Do You Hear What I Hear? The Voice of ‘The Brat’!

The winter holidays. This is one of my favorite times during the year: being with my family, listening to the familiar Christmas tunes that never get old, gingerbread tea and holiday parties with colleagues and friends whom I rarely see in person. Threatening to sabotage this beautiful time of year is my inner “Brat,” the voice in my head that convinces me I should just “give myself a break” from the things that I know I should be doing.

You see, I have figured out a self-care routine that works really well for me in the rest of my life: how much I exercise, what time I go to bed, what I eat, what odds-and-ends I attend to. I know that if I follow this routine, I will feel great. And yet, during the holidays, my inner Brat cheers loud and hard for me to let it all go and just do whatever I want. After all, it’s the holidays. The Brat might have a good point, if only “letting it all go” really made me happy. But the truth is, that after a few days of letting it all go, I typically don’t feel great, but instead grumpy, stir-crazy and bloated. As much as the Brat resists it, a modified routine is typically my path to happiness during the holidays.

Join me in thwarting your inner Brat this holiday season! To do so, it’s important to first recognize its voice, so that you don’t mistake it for the voice of a good idea. One of my clients from our Coaching Crash Course captured what her Brat said to her during the most recent special occasion in her life. I think this just about sums it up:
• I would seem so boring to everyone else if I don’t participate in all the “fun” of letting go.
• I deserve to eat, drink, say or act however I want, because I am under stress during this time.
• Everyone else is having drinks and eating candy, so I can, too.
• I’m on a break from my regular routine, so that means that everything else can go out the window, too.
• It’s just for this week. I’ll get back to it next week. In the big scheme of things, that isn’t a big deal at all.
• I am doing A LOT with the kids and my family, so I deserve to reward myself.
• Being cooped up is stressful, so I deserve this candy and/or glass of wine to help me relax or unwind.
• How else would I celebrate this “special” occasion?
• I’m helping the economy by eating out, buying candy, buying wine, so I’m really doing a good thing.
• My partner is stressed and his stress wore off on me, so this is his fault, not mine.

Which of these could you relate to? What does the voice of your brat sound like?

Once you know the voice of your brat, it’s time to stop hanging out with it and start making commitments that will help you take care of yourself this holiday season. Here is what I am designing:
• Stick to my normal exercise routine (run, do yoga and lift weights, twice per week, each)
• Stick to my bedtime of 11:30pm, with one “late night” allowed per week.
• Stick to my eating plan, with an additional allowance for one plate of desserts on Christmas.
• Add two additional glasses of wine to my weekly quota.
As you can see, these modifications aren’t huge: they allow for a bit of a splurge, while still giving me the structure that I know will make me happy. My Brat is rebelling even as I write this, because it truly hates accountability. But that’s a good thing, because a holiday without the Brat is a happy holiday indeed.

What is your Brat telling you this holiday season? What commitments will you make to yourself to make sure you feel great?



Dr. Samantha Sutton is a Senior Coach and Vice President and Director of Courses and Seminars at The Handel Group®. Samantha designs and leads the Handel Group’s® flagship workshop, the Life Coaching Crash Course. Samantha additionally coaches at universities such as Stanford and MIT. Prior to becoming a coach, Samantha received a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from MIT. Follow The Handel Group® on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Trent

    Dr. Sutton,

    You are so right.  I find that when I am living a clean and disciplined lifestyle I am much happier than when I “let it go” for a week.  I always end up eating too much, gaining unwanted inches, and feeling unhappy with my behavior.  I think so often we are told certain behaviors will make us happy when in reality they make us feel worse (i.e. excessive shopping, material possessions, promiscuity, bad foods, etc).

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom with the world.


    • Yes indeed. And more than “we are told” that the behaviors will make us happy, our brat fully believes it and cheers for it!

      • Trent

        I’ve never heard the idea referred to as our “brat.”  Mind if I steal that expression for my next book if I let people know where I found it? 😉

        • Hi Trent,

          I love that you love that expression, and am intrigued by this book. Could you tell me more about it?


          • Trent

            Hey Samantha,

            I just finished my first book http://
   10 Days To Your Magic Life.  It’s a step-by-step plan for people to break away from unsatisfying lives and start living with passion.  I’ve gotten a more positive reception than I expected, which is truly a blessing.  The most recent comment was “brought tears to my eyes,” which was very powerful and unexpected.
            My next book is still in development stage and I have an idea that really appeals to me.  I don’t want to put it up publicly yet, in case the idea gets changed or bumped.  Do you have a private message area?  You can reach me at [email protected]:disqus .com.  I would be happy to bounce my ideas off of you and hear your thoughts.

            What projects are you currently working on?


            P.S.  My book is for sale, but if you would like a free copy, email me at the address above and I will send you a PDF version.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the book.

  • SueB

    Dr. Sutton,

    The idea of a modified plan is the best ever!  My inner brat is more about driving me until I fall down, not letting go.  It says that while I got in yoga 6 days last week I should have done the seventh day and each session should have been longer.  I like the idea of finding ways to take it easier on myself, but still with some structure.  Candy and desserts don’t appeal to me much, but just taking some time to sit and work on my knitting project is my desire.  So as long as I get in meditation, exercise, and cleaning/organizing to a certain extent, I will be knitting!  Thanks for your post!

    • Great point, Sue. The brat can come in many forms… not just as an “avoiding” brat but also as an “overachieving” brat. Neither one leaves us fully happy. Good catch on yours.

  • djz

    Well done– and funny.  Perfect combination!