Really, the title of this should be, ‘Things to do and why to celebrate your own birthday (even if you hate your birthday): how I am learning to celebrate my birthday.’ Because celebrating my own birthday is hard for me. Even though I make a fuss for other people on their birthday, I downplay my own. Not because I’m worried about my age, it just feels uncomfortable to make a fuss.
Maybe you’re the same way? You know, maybe you don’t tell anyone at the office, or make any special requests of friends or family to help you celebrate. And we hide the notification on Facebook (yes, you can do that–but I’m not going to tell you how) and you just try to get by it with as little fuss as possible.
But birthdays are important.
By the end of this post, I want you to be convinced about why it is SO SO important to celebrate your own birthday! And also have some handy ideas on how to do some small things to celebrate! (Baby steps, right?)
I have quite a few birthday traditions I’ve made for our family. The birthday person selects the food for all the meals for the day, including where to go out to dinner, of course. And we decorate the house so that when they wake up in the morning, it already looks like a celebration, even if we aren’t having a party. We haul out the baby albums and share the birth story. We stack up the presents and cards on the table and don’t open them until dinner. And there is singing and a cake and a big to-do about wish-making over the candles.
It’s pretty fun.
But when my birthday rolls around, I have a very hard time with allowing a celebration that focuses on ME. Over the years, I just try to get my excited family to move past it as quickly as possible.
Yeah, it’s sending mixed messages about birthdays.
A few years ago, the Middlest made an off-handed remark that I don’t like birthdays. I was so taken aback and I quickly corrected her.
“I love birthdays!”
So, she clarified:
“You don’t like celebrating YOUR birthday, mom.”
It honestly bothered her.
And I didn’t want her to think that it was an age-thing (it’s not, I’m glad to be getting older! Because, ya know, I’m not ready for the alternative…), or that woman can’t be happy about their birthday (since her dad treats his own birthday like a reasonable person). So I worked to figure out why I had such an odd reaction to celebrating my own birthday.
I thought about it for a long time and, as with most of our weird responses to things as adults, it stems from childhood hurts. For me, it’s largely based on not wanting to draw attention to myself, or think of myself as ‘special’. Because that’s what birthdays are all about.
I’m guessing that if you don’t like celebrating your birthday, there are past hurts and expectations and things that happened to you when you were younger.
I’m sorry it has lingered for both you and me.
Let’s get over it, shall we?
This isn’t said in a trivial way. It has taken me years (and I am still in the process of it), but at what point do we choose to live the life we want to be in?
My friend, Heather, LOVES birthdays. ANYBODY’S birthday. She makes a big whoop-de-do about it. Takes photos with people JUST SO SHE CAN POST A BIRTHDAY POST SPECIFICALLY ABOUT THEM ON THEIR BIRTHDAY. She has a hashtag on Instagram you should follow for the pure joy of it: #heatherlovesbirthdays .
She absolutely KNOWS how to make people feel special on their birthday.
I have never seen anything like it–this genuine birthday-related excitement.
This is what she told me when I asked her why she was so enthusiastic about birthdays:
I love birthdays. All birthdays! More than anything. Certainly more than anyone over the age of 10 should…Birthdays are the one day we aren’t celebrating future potential or past accomplishments. We aren’t getting kudos for who we are or what we have or what we did. It’s a day we can simply celebrate the fact that we ARE.
That we are alive. That we exist. That we are here now, against all odds. That in a world of 7.7 billion living, breathing people on planet Earth, there is not a single other person exactly like us. There never was. And there never will be again.
Numbers go over my head (whoosh!) but the solid, unshakeable belief that each and every one of us is a wonderfully unique precious treasure, worthy of being loved deeply exactly as we are without having to DO or BE anything, is one I will gladly spend all the rest of my birthday wishes to make others see for themselves. —Heather Rose Chase via Instagram
I know, right? I had never really thought about the fact that most other human celebrations are about what we have done or are about to do.
Birthdays are the only celebration of the fact that you just exist. This is why it is important to celebrate them.
So, in an effort to bridge the dichotomy between how I celebrate other people’s birthdays and my own, I’ve investigated ways to celebrate my own birthday. Because, as with lots of areas of growth in my adult life, I want to model healthy grown up behavior to my girls.
I would NEVER want my kids to think that their mere existence is not enough reason for lavish celebration.
Here are 6 ideas I love to help me (and you, I hope) celebrate our own birthdays!
1. Take the day off work.
Yes, you can. Plan it months in advance (um, because you know the day) so work flow can be adjusted. If your birthday falls on a weekend, take the day before or after off. Now, this is the important part: when people ask WHY you are taking the day off, TELL THEM IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY. You can do it. It’s not unexpected for you to have a birthday. It’s kind of an annual thing. No one will be shocked.
If you work from home, still put it on your calendar and when you can’t have coffee with a friend or plan a meeting for that day, TELL THEM IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY.
2. When people wish you a happy birthday, say, ‘Thank you! I appreciate your good wishes!”
That’s all you have to say. Don’t make it awkward by explaining your feelings on birthdays or whatever. And you can follow up by asking when their birthday is if you need to and want to pencil it in to send them a note when it’s their day.
3. Do what you want to that day.
If you like being by yourself, take some time to do that. But be open to celebrating with other people and doing something you would like to do. Want to see a movie? Invite others to come with you for your birthday! Be honest about where you want to go to dinner–where do YOU want to actually go? Waffling around on a decision so you don’t pick a place others don’t want to go is a bit too generous for today. They can suck it up. It’s not like you are going someplace that serves spiders (I mean, probably). You don’t have to be a tyrant, but standing firm is absolutely the thing to do today.
4. If there was ever a day for some intense self-care, it’s today.
What helps you take care of your body? Yoga? Or the expensive juice place? Massage? That sheet mask facial you’ve been eyeing? Paint your nails (or have someone do it for you), exfoliate with the nice scrub you’ve been saving. This is a day to treat your fabulous body well. And also, with cake.
5. Say YES to any birthday offers of celebration that you would love to do.
If your friend wants to take you to lunch, the answer is YES. If someone wants to get you a present? The answer is YES, THANK YOU SO MUCH! And the more you open yourself up to celebrating the life of a human on this earth, the more permission it gives people to recognize how special birthdays are. You are empowering other people by your example.
6. Celebrate the whole month!
Look, I’ve been weird about birthdays for so long now that my friends and family do not know what to do with me. They want to celebrate me, but they also do not like the weird energy I put out about any attempt to do so. But we have grown accustomed to just trying to get the day over with a balance of enough-but-not-too-much celebration .
So, to take the pressure off the ONE WEIRD DAY I HAVE MADE IT INTO, I am going to try celebrating in small ways all month. This gives me a chance to be intentional about looking for ways to celebrate and it’s not a One and Done kinda thing. It is the excuse to go to that exhibit I want to see. And go OUT to a movie. And reach out to that friend I haven’t seen and invite them for coffee to reconnect. BECAUSE IT’S MY BIRTHDAY AND I WANT TO.
Know that it is okay to celebrate your own birthday. It is not selfish or egotistical. It is honoring of humanity to see the value in each of us. You are ‘an us’.
Let other people celebrate you, too. Isn’t it awesome you have had an impact on people? And they want you to know that they are glad you were born?
Okay, now go unhide your birthday on Facebook.
Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash – thanks!