I usually feel really weird about my birthday. I procrastinate on making plans, even though, deep down, I really want to do something fun. The day comes and I kind of want to hide under a rock.
A couple of years ago, I realized it was because my inner critic would use the occasion to remind me how far away I am from reaching my potential. It became an annual reminder about the gap between reality and “where I should be by now.” This little dance gave my birthday an undertone of anxiety and not enoughness that would blunt any desire to celebrate. It left me feeling cut off and shut down, while also still somehow craving connection and celebration. Not a good mix, friends. Not a good mix at all.
Cut to yesterday. I turned 39…and I felt fine!
More than fine, I felt AMAZING. I had a perfect day without any hint of rumination. I actually answered my phone and returned messages. I felt deeply loved and worthy of celebration. My inner critic was nowhere to be found, despite the fact that I still have goals that I have yet to achieve.
I came home from my morning clients to find my husband with a welcoming smile and a cheer (we have this fun tradition of throwing our arms up in jubilation when the other one walks through the door). Vibrant flowers on the table. A thoughtful card leaning against the vase. Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” playing on repeat in the background. (This is the best way to create an instant dance party, by the way.) When I opened the card, it brought a tear to my eye. It read, “It’s always been you.”
My husband is in the middle of a very demanding project, working really hard. He had been up all night, and I expected to find him sleeping. But no. He took the time to make me feel special. I really love that about him. #itsthelittlethings
In the afternoon, I went to Crossfit, then had a massage, and both were terrific. The coach made the whole class do 39 burpees in honour of my birthday. I kinda wanted to make friends rather than enemies on my birthday, but hey. It is what it is. I’ll have to bring them paleo cupcakes next week.
In the evening, we enjoyed a beautiful 2005 Spanish red wine and dinner at a lovely local bistro. My belly and my heart were full.
So what was different this year?
You may already know that I declared this summer the summer of self love. I was on a mission to dive deep and see where it would take me. I journaled about it. I got curious. I followed my desires and did SO MANY fun things.
I know that self-love is important and impactful. I knew it would be fun, for sure. But I didn’t realize the impact that #summerofselflove would have on me, and how it would set me up perfectly for the best birthday ever.
I think many of us believe that self-love means resolving all our conflicting feelings about ourselves. Somehow being totally satisfied with everything, just as it is. As if it’s a decision we make, and suddenly things that used to bother us simply don’t anymore. I might imagine myself sitting down and listing all the things that I typically judge myself for, and figuring out a way to let that shit go. That’s gotta be what self-love looks like, right?
But I did none of that this summer. Instead, I focused on just a few things.
What do I love about myself already?
What do I love about BEING me?
What fun things would I love to do? (And I did them.)
Looking back, I see that dedicating my summer to self-love did something really profound for me: It made my self-love unconditional.
It was no longer something that I would enjoy as a reward when I finally became the person I wanted to be. It wasn’t a stamp of approval for being good or disciplined or accomplished.
It became something I did, week after week, regardless of whatever else was going on.
Here’s the funny thing. When I started out, I was really excited about inviting other people along for the ride. I pictured myself surrounded by friends, old and new, totally up for any adventure. But it turned out a little differently than that…
I went to a comedy show by myself.
I signed up for SUP & Sing (stand-up paddle boarding where they give you waterproof ukuleles so you can have a singalong on the water!!!) by myself.
And when I got there? I found out that I was the only one who had signed up. So even though I went through the one hour ordeal of riding my bike down to the ferry dock to take the boat over to the island, they cancelled it 15 minutes before it was scheduled to begin. #Disappointing!
I’ll be honest. That moment felt a little pathetic. But then I made the most of it by having a writing session on the island before hopping back on the ferry, and then onto my bike to ride home. Riding my bike makes me happy. Being on the water makes me happy. Writing makes me happy. So I enjoyed my day nevertheless.
Self-love isn’t this perfect super-human thing that we perform where we magically become a woman wearing a flowing dress in a field with long braids and tattoos who is free as a bird, giving no fucks about anything.
Not at all.
Self-love is a practice that shows us that we are worthy of love no matter what. Celebrating what I already love about myself and my life fills me with gratitude. Choosing to date myself and opt in to fun experiences showed me that I don’t have to compromise on my desires or wait for other people to be interested. I can indulge myself and do it now.
I am loving this surprise benefit of #summerofselflove. It has absolutely changed me. My sense of self-worth is now truly unconditional. For the first time in my life, my self-worth has nothing to do with my net worth.
There are still loads of things that I want to do and to create and to experience. But I’m not waiting until they happen to deem myself worthy of love. I’m pursuing it all from a place of fullness.
I have more birthday fun on the way this weekend. I’m looking forward to hanging out with the amazing women in my life for brunch, suspension yoga, and drinks on a gorgeous patio to enjoy these last days of summer.
I’m stepping into my next year with a full and open heart, embracing deeper connection with myself and with others. Because when I love myself more, I show up more fully. I reach out and call the people I love. I am open and free. And I am so very deeply fulfilled.
I have a feeling 39 is going to be more than fine. 💕