So… today's my birthday!
The way I think about celebrating birthdays has evolved. I used to focus more on meeting other people’s expectations, even as an adult.
Increasingly, though, I appreciate that my birthday is a special opportunity to reflect on my own needs and really cater to them, even if it’s not in the way most people would expect. Sometimes instead of a party, a quiet night in to rest and recharge fits the bill.
The truth is, you’ll do your friends and family members a favor if you let them know what you’d really like so they don’t have to try to guess. People genuinely want to make you happy on your birthday, so a little guidance helps them help you.
Personalize your birthday. What Makes YOU happy?
Last year in the midst of the COVID pandemic I asked my housebound family to dress up in black tie for my birthday. Restaurants were closed and we couldn’t go out anywhere, so why not make staying home special?
Per my request we made a “surf and turf” dinner and ate by candlelight. To top it off my husband got me the Barbie cake of my 3rd grade dreams.
Back in the day (like when I was 8) I secretly wanted a Barbie cake, but was afraid to ask. For one thing, it didn’t occur to me that you could ask for a particular cake—I was just appreciative to get a cake of whatever kind.
Also, as a budding feminist, a Barbie cake felt wrong. This was back even before Barbie famously said “Math class is tough,” but the negative gender stereotypes she represented were obvious and insulting to me.
Fast forward to today. Barbie has changed a lot. For instance, last summer Barbie issued dolls celebrating six women of science, specifically those who are role models in the fight against COVID. They included health care workers, a vaccine developer, and an advocate against systemic racism in healthcare.
I’ve changed, too. I’m all about women fully embracing traditional femininity AND simultaneously breaking stereotypes to wield power and influence in business, politics, academic research, you name it. It’s not an either or: it’s a yes, and. And honestly, my Barbie cake was fabulous (both to look at and to eat). Am I right?
Around the time that I was secretly wishing for a Barbie cake, my future husband, also in grade school, decided that he hated birthday parties and asked his parents never to throw one for him. I admit to being confused by his more introverted approach to birthdays at first, but it makes sense to me now.
The big point is, everybody is different, and you may crave different things at different points in your life. Also, kudos to young Eric for his self actualization at an early age!
So when it’s your birthday, don’t just please other people. Make sure you are really making it your unique day. Think through what really makes you happy. Communicate your wishes in advance to your closest family and friends.
It’s about your mindset
Genuinely enjoying your birthday (or really any day) doesn’t have to involve dramatic gestures. On this day, take the opportunity to be unusually mindful of the details of your daily life. Be grateful for the years you’ve spent on this earth, appreciate the small things, and plan for the future.
So yes, take an extra minute to savor your coffee, to get dressed in clothes that make you feel good, to see the beauty of nature (or the city) around you. Go to bed early the night before so you feel rested. Focus on the opportunities you have, recognize how far you’ve come, and the people who’ve helped you along the way. No matter what you do, enjoy it!
Ideas on how to make your birthday special for yourself
Below is a list of ideas to make your big day special for yourself. Some may resonate with you more than others. The point is, personalize it for yourself!
1.) Share breakfast, lunch, and dinner with different people
Take one person to breakfast, another to lunch, and another to dinner. Prioritize close relationships you want to have one-on-one time with. You can go to your favorite restaurant or lunch via Zoom if need be. I plan to have a virtual birthday lunch with my friend Evan.
2.) Exercise with someone you love
Lauren on the AdaRose team isn’t just into fitness—she’s a certified health coach. It’s important to her to work out, but her husband isn’t always equally enthusiastic. On her last birthday, Lauren invited her husband to do a workout she created in a parking lot near where they live. They brought their dog, got some fresh air, and had a great time. Maybe yoga or a hike is more up your alley, but why not ask a friend to join? It’s hard to say no to you on your birthday!
3.) Accomplish a task you’ve been putting off
Do you ever feel like a particular chore is permanently stuck on your to-do list? It might actually make you happy if you just got it over with. Better yet, can you recruit a friend to make it less miserable as a birthday favor? I’m talking about clearing out that messy corner of the basement, or one of those awful chores adulting requires involving phone trees and calculators and your checkbook. Feeling free at last is quite a gift.
4.) Pamper yourself with a spa day
At AdaRose we’ve spoken with many women (and men) about what self care and a day to relax looks like to them. Spending time at a spa is a top activity for many. It’s that combination of peace and quiet, skin care, stress relief, and feeling taken care of by someone else. If this is up your alley, be sure to sign up for our Self Care Experience wait list.
5.) Reflect deeply on your life
One friend of mine takes several days each year around the time of her birthday and heads into the woods alone to reflect on her life: where she’s come from, where she’s headed, and where she needs to adjust her course. Not everyone would feel at home alone in the woods, but I love that she’s tapping into her Native American ancestry. Even if the woods aren’t your thing, you can plan a weekend or even a “meeting” with yourself to really pay attention to your big picture.
There are plenty of other good ideas to celebrate your special day, including throwing a party with your friends and family, sharing an experience together, binge watching your favorite show, or collecting donations to contribute to a cause you care about. What are we missing? How do you truly celebrate your birthday? And what has been your favorite birthday celebration to date, and why?