Stressed Out Party Host Do you love to throw parties, but find the stress of making it perfect too stressful? BY DR. NEIL FIORE
If you're a compulsive party host, maybe you should relax and enjoy the party.
Why Do I fret about being the perfect host of every party?
The best hosts are the ones who seem to be enjoying the party as much as everyone else, regardless of money spent or pre-festivity prep work. The stress of trying to please everyone is very taxing and can ruin the party for you and the guests who can see how anxious you are. To dig deep to the root of this issue, those most vulnerable to this are people whose parents were critical and perfectionists themselves. Suddenly, what is supposed to be a celebration turns into a final exam or a contest you must win.
Yet, entertaining and seeing old friends can be great fun, unless you try to do it all yourself and make it into a competition with your neighbors. You donít have to do it alone and turn your party into a demonstration of self-sacrifice and worry. You can hire help, have it catered, or even let people know what they can bring. For example, "Bring your favorite beverage and, if your name begins with "A through E", please bring a salad to serve four. We'll provide the silverware, plates, glasses, burgers, hotdogs and buns."
Remember, youíre not running a restaurant in which the guests expect to be served. Most friends will be eager to pitch in and take over some task so you can relax and enjoy the party along with them. Give them the opportunity to feel useful. Then, be gracious in accepting their help.
Can You Help Your Spouse?
It can be painful to watch someone you love torture him or herself with anxiety about creating the perfect party. Your first instinct may be to tell them "Why donít you relax. Theyíre just our friends, not the restaurant critics." Thatís fine if that works. But instead of acting like the superior, calm one, you may find itís more effective to try a bit of reverse psychology in which you become the one whoís more anxious. Consider saying, "Oh my god, thereís so much to do. What if they donít like the hamburgers? What if we run out of beer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir? What if our party is not as good as the Jones'? Maybe we should just call it off."
Regardless of how you respond to your spouseís compulsion to host the best party ever, avoid saying, "Donít worry, itíll be fine." This statement denies his or her feelings. Itís more proactive to say, "Youíre worried, of course. Itís so important to make a good impression. All this pressure is making you anxious. How can I help?"
You also might ask your spouse about their overall objective. Is it to bring friends together and have fun? Or, are they aiming to win the admiration of others for spending the most money and having the best hors d'oeuvres or buffalo wings? If you must compete, why not compete for being the most relaxed host who thoroughly enjoyed the party.
Dr. Neil Fiore is a psychologist practicing in Berkeley, CA, a coach, a speaker, and author of Awaken Your Strongest Self: Break Free of Stress, Inner Conflict, and Self-Sabotage [McGraw-Hill, 2006]. His bestselling guide to overcoming procrastination, The Now Habit [Putnam, 2007], is revised and available at iTunes under "Audio books," and at www.audible.com under "Self-Development." You can schedule phone sessions with Neil at "Coaching" along with his "Free Articles & Tips" at www.neilfiore.com.