holidays?

A woman feels broken by pressure at the holidays

She is stressed at the holidays. Photo via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

In the majority of cases, I think the answer to this headline is “yes.” As a woman, I often try to live up to societal expectations of me at the holidays. Let me give you a personal example from this year and then look at some of the articles I found online that show some disturbing stats.

Speaking From Personal Experience

I have already been to several holiday parties this season. I even co-hosted a Christmas dinner. Each time I went to a party, I bought a gift for the host. Not just any gift. I searched for the “perfect” presents, which in hindsight makes no sense as there’s nothing perfect in the world. Not only that but what’s wrong with giving something that’s not perfect? What’s the worst thing that could happen?

While thinking about this notion I realized, well, I was never asked to bring a gift to any party. In fact, one of my friends said just showing up was gift enough. I bought a present, regardless. I took it all upon myself. Oh, the pressure. I felt stressed. I lost sleep thinking about what to get as the present. All for what was supposed to be a fun Christmas party.

And don’t even get me started on figuring out what to wear to each party. Would a dress, a skirt, or a nice pair of pants be appropriate? But then what about the hair? And I would have to wear makeup, of course. Again, today, I ponder about all of this.

Would anyone have cared if I hadn’t worn makeup? I certainly didn’t put on mascara for myself; I’ll tell you that. Instead, it was more that I didn’t want to be judged for not dressing “the part.” And the part is one that I created. Or, more likely, that I feel pressured by society to partake in after seeing photos in magazine articles of perfect females dressed up from head to toe at holiday parties. Yes, they always have makeup on, of course.

Are Other Women Stressed Too at the Holidays?

So then I started to think, I need some inspiration here, something to get me out of this funk of putting all of these demands on myself. I looked for articles about women to see how other females were coping with the holidays and whether they were having more of a relaxing time than I. To say that I was disappointed with the results is putting it mildly. I was actually disturbed by what I read online.

Here is what I found:

  1. The results of a study that found one-third of women would consider not going to a Christmas party if they were menstruating at the time.
  2.  A study determined that women spend about three months over their lifetime Christmas shopping. And men are 24 days less than that, by the way.
  3. Results of a poll of 2,000 women showed that women spent twice as long planning what to wear to a party as they did for the actual event.

Just looking at these articles again makes me feel a little queasy. Of course there are also messages around us of females being beautiful as we are, exactly as we are, and they are wonderful! I love the inspiring posts on social media that say these kinds words. But, if we really believed it, then why would we as women keep putting so much pressure on ourselves to look good for others and get the perfect gifts for the holidays?

Trying to Find a Consensus

There seems to be a disconnect between two media messages. There are the glossy magazine covers of airbrushed models and actresses that line the shelves at the grocery stores and bookstores.

Then there are empowering songs like “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten, as well as campaigns that stress a woman’s beauty is inside her, namely in her mind. It can all be confusing, not just for girls but for adult women too. Somehow we need to find a way to alleviate the pressure put on woman at the holidays.

Does any of this strike a chord with you?



  1. Graham in Hats December 21, 2016

    I wonder if it is something in the way that we are raised that creates such drives or is it the media or our peers or a mix of these.

    I think we can only truly control ourselves and be free when we know the origins of our reactions.

    Merry Xmas :-)

    1. Christy B December 22, 2016

      Peer pressure may indeed be a factor. You offer plausible explanations here, Graham. Thank you and Merry Christmas to you too :)

  2. rollyachabotbooks December 21, 2016

    Hi Christy…
    Society and expectations create what… nothing more that the replica as seen in magazines. There is nothing more beautiful than a lady who appears as she is. The airbrushed and sculpted look are a poor replacement for the true and real person within. As a man my vote would have to be for the wholesome natural look… it is real and that is what truly counts.

    1. Christy B December 22, 2016

      Hi Rolly, I appreciate your stopping by. Perhaps you prefer the natural look because that is how you are yourself? I think similar personalities are drawn to one another. I wish you a wonderful Xmas season, dear friend!

