If you’re anything like me, you know that birthdays can trigger massive attacks of nothing less than full-on panic. Especially when you stumble across videos of kids trying to make sense of an old school Game Boy (which was released in 1989, by the way – and that means you’re as old as shit).
It’s easy when another birthday roles around to find yourself comparing your life to the lives of the people you will inevitably stalk on Facebook when you wake up at 3am in a cold sweat, freaking out because you’re going to be 40 someday and your career is at a stand still and all your eggs are shriveling into dusty little raisins.
But instead of getting down on yourself, make your birthday – or any day, really – an opportunity to give yourself the gifts that will help you step into your power and thrive.
1. Knowledge of your awesomeness.
Have you seen the trailer for the new teen movie The DUFF? From what I can tell, it’s basically Pretty in Pink for the Pitch Perfect generation. It’s about a girl whose classmates have ruthlessly labeled her a Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Her mission is to transform herself into someone considered to be “dateable.” To that end, her supportive guy friend reminds her, “You need to realize, you’re only as awesome as you think you are.”
This is actually pretty sound advice. Most of us spend our twenties trying to be what we think the world wants us to be. And this makes sense. We’re on our own in the world for the first time, and we’re trying to live up to the cultural and familial expectations that we’ve internalized. But by the time we reach our thirties, we’re finally starting to understand who we are beneath all those layers of conditioning and oh-so-adorable neuroses. For many of us, our thirties are the first time we can really allow ourselves to start believing that we’re amazing (and totally dateable) just as we are, damn it!
2. They’re called boundaries.
What?? You mean you don’t have time to stay late at the office because you have to go to your son’s soccer game, bake two dozen cupcakes for your daughter’s class, and write the next installment of your popular yoga blog?
It really is okay to say no sometimes. It doesn’t make you a bad employee, a bad spouse, or a bad fill-in-the-blank. You are just as worthy and valuable as all the people you bend over backwards trying to keep happy – so act like it! Showing up for the people you care about is important, but you’ve gotta make your own self-care a priority, too. Otherwise you’ll just be running on empty, and that’s not good for anyone. If you feel like you’ve given all you’ve got, don’t be afraid to drop the mic and walk off stage.
3. Faith in the process.
We live in a culture of go-getters. We’re all supposed to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get on with the business of becoming wildly successful. And while there are definitely advantages to that way of thinking, it can make us feel like pathetic failures if there comes a day when (God forbid!) we don’t have all our shit together.
By the time we reach our thirties, we’ve probably been through enough crap that we understand that life doesn’t always go as planned – and maybe we’re even starting to suspect that it doesn’t have to be a bad thing! It’s a good idea to have a general idea of where you want to go, but don’t be afraid of detours. Remind yourself that even when things don’t go as planned, there’s most likely an important lesson you can learn which, if taken to heart, will help you build a life that’s even more amazing than the one you were so certain you wanted.
4. Body love.
I can’t even. I could talk to you for literally hours on end about the travesty that is the media’s representation of female beauty and the ways in which it makes us feel like we have to diet ourselves into oblivion just to be considered acceptable human beings. We start to believe that unless we conform to ridiculous standards, we aren’t worthy of love or happiness (umm…let me refer you to the first item on this list).
The truth is, you are inherently valuable, just because you’re a human being! The number on the scale has nothing – I’m going to repeat that for emphasis – NOTHING to do with your value. So stop hating on it and show it some love. Whether it’s walking, hiking, jogging, yoga, playing with your dog, whatever – find a form of physical activity that you love and be grateful for all the amazing things your body lets you do. Get a massage. Try out a new hairstyle. Oh, and allow yourself to enjoy food! Good food nourishes the soul as much as the body, so don’t cheat yourself out of that experience.
If you can do this, then you can take all the energy and life force that you may currently be using to obsess over Dannon Lite nutrition labels and start channeling it into more worthwhile and life-affirming pursuits like building healthy relationships and following your creative passions. You have so much to offer the world, don’t hold yourself back!
5. Trust in your intuition.
During our twenties, most of us haven’t really grasped the fact that we all have a secret superpower called intuition. But by our thirties, we’ve begun to see what happens when you ignore that nagging voice in the back of your head. You know, the one that tells you that the guy you’re dating may not really be long-term-relationship material. Or that the job you’ve just been offered – which would require you to move 3,000 miles away – might just be one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to you.
There is a time and place for making pro-con lists. And it is often important to ask for advice from trusted friends and family members. But most of the time, our inner wisdom will tell us what’s right, if we can silence the mental chatter long enough to listen, and resist the temptation to endlessly second-guess what we know in our hearts to be true. Maybe you’re not even sure why you think something is right or wrong for you – and that’s okay. If you know something in that still, quiet place deep down, trust that!
So there you have it, ladies! Some of the best gifts you can give to yourselves. Now go out there and make me proud!