Mallory Welsh, LCSW

I work with many clients who struggle with celebrating their birthday. Perhaps they grew up in a childhood where they celebrated it with their friends and family, a party, a cake, presents, and filled with joy and happiness. I have noticed a trend with my clients that as they get older, they start to dread their birthday.

As their clinical therapist, I help the client to realize some of the reasons why their birthday is a trigger for their anxiety and/or depression. Many times it is based on the fact that they have created a narrative of, “When I was younger, I told myself that at age 30 I was going to be married, have kids, have great job, and live in the suburbs” but instead, “I am currently single, working at a horrible job, accomplished nothing, and living alone in a studio apartment I can barely afford.” One way to help the client cope with their upcoming birthday whether it be 30 or 60 or anywhere in between, I help the client create new narratives about their life in the present moment.

Below is a simple guide on how to create new narratives when approaching your birthday.

  • Focus on your accomplishments. Instead of thinking of all of the things you have not done yet while reaching your birthday, think of all of the amazing things you have done so far. This can be done with journaling or even through narrative therapy with your therapist. You might surprise yourself with how many accomplishments you have completed in your entire life. Give yourself the credit you deserve!
  • Age is nothing but a number! Each year or decade you enter, realize you are only getting wiser and getting to know yourself more, that is, if you are actively showing up for yourself each day, which starts with some self-love and self-care. Starting to look at these numbers as just numbers, will help you change your mindset. Embrace your birthday as a day to reflect on yourself.
  • Reframing your goals. Instead of telling yourself, “I’m already approaching 30 and hate my job and I have no way out” attempt to lean into “I get to go to work and make some money, and I also get to reflect on new career goals and I am capable of making steps toward those goals.”
  • Self-care day. Your birthday is the one day of the year where you can truly guilt free lean into tapping into a day filled with self-care. Use this day as a way to reflect on what brings you joy, whether that means spending time with your friends, family, yourself, going for a run, watching your favorite movie, going to the spa, whatever you want, within reason of course, treat yourself today!
  • Self-compassion. Be gentle with yourself on your birthday. Give yourself a break and tell yourself it is okay that you are not exactly where you thought you might be in life, but you are an evolving person each and every day. Each day you are one step closer to your next goal. Use this day as a marker for motivation for goals for your next birthday.
  • Challenge your thought distortions. Maybe you created this narrative of needing to be married, with kids, and a house at age 30 due to the pressures of society, family, or friends. Reflect on your values that you have created versus what perhaps other people have created. Not everyone has the same values in life, and that is okay!
  • Sit with yourself. If you truly are unhappy on your birthday, sit with those feelings. Our body is essentially an alert system. It tells us when there is something we need, whether that means when we are needing food or water, or maybe even emotional support. Face those feelings in a gentle way. Embrace them as it could be alerting you to start moving in a direction in life that could give you more meaning and happiness.

If you are currently struggling with an upcoming birthday, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.