  3. Aquileana December 21, 2016

    I know what you mean…. Holidays and mainly Christmas should be about more spiritual things than material things… and yet, the stats concerning how women shop speak for themselves. As to other personal demands and extra pressure, I always try to think that all that comes from ourselves. Most times, people don´t care as much as we might think… mainly if they are friends of family. It is important to be “in tune”, whatever it entails, though… We all feel that … but what we might keep in mind is that It is not the most important thing.
    Merry Christmas, my lovely… Aquileana :D

    1. Christy B December 22, 2016

      True that many times people aren’t as attentive to the way we look or act as we think.. which is likely because they’re more focused on themselves ;) I appreciate your reflections here, dear star, and am thankful for your visit :) Merry Christmas to you too!!

  4. Mabel Kwong December 21, 2016

    It sounds all too familiar and as Graham mentioned, it may be due to the media or peer pressure. Each of us are human and we are who we are. No amount of makeup and what we wear can change our true self and deep thoughts.

    I’ll admit I do take time to pick out my gifts, but that is because I really want to put thoughts into them and hope the receiver enjoys it.

    That stat about women not attending parties because they are menstrusting is interesting. I don’t know about that one and have never thought of it that way. But each to their own.

    1. Mabel Kwong December 21, 2016

      Best wishes to you this season ❤

    2. Christy B December 22, 2016

      Happy holidays to you too! <3

    3. Graham in Hats December 22, 2016

      Wishing to please those we care for is perfectly altruistic and, I think, part the most genuine human spirit. Certainly it is an important part of making our world a better place.

      Perhaps part of the problem is how marketing ploys have learned to take advantage of our better nature.

      Merry Xmas anyway. :-D

    4. Christy B December 22, 2016

      I’m glad you wrote about taking time to pick out the gifts so that the receiver enjoys it.. That is a lovely thought, Mabel, and it shows your caring nature :) Yes, the menstruation statistic surprised me too!

  5. Eliza Waters December 21, 2016

    I think it has a lot to do with self-acceptance vs. seeking approval outside of ourselves. Myself, I used to try hard when I was in my 20s and 30s, but as I grew older I realized once I felt comfortable in my own skin, I was accepted. Anyone who rejects me based on superficial things like what I’m wearing or how I look isn’t ever going to be a true friend and it’d be best to look elsewhere. Family on the other hand is a tougher thing to overcome, but it can be done with practice (and distance -ha!)

    1. Christy B December 22, 2016

      You make a good point here Eliza that with time we often become more comfortable in our “own skin” ~ Thank you for the reflections here :) Happy holidays!

  6. Let's CUT the Crap! December 21, 2016

    The female is still the organizer / coordinator / planner whether she works, has ten children, stays at home. No wonder she’s stressed. Some are lucky to have partners who chip in. Hopefully, this will happen more and more. <3 <3 My son-in-law, for example, contributes A LOT, everyday, not just Christmas. :-D

    1. Christy B December 22, 2016

      Yes, how is the working woman supposed to break the glass ceiling when she has all of these domestic pressures on her too.. BUT I’m glad to hear that men such as your son-in-law are taking more of a role around the homestead :)

    2. Let's CUT the Crap! December 23, 2016

      My daughter said (at 11) the guy she marries will do all the cooking. How’d she do that. She tried throwing in that he’d do the housework too, but he passed on that one. :-D :-D :-D

    3. Christy B December 23, 2016

      Hehehe your daughter sounds delightfully spunky :)

    4. Let's CUT the Crap! December 24, 2016

      That’s a word I haven’t used describing her, but I believe you make a good point. Merry Christmas, Christy. <3

    5. Christy B December 25, 2016

      Hehe ;) Happy Christmas, Tess! Let’s say cheers over glasses of wine <3

    6. Let's CUT the Crap! December 27, 2016

      Let’s wait until lunch. It’s 9:13 now. I’ll raise a glass at 3:00 your time. My sister is coming to visit. We’ll probably time it just right. Cheers, Christy. Have a good one. <3

    7. Christy B December 27, 2016

      Hehe, OK, I’ll wait for a more civilized time ;) Have a beautiful visit with your sister <3

    8. Let's CUT the Crap! December 29, 2016

      It was a great lunch. She brought w.i.n.e. o_O . homemade cabbage rolls, and traditional Polish Christmas cookies. I did toast to you, didn’t I?
      How was your Christmas? <3

  7. Poet Rummager December 22, 2016

    So many intriguing points to ponder, Christy. I think how we were raised may play a big role in what expectations we have for ourselves. My mom loved throwing parties and taught me to never visit a person’s home without a gift. She does put a lot of pressure on herself to be the consummate hostess, and I tend to do the same. I find that being organized and planning ahead make things less stressful.

    Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, Christy! 🎄❄❤

    1. Christy B December 22, 2016

      You’re right about planning ahead being helpful ~ I find that too, Rose! Your note about following your mom’s example makes sense as we learn from what we see. Happy holidays and thanks for taking time here! <3

    2. Poet Rummager December 22, 2016

      Your posts are always well conceived with a lot of thought and expertise. It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know you through WordPress. Peace and friendship. xo

    3. Christy B December 23, 2016

      <3 and more <3 is what I'm sending you, Rose!

    4. Poet Rummager December 24, 2016

      Oh, back to you, lovely Christy! <3

    5. Christy B December 25, 2016

      I feel the love, and I thank you!

  8. Louise December 22, 2016

    Ah! I was just thinking earlier this week how ridiculous holiday expectations are on mothers. I had the expectations on women under control – it’s the additional mom ones that have really pushed me to my limits in the last two years. Briefly – I have two daughters so I end up doing all the kids xmas shopping (because I have the “girly toy” details), this includes buying gifts for my mother in law to gift my kids because I appreciate she is too tired to shop. I dug the tree out of storage last week because, well, my husband couldn’t find it. The school this week sent an itemized DAILY list home of additional Christmas activities to complete. In no particular order: white large shirt for youngest (she was an angel in the pageant); white shirt/dark skirt for eldest; PJ day Monday for youngest, PJ day Thursday for eldest; Tuesday SOMETHING – that’s a blur; today is “fun decoration day!” – they are both going with Rudolph ears. Tomorrow I am bringing them to the office because there is a kiddie party and “You’re bringing your kids, right?” So I stayed late last night to get work done that won’t happen then. Getting back to the “just women” stuff – I’ve had six (I think) xmas parties this month – with all the stuff you describe above. Was halfway to the office on Tuesday before I realized I’d left the “under $10” present at home that wasn’t yet “creatively wrapped” for the office party xmas exchange. I’d also missed that I needed it at all until Monday when I’d had to rush out to buy it after work… I’d figured the $20 collection for catered lunch covered that party and had missed the gift detail. But I certainly appreciate all the work the organizers did because, wow.

    For what it’s worth, I spent the last week of November and first week of December this year going to bed at 9:00, eating very well and not drinking to “rest up” for the season, because last year by this time I was on antibiotics for strep throat.

    So yes, chord struck. Sorry about the lengthy comment.

    Happy holidays!

    1. Christy B December 22, 2016

      OH Louise! I’m feeling for you and the week that you are in the midst of.. it’s all a blur right now, isn’t it?! Ironically those children’s activities were created to be “fun” and for parents it can be anything but (although I appreciate the kids enjoy the festive days at school). NEVER apologize for your comments here, no matter how long or short they may be, as I think sometimes just writing down the words can be helpful as they get them off your chest at the very least. Your words tell me that I’m not alone at all in the pressure being felt and that at some point we have to let it all go and enjoy this so-called joyous season.. but how to do so when there are expectations and images and .. sigh.. there’s got to be a better way.. let’s work on easing the stress for next year ;) At least I’m glad you had that early bedtime over the last few weeks as that’s a nice treat xx Happy holidays :)

    2. Louise December 22, 2016

      Thanks Christy! You too! And yes, there’s got to be a better way. Happy Holidays!

    3. Christy B December 23, 2016

      <3 Sending love!

  9. Rajagopal December 22, 2016

    Pressure of gifting and decking up for the occasion can spiral out of control taking a heavy toll if one is not sure how to strike a balance. And balance, it must be stated even if it sounds cliched, is achievable only through moderation and simplicity. Just keep it simple Christy and be happy.

    1. Christy B December 22, 2016

      A “balance” certainly is the goal. Scaling down is a good plan :) Thanks Raj

  10. shehannemoore December 22, 2016

    Consider just having a good swallow of some wine and saying the hell with it my darling. Works every time x

    1. Christy B December 23, 2016

      Aha, now why hadn’t I thought of that? ;)

    2. shehannemoore December 23, 2016

      Well…. cos you was being good !!!!! x

    3. Christy B December 25, 2016

      Haha ~ Sending love! <3

  11. Dee December 22, 2016

    I do think the holidays can put stress upon us as we try to find the right present or that special dress. The social environment, depending upon who is at the party, can cause some anxiety. I had several parties to attend this year but I just faced them as a time to enjoy being with people. Have a wonderful Holiday with your family, Christy.

