How to have a less perfect, more happy Christmas

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • Ditch the stress of trying to achieve the 'perfect' Christmas and aim for happy and contented instead, says author Chris Ward. Here's how to lower your standards and actually enjoy the festivities

    Words by Chris Ward

    Christmas is coming. And so, it seems, is an onslaught of anxiety. Do you feel pressure to deliver the perfect day for everyone? To purchase glorious gifts and host friends and family in a festive pad decked for Instagram likes?

    Perhaps you’re taking on all this pressure alone, too: working tirelessly to create a magical day for everyone, but unable to delegate because you just can’t trust anyone to do it quite as well as you would.

    Please stop. Brew a cup of tea and read on. Because Christmas can be relaxing and contented.

    But before I tell you how, let me start by saying that you are not alone in wanting Christmas to be perfect. Millions feel the same. In fact, we face an epidemic of people who feel they constantly have to prove themselves to be not just ‘good enough’, but perfect. Sound familiar? It’s called obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), and is characterised by extreme perfectionism, order, and neatness.

    And Christmas, of course, is a breeding ground. After all, hosting Christmas lunch offers up the ultimate challenge to prove yourself worthy in front of your whole family.

    Add to that the never-ending pressure of social media and advertising, and you can see why adults are increasingly becoming obsessed with proving themselves worthy – despite the obvious fact that we were never born to be perfect.

    At times, this obsession can make us appear uncaring and we might struggle to relate to each other as we drive on for perfection. But, underneath it all, we’re a maelstrom of emotions, suffering in silence with anxiety or even depression.

    So, how can we check ourselves and our behaviour? How can we have a less perfect, more happy Christmas? And, going forward, how can we learn to carry that feeling beyond the festive season?

    happy Christmas


    Firstly, understanding the reasons behind your pursuit of perfection will enable you to start overcoming it. It can be a long process (as detailed in my book, Less Perfect More Happy) but, for the time being, this will enable you to park the OCPD over the festive break – and acknowledge that it’s unlikely to be anyone’s fault. The truth is, we live in a world that now demands perfection as the base line. And it’s simple impossible to achieve.

    To quote the BBC, ‘many of us believe perfectionism is a positive but researchers are finding that it is nothing short of dangerous, leading to a long list of health problems – and that it’s on the rise.’ So, don’t try to have an impossible Christmas. Host one that allows you to relax, and one that allows those around you to relax, too.

    Put relationships first; acknowledge other points of views; compromise, and sometimes (very occasionally) admit you could be wrong! Let others do things their way, and understand that happiness comes from what’s already inside your head and around you – not from a ‘perfect’ Christmas dinner.

    If you believe you don’t need to prove anything to anybody, and you don’t strive to deliver an impossible Christmas, you will be able to enjoy the one that’s already right in front of you – imperfectly happy and just waiting for your presence.

    Less Perfect More Happy by Chris Ward is available to purchase on Amazon and in all good book shops now. Visit

    Reading now

    Popular Life stories