It’s my birthday today! (Pause for celebration, confetti and cheer.) And while I love birthdays, I also know that birthday depression can be hard. Anxiety-inducing. And full of pressure.

Have you ever been asked any of the following questions on your birthday:

  • What are you going to today?
  • How are you celebrating?
  • Aren’t you excited?
  • What should we do?
  • Where do you want to go to celebrate?

The Peculiar Phenomenon of Birthday Blues

I’ve noticed a very particular pattern with certain people right around their birthday. Their behavior starts to change, and they get nervous or even sad.

Does this sound like you? If so, I want to tell you…

You are not alone.

Urban Dictionary defines ‘Birthday Blues’ as a “general sadness or feeling down by a person on or around his or her birthday.” While there may be many reasons someone feels down on their birthday, some of the most common include:

  • Being upset over aging another year.
  • Being disappointed by not having expectations met by a birthday party, celebration or gifts.
  • Feeling unsatisfied with accomplishments since the previous year or previous birthday.

Our birthdays cause us to reflect–on what we’ve accomplished, who we’ve become, what’s changed and what’s stayed the same. This reflection sometimes can cause disappointment; maybe you didn’t meet that goal you had set for yourself on your last birthday or perhaps you wish you had made different choices along the way.

Birthday Expectations

There’s this unspoken idea surrounding birthdays that they have to big, exciting, EPIC. And this expectation alone can cause birthday nerves and anxiety.

The root cause here may be because you’re worried people will forget it’s your birthday or you don’t have a big group of friends to go out and celebrate with.

Here are a few tips if you’re feeling the Birthday Blues on your next birthday.

Birthday Tips:

  1. Birthday Blues often simply are part of getting older. Remember, you are not alone in feeling this way.
  2. The hard truth: People can’t read your mind. If you want to celebrate small or big or not at all, it’s on you to plan it or at least verbalize your own expectations for your day.
  3. Your birthday comes once a year. So, take charge and do it right. For you.

Special Note: If you are dealing with someone with the Birthday Blues, all you have to do is show them they are loved and appreciated.

What I Do On My Birthday:

I have some rituals I do on my birthday. I would love to share them for you to try:

  • I donate to my favorite non-profit. Every year on my birthday I donate to KIVA, my favorite charity, and pick female entrepreneurs to sponsor.  I also ask friends and family to donate to them instead of getting me gifts. Do you have a favorite charity? Find one you love on your birthday!
  • I love to reflect on learning. Every year I sit down with my journal and think about what I have learned over the past year. Last year I wrote a post called “20 Key Lessons I Learned in My 20s.” Check it out:

Birthday tips

I also set goals for the year and review last year’s goals! I have a science of goal-setting I use. You are welcome to try it yourself!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and human behavioral investigator in our lab.

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