    1. Christy B December 23, 2016

      Oh yes it’s a recipe for anxiety.. but I am feeling calmer knowing that it is almost the big day and that I have friends like you xx Happy holidays to you too, Diana!

  12. dgkaye December 22, 2016

    Wonderful post Christy. I love getting dressed to go out as it’s something that’s become not very often since I began writing books, lol. But yes, buying the ‘perfect’ gift is stressful for me. I’ve always been a ‘do unto others . . .’ kind of girl and that extends to my choice of gifts. I never want to be the one to gift someone with something that will get thrown in a closet or collect dust on the shelves, I try to get something no matter how small that would be appreciated, despite the old saying, ‘it’s the thought that counts’, lol.
    Now I have to say, I’m also glad for online shopping, it makes the search a bit more bearable.
    Merry Christmas my sweet friend. <3 xo

    1. Christy B December 23, 2016

      I did some online shopping too, Debs ~ I think it’s so convenient as we’re already writing away at the computer so it’s just a new tab on the browser ;) Love you! <3

    2. dgkaye December 23, 2016

      Yay for you! Exactly, I love that, ‘just another tab’ lol. Merry Christmas my friend. Love and big hugs! <3 xo

    3. Christy B December 25, 2016

      LOVE to you too on this blessed Christmas day and always <3

    4. dgkaye December 25, 2016


  13. Merry christmas

    1. Christy B December 25, 2016

      Awww thanks and a beautiful Christmas to you too :)

    2. Thanks. ^.^

  14. Graham Stephen December 24, 2016

    Happy Holidays, Christy! Hope you don’t get too stressed ;-)

    1. Christy B December 25, 2016

      I’m feeling more relaxed already :) Happy holidays to you too, Graham!

  15. Inese Poga Art plus Life December 25, 2016

    Well, it’s not worth being stressed out. I usually walk through the store on the last day before Christmas or even on 24th because that’s when stores are not crowded and choose whichever I think is fine. I also give my paintings as gifts and people usually like them. I sometimes do some sewing, and I sometimes decide to make a new outfit 3 hours before party.
    I would advise to use just as much or as little makeup as you normally do because otherwise it can be time-consuming. I use makeup always, so it doesn’t take me much time, some 10 minutes, tops, the same about hair. Realistically, nobody cares if you wear skirt or pants, unless that’s a dress code party. Certainly, do not stress about gifts. I get tired, though, because cooking can be very tiring, and I do not like ready made or out-of-the-box anything. I am a good cook, so I can really multitask, and that also takes about 3 hours to make a very good table. Going to a party, one at least doesn’t have to cook, so you should be really enjoying. Well, never stress out about anything nice! Happy New Year, creative and wonderful 2017!

    1. Christy B December 27, 2016

      Great advice here that you’ve given, Inese! It’s wonderful that you always give such creative gifts and even make your own outfits to wear for the parties ~ Happy 2017 ahead to you too! <3

  16. farukshah December 26, 2016

    hi,,happy Xmas

    1. Christy B December 27, 2016

      I hope you had a wonderful Christmas too!

  17. L. T. Garvin, Author December 27, 2016

    Christy, yes I think women add stress upon themselves not only at holiday time but also day to day. A lot of it, as you touched upon, is courtesy of celebrities who are always perfectly styled even if they are pretending to dig in the garden. Now, courtesy of Instagram and Facebook we have the daily reminders of how we measure up. Even though you didn’t have to bring hostess gifts, I think it was very thoughtful of you and also adds a nice personal touch that I’m sure was quite appreciated by the hostesses. I’m from the South, so we are big believers in that :D

    1. Christy B December 27, 2016

      Thanks for adding in the point about social media affecting our views on ourselves.. and there’s all those photo filters that are used on the social apps to make people look “perfect”.. it’s natural to compare ourselves to them.. although an unfair thing to do.. Thanks for taking time to share such a thoughtful comment :)

    2. L. T. Garvin, Author December 27, 2016

      Sure thing. It was a great, thought provoking post!

