I’m often asked about how to deal with friends or family who want to celebrate your birthday when celebrating is the last thing you want to do. When people so vehemently want to see you happy, they will bulldoze over what you actually want in order to meet their ideas of what happiness should look like.
Here’s some scripting for how to deal pressure around birthdays and other occasions. Rather than having to defend yourself for not wanting to celebrate, you can put this back on them:
You can say: “It feels like it’s really important for you that I have a happy birthday. Is that accurate?”
They’ll say yes, they want to make you happy. To which you can reply (in your own words):
“Can we talk about that? I think aiming for happiness isn’t going to work. You’re going to be disappointed because you’re not going to see me happy. And I’m going to be disappointed because I’m going to feel like I have to perform happiness for you.”
If they insist on throwing a party you can say: “So what you’re telling me is that my birthday party actually needs to make YOU happy rather than me happy. Is that accurate? How can I most make you happy without lying about my emotions?”
This helps people manage their own expectations by telling them what they will and won’t get. They’re hoping that, by forcing this party on you, they’re going to get the end result they want, which is your happiness. That’s not going to happen.
They will either adjust their expectations or they won’t. You know that you’ve been clear, you’ve advocated for yourself.
If you decide to have this conversation, you might do some prep work for yourself. Consider some birthday options you could give them. What would feel, not happy-making, but supportive or soothing?
Reminder: None of this stuff is easy. So I also want to remind you that you don’t have to do any of it. You can let them plan a party that you’re going to hate and you can just take care of yourself around it.
You can advocate for yourself or not advocate for yourself. Those are both choices that you get to make.
How about you? If you’ve experienced pressure to celebrate your birthday (or some other occasion), how have you dealt with it? And how did that go for you? Others in this community can use your ideas.
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