Why I Didn’t “Treat Myself” on My Birthday

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Birthday sunrise.

My birthday was Tuesday. I love this time of year. The start of a new season and the crisp freshness in the air. Sometimes we pick apples on my birthday but this year it was a pretty hot and sunny day, still wanting to be summer.

It’s funny how my perspective on my birthday has changed over the years. This day is no longer a big deal to me. My age is no longer a very big deal to me. In fact, it’s a good thing me and Josh are the same age because I often ask him “How old are we again?” (We’re 28 now.)

When I was a kid I really looked forward to my birthday. I counted down the days. I didn’t have a whole lot of my own money so gifts were a much bigger deal.

As an adult, I have more resources at my disposal than ever before. But you know what?

I want for nothing. 

Am I secretly wealthy? No. I admit that it’s a privilege to live a simple life by choice rather than out of necessity, but we aren’t hoarding a stash of wealth anywhere, either. As believers, we want to give away more than we keep for ourselves. I want for nothing because I’ve learned the value of what I already have. I want nothing because I know that my needs are met, and everything else is just extra.

And that’s something to be grateful for.

So I didn’t “treat myself” on my birthday. I didn’t go out to dinner. I didn’t even order in. I didn’t go on a fancy date. I didn’t ask for gifts. (Josh and I have a mutual understanding that no gifts means, really, no gifts.)

In fact, I didn’t buy anything.

Here’s why:

Life is Really About Relationships

I once heard it said that “Your life is only as good as your relationships.” There’s so much truth to that. Someone can have it all according to the world’s standards, but without people to share it with, there’s no fulfillment or satisfaction. I’m gonna save myself the work. Forget about “having it all.” Just give me good relationships.

It doesn’t have to be a vast network, either. We all just need a few people who we can truly be ourselves with – people who are on the same wavelength as us and with whom we can let our guard down. A few of those kinds of friends are absolutely priceless. I don’t care about trendy, material things now that I’m an adult. My priorities have changed. Give me quality relationships and honest people to do life with. Give me a sense of community and belonging.

I’m so thankful to have several close friends and Josh who have seen the real me and still love me. People who understand me without me wasting my breath to explain everything. People who just nod and just get it. Great relationships are invaluable.

Treating Yourself is Overrated

The best gift you can give yourself aside from quality relationships is a life filled with gratitude. This means creating a simple but meaningful everyday life. A life you don’t need to take a vacation from. Do I take breaks and getaways? Yes. (I’ve learned to do so frugally!) But vacations aren’t what I live for. I choose to live an authentic life daily, not just on vacation.

I love my nights and weekends when Josh isn’t working, but I don’t just live for the weekends. I don’t want to always be wishing I was elsewhere or waiting for my next chance to indulge. I want to find beauty in those everyday moments. I think treating yourself isn’t as much about doing something fancy and expensive as it is about being present and gleaning enjoyment out of the everyday things. Out of the nap-times. Out of the grocery runs. Out of sitting in traffic sometimes… Everyday occurrences can be magically fulfilling.

For example, on Tuesday I treated myself to “Birthday Oatmeal on the Porch to Watch the Sunrise” and a “Birthday Run to the Library” and a “Birthday Dinner of Homemade Stir-fry.” It wasn’t any different from my usual oatmeal on the porch and my usual runs and my usual family dinners, but something about making it a birthday celebration helped open my eyes to the gifts around me every single day. It helped me live in the moment, as corny as that sounds, and be truly thankful for this stage of life. Because next year my kids will be different. I will be different. We might not have the same routine and the same rhythm to our day.

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Birthday run.

Hard Things are Worth Doing 

I love the runner’s high after a good workout. Can’t forget that birthing high after natural childbirth! That feeling you get at the top of a mountain that was challenging to climb. The satisfaction after giving something your all. One could say I’m addicted to this feeling. I like to work hard everyday. It may sound gross, but I like to sweat everyday! Hard work is seriously one of life’s buried treasures. A hidden gift off the beaten path of self-serving.

The Fray has a song lyric that says “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.” While I don’t think it’s always true, I think it’s good food for thought. Why take the easy way? Why do what everyone else is doing? In my experience, self-indulgence leaves me feeling icky. 99% of the time I’d rather do something challenging I can feel proud of.

Indulging Doesn’t Fix Depression

No amount of retail therapy, fancy gifts, expensive nights out, or gourmet meals will ever cure that empty feeling inside. I know. I’ve done these things, and I’ve still struggled with seasonal and postpartum depression.

I’ve done all the “right” things like eating healthy, getting enough sleep, running, and talking to friends as well. These things have helped a lot, but I’ve also faced the fact that depression is a chemical and hormonal imbalance. It doesn’t mean I’m broken and it doesn’t mean I’m inferior. I don’t need to drown out every feeling with self-indulgence. Rather, I can press into whatever pain I feel and try to use it to help others.

I’m proud to say I’ve made so much progress this past year. It’s been challenging having a new baby and adjusting to life with two kiddos, but I think we’re finally on the other end of it and I feel like the weight has been lifted. I love my family and my life so much right now. It isn’t always easy. I still look forward to bedtime, like most parents with small children do, but I thoroughly enjoy interacting with my boys and watching them learn and grow. I often want to pause time momentarily and hang onto every precious thing they say and do.

Long-Term Goals Over Temporary Pleasure

I write a lot about the benefits of frugal living and all the opportunities frugality has opened up for our family. The flip-side of living in the present is also having long-term goals to look forward to. This is what makes it easy to say no to every little whim and treat. It’s so empowering to have a family mission statement (Ours is