  18. Resa December 27, 2016

    Can’t believe I missed this post.
    Of course I have been very distracted by Christmas, the parties, the events and everything you mention in this article.
    Presents, well, I’m over that. The host/hostess gets wine &/or chocolates.
    Make up – 15 minutes, hair – wash, air dry, brush; all just enough to feel clean, healthy and groomed.
    Clothes are my hell hole. I set about 3 hours aside for dressing. This is after I have consulted my closet off & on for several days prior. Hmm, I might need to change my outfit in my Gravatar.
    Now, I ask myself, “is this because I am a woman, or a costume designer?
    Much love and best of the holidays to you, Christy! You are awesome!!!
    (I am blogging in slippers, the best old lumberjack shirt I’ve ever had, and knotted hair.) oxoxo

    1. Christy B December 29, 2016

      Hi Resa, oh how love the honesty of your post here <3 I'm hoping you are able to set aside 2 hours instead of 3 to dress for the next party ~ That way you can use the extra hour having blogging fun with Aquileana and I ;) Hehe.. Love that you are lounging as you blog and enjoying every moment of it. So wonderful to see you here xx

  19. Peter Day December 28, 2016

    Me & the ex should’ve been divorced years ago then!! Her stress level went sky-high at any occasion, kids birthday parties, Xmas, Easter etc etc…then it was passed to me,the kids,animals…..sounds like the chain event equation……
    Chill pills should be made & handed out free!!!!! 😂😂😂😂

    1. Christy B December 29, 2016

      Chill pills are exactly what I send you then, hehe :) Great to see you, Pete! Wishing you an amazing 2017 ahead

  20. macjam47 December 29, 2016

    I hear you, Christy. We do it because of social pressure, but also because deep down inside we enjoy dressing and makeup and shopping. But you are right, it does add stress to an already stress-filled season. There is so much to do besides going to parties. The house has to be cleaned and decorated for Christmas. Yes, we do have to find the perfect gifts for those on our lists. There’s wrapping, cards to send, food to prepare, cookies and other goodies to be baked, and perhaps our own parties to plan. Our minds are so full of to-do lists, it’s no wonder deciding what to wear is one more item to stress over.
    Now on the plus side, as a woman gets older, some of that pressure is relieved. We belong to an age where everyone goes in before the street lights come on. No one worries about makeup unless they enjoy putting it on (let’s face it, a wrinkled face doesn’t look any less wrinkled with makeup, and sometimes looks more so). Many party-goers in my age group have gained excess pounds to the point they prefer expand-a-pants and extra-large sweaters, so why should I worry about the perfect outfit. Since I haven’t joined their ranks yet, except for jammies after six, I still enjoy dressing up. I just tell myself, I get more done under pressure.
    I hope your Christmas was filled with love and very merry. Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year. Love and Hugs.

    1. Christy B December 29, 2016

      Hi M!! I love it when you’re here :) You’re dressing up and enjoying it, so I think that’s wonderful! And you’re right that with age some of those stresses do decline, perhaps also because there is more acceptance by the woman of who she is (I hope!). I love lounging in my PJs at night so totally get that. A beautiful, healthy New Year is my wish for you!! Many hugs xxoo

  21. reocochran January 28, 2017

    Okay, now I feel really embarassed! I thought I had been here to comment on your blog and talked about being better connected. . . Obviously, I either didn’t wait long enough for the comment to publish or something else happened (?!) I miss your comments and appreciate your being on my post, liking them and so will try better.
    Women have some challenges to beat stereotypes, we must continue to strive harder to keep on gaining momentum here in the US and around the world. Hugs xo

    1. Christy B February 7, 2017

      No need to feel embarrassed! I appreciate your coming back here and commenting as I know it takes time and we’re all so busy.. let’s keep rising as women and doing our part to crowd out the stereotypes xx You’re a special person!!

    2. reocochran February 7, 2017

      Thank you, Christy! You are most gracious in so many ways. Hugs, Robin
      Congratulations on winning with your poem, dear. <3

    3. reocochran February 7, 2017

      Great suggestion to “crowd out the stereotypes,” Christy. Yes, I will “Rise up!” xo

  22. inesephoto February 16, 2017

    Some girls really enjoy their makeup, we are all different and it is wonderful :)

    1. Christy B February 19, 2017

      Celebrating our differences is a great way to look at it, Inese :)

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