Birthdays: a cause for joy or anxiety?

happy birthdayYour Birthday. The day you opened your eyes to see the world for the first time. The day you took your first breath on your own, which was literally, and perhaps figuratively, the moment of your first inspiration! This day is so special that most people in society celebrate it each year, yet people can have different relationships to their birthday. Based on my observations of friends and from my own experience, I’ve seen that birthdays can even become a cause for anxiety and sadness.

As a young child, I can remember the enormous anticipation of my birthday. I have a vivid memory of myself sitting on the steps for hours before my party. I simply couldn’t wait until everyone would be there to celebrate me. Over the years, however, I developed more of an antagonistic relationship with the day. I began to worry about who would remember, who would be available and if I would really feel valued by the people in my life. So much of the anxiety about myself was poured into this single day. For many years, I would pretend I didn’t care about my birthday and prepare myself to be disappointed, which would often become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I found myself focusing on who wasn’t there or what I didn’t get. The reality was that nothing could have made my birthday satisfying because of my attitude and because I wasn’t honest with myself. I love my birthday, but I felt ashamed of that. I had this idea in my head that my birthday should only be as important to me as I perceived it to be to others. Unfortunately, I didn’t perceive it to be very important to others because they couldn’t read my mind about exactly what I wanted. I was setting myself up.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed that I can only enjoy my birthday when I enjoy it shamelessly. This means that, first and foremost, I allow myself to feel unbridled joy about being alive and the person that I am. I get in touch with this through writing, meditation, singing or some other more personal activity. A shameless birthday is also one where I am completely honest about how much it means to me and about what I want from others who are close to me. There still might be disappointments but I feel true to myself, and that feels good.

Finally, it’s nice to have attention on one’s birthday but gratitude is an equally important and enjoyable part of the day. This helps me to cultivate the most important ingredient to a happy birthday, which is a sense of “enough.” I focus on appreciating the people who are present instead of wasting precious birthday minutes worrying about how many people will come out for drinks. It’s easy to get caught up in numbers, especially if you’re planning an event, but I think it’s important to ask yourself why the numbers matter so much to you. Are you genuinely dealing with logistics or are you trying to prove something to yourself or others? If it’s the latter, then it might be time to have a gratitude break to feel or show appreciation for the people who are most important.  I find it’s hard not to feel loved and satisfied when I think about the few people who really help to shape and enrich my life every day in a positive way.

In the spirit of gratitude, I’d like to thank you all for reading my blog and celebrating life with me on Shameless Inspiration. Thank you for helping to make this a shameless birthday. I hope you all can enjoy the same on your special day!

What’s your relationship to your birthday? How do you celebrate?

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