Why do we set the bar so high for others to celebrate us and so low for celebrating ourselves?
"It was my birthday, and I woke up with all the preconceived notions of how I was supposed to feel, along with the high expectations for how others were supposed to make me feel. "
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They say that “life is what you make it”. And, if life is but a series of moments strung together one-by-one, then I got a real-time reminder of how true “life is what you make it” really is.
It was my birthday, and I woke up with all the preconceived notions of how I was supposed to feel, along with the high expectations for how others were supposed to make me feel.
Our birthday is the one day of the year that we are encouraged- even expected to brandish our entitlement card, a kind of 24-hour golden ticket to be selfish and indulgent. Honestly, shouldn’t we actually be celebrating the mother who bore us?
And so we plan our birthdays accordingly, with all the associated expectations and attachments, simultaneously setting the stage with cliches of what self-care looks like, from the outside while on the inside, we quietly keep score of how others are celebrating us.
Primed and ready either way to provide an acceptable answer to the inevitable question: “what are you doing for your birthday?” or a photo to respond to the “hope your day was amazing” comments.
I resisted the urge to check my social media and feed my ego with the puffed-up proof that I am “liked'' or even “loved” and made myself a cup of tea instead.
My husband had left a card propped up on the kitchen counter, and I smiled, thinking to myself that he always finds the funniest cards. My smile was quickly interrupted by the intrusive judgmental voice of the scorekeeper in my head that said “yeah but…no flowers?”(breath).
I was proud of myself for calling the thought out for what it was - just a thought and disempowered it’s hold on me by replacing it with a thought that served me better and moved instead into the living room to do my morning reading.
To my delight, my husband had made me a fire. Score! Take that unwanted voice in my head! Wait, who's playing the score keeping game now?
I sat down cross-legged on the floor with my book and my tea feeling the warmth of the flame on my back. Life is good, I thought. I noticed that the humidifier was on - wait he must have filled it up for me… he knows how the fire dries out my skin! How thoughtful and unexpected. BIG SCORE! I'm so fortunate, I told myself and when he came into the room I was effusive with my gratitude for his knowing just what I needed. It was so thoughtful of you to think of filling the humidifier ”You must really love me” I said. He looked back at me confused - “I didn’t do that…”
My scorekeeper was in its element, the thoughts came crashing in.
“Oh” I said, and thanked him for the fire and the card (read 2 points) and reached for my phone.
I repeat. “Life is made up of moments and each moment is what you make it.”
In that moment, I allowed myself to be led by all the limiting beliefs of what a “happy birthday” is supposed to look like and, instead of reading which actually would have brought me joy in that moment, I resorted to external validation.
The birthday wishes were coming in at quite a pace already and, out of the 36 or more people so far, there were less than three that I could even recognize or tell you anything about.
“If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all' came into my head and I wondered if just saying something nice without any associated true connection is worse than not saying anything at all. I started to think about the people I hadn’t heard from yet - setting up more expectations for the people I care about - why do we do that?
Why do we set the bar so high for others to celebrate us and so low for celebrating ourselves? Why can’t we believe that we deserve to be celebrated the other 364 days of the year? How can we expect others to celebrate us if we don’t celebrate ourselves- everyday.
If I am counting the conditional things that are met as wins and my judgy saboteur scorekeeping voice is keeping track of expectations that are not met..isn’t that the same thing?
What would be different if we lived up to our own expectations instead of relying on others to prove our worth?
By the end of the day there were over 200 Happy Birthday wishes and, as I write this the belated messages are still coming in. Don’t get me wrong, if you wished me a happy birthday I am grateful for the gesture but in this moment, I am even more grateful for the reminder that it is up to me to celebrate and honor myself and I release you (and by doing so release myself) from all attachments of how we are “supposed to be”. Let’s consider each and everyday our birthday, and celebrate the opportunity to consciously create our lives one moment at a time.