This post is an answer to a submitted question. It aims to provide help and solutions to overcome the issue.
Podcast version: HERE
“Circumstances do not rise to our expectations, Events occur as they do, People behave as they will, Embrace what you actually get." Epictetus
“It was my birthday today, and I feel so lonely. No phone calls, only one text... And like ten happy birthdays on Facebook from people I barely know... Like my high school principal from 20 years ago. Yet, the people I thought were friends said nothing. I have four people in my immediate family, and only one cared; she feels sorry for me. I have nobody to talk to. I am in so much pain.. I don't know what to do. I feel hopeless.”
My Response if we were in a coaching setting. Although without being able to ask questions, I may assume or use scenarios to fill in the gaps.
Feeling hopeless is such a difficult feeling to live in.
It's clear that you're going through a difficult time. I can sense the depth of your emotions on this birthday, and I want to express my apologies for what you're experiencing. I understand that it can appear to feel incredibly lonely, sad, and overwhelming.
Birthdays are such a weird day as we become adults I think we are conditioned and programmed to believe they will be something that they aren't. We are shown over and over as kids we are the center of attention and there's so much fun and goodness in this day and well life happens and that fades with everyone dealing with all their own problems, issues and concerns.
I recently posted a question on social media after finding out that it's pretty common for my friends, daughters, and even myself to feel sad and cry during most birthdays in secret. I discovered that we aren't alone. There were lots of comments that stated they despised being the center of attention, many that had expectations that it would be more special or they would feel important and didn't. Many explained that their birthday is always a disappointment. If they get anything at all, it's usually something they didn't want or it was shared with someone, near a holiday, or a source of bad memories. There were some that figured out the life hack, to plan the day in advance, take the day off work, or even a full week. Fill the time with self-care and being intentional in getting the foods they liked or planned a meal solo. Some would escape for a weekend around or near their birthday always solo so they weren't sabotaged by other people's agenda. I found it to be fascinating, and took some notes.
I think it's a good topic to speak about with people that you know. See how they navigate their birthdays and be vulnerable. Talk about what your experience is. We connect and bond with people when we are real, raw, vulnerable, and authentic. We forget that people we know have their own unique thoughts, feelings and their reality and when we share what we experience it might surprise you that others feel the same way, or they may be supportive in a way you wouldn’t expect.
Like anything, when it's done over and over, it builds an expectation or a habit. A story plot builds in our mind that it will be a certain way, it will look a certain way, and create a certain feeling. When we were young, some of us were made to feel special, and it's a day to look forward to. And as we become adults, with each birthday, it gets less and less recognized. Well, it could appear deflating and seem disappointing.
What I want to point to is birthday's, this event, the things done or not done, the circumstance it's self doesn't make you feel lonely, in pain, sad, hopeless, or disappointed. It's the judgment of the circumstance, in other words, the thoughts we make up about it or stories.
”Expectations are a form of premeditated resentment. Let go of expecting things to be a certain way and you'll be amazed at how much happier you become." - Wayne Dyer
When we build up expectations of things going a certain way, get wrapped up in the things we can’t control, wish people would do more we not only get disappointment for our birthday resentment also gets added to the pile. This is all judgments, and thought created feelings.
We feel our thoughts, they shape our perception of reality and influence our actions.
It is important to recognize that these thoughts and stories are not fixed or permanent. Like any thought, they aren't real, they are solid, they appear that way I know, it's a choice to believe them. Instead of dwelling on the disappointment, sadness, wallowing in self pity we can choose to reframe the situation and find new meaning in it.
I hear you. This event each year isn't turning out the way we expected. What if your expectations are placed on variables that aren't in your control? How can you focus on what you can control?
Maybe your friends and family are busy, we are all imperfect humans right? What if doing something spontaneous and special may not be in their wheelhouse or they just aren't the type of people to plan things, and that's okay. Like my post on social media, there are people who have found the life hack to plan it solo and do it how you want to do it, and doing it alone is a surefire way to not get disappointed.
When we attach a certain outcome to say a birthday it sets us up for disappointment even if there's something planned, there's this perception that it will make us happy and the "mind", the inner narrator will pop in and pick it apart and find a way to twist it to still not be good enough.
Our birthday, or any day can't make us feel any certain way, it's not possible. I know is seems that way and feels so heavy and painful but it's the story in our mind that generates that feeling not the day, not our friends, family or the circumstance.
We can finger point and blame but its making it worse. It's evidence gathering that things externally are creating your feelings, and that's not only impossible it's likely creating a lot of mental emotional suffering for your birthday and likely other areas of your life.
Our emotions act as signals, much like a smoke alarm, indicating that there are underlying issues that need attention, resolution, exploration, or healing.
It's common for people to try to escape or suppress their feelings, finding ways to numb themselves or avoid facing them. They may try to cope with their emotions or even dwell in them. However, these approaches often provide only temporary relief but often intensify the underlying feelings in the long run.
Feelings that are not fully understood, leaned into, experienced and processed tend to resurface in unexpected ways, often at the most inconvenient times. It's like pushing a giant pool ball in a pool. Eventually, the ball is going to pop up, and when is does it’s often pretty destructive.
Therefore, it's essential to give yourself permission to feel your emotions fully. Allow yourself the space and time to explore and understand them, what’s really creating them, and seeing them for what they are. By acknowledging and embracing your feelings, you can begin to address the root causes and work towards healing and finding peace.
How do you want to feel on your birthday’s?
If you were to answer it by saying "I want to feel, light, happy, hopeful, silly, excited, warm, loved, loving, connected, playful..."
What is it someone would do that's feeling these feelings?
What thoughts pop in your mind when considering the words you choose, and what are you doing?
Maybe it's throw on something comfy and go to a drive through? I know Starbucks gives away a drink for birthdays, (it's the only time I go).
Go see the sunrise/sunset? Go to the zoo or animal shelter and see animals?
Maybe go to a movie, or go out to a fun restaurant or coffee shop that you've been wanting to try in forever, or one that you deeply enjoy? Maybe going to the local library and reading a book you’ve been meaning to read.
Maybe it's sending a text or message out to 10 people you haven't heard from in a while and it says something super simple like "hey I was thinking about you, I appreciate you, no need to reply just wanted you to know that today".
When we fill our own needs, when we take care of ourselves like we want to be treated, we no longer NEED someone else to meet our needs.
When we invite new fresh thoughts into our brain, our brain will start to seek out proof, evidence that we are that, and often our thoughts become inventive or creative. When we are focused in misery, suffering the survival brain it's going to go wild seek proof and evidence that things are awful and terrible, and it will find it. Your mind will narrate awful painful thoughts like "see you're not fun to be around, you're weird and different".
Our mind is rather creative, and can be a bully at times.
Train your brain to work for you rather than against you.
Focus on how you want to feel, take action from that place, open up creativity, fun, innovation, excitement and choose to live your life how you want to feel.
In each moment, we are always balancing our thoughts and feelings, which create our experiences. Our thoughts can make us feel good and motivate us, but they can also hold us back and keep us stuck. We need to understand how powerful our thoughts are and choose the ones that help us the most.
I hope this helps. I wish you all the best. Please share this with anyone you believe would benefit from the insights. Post a comment, I read and reply to them all. Thank you in advance!
If you want to send a question, please send to [email protected] please include:
A coachable question (something that addresses what's in your control, your thoughts, feelings or actions.)
And context, explain a situation in the past, currently going through, or worries/concerns of the future, giving me some details on your thoughts and feelings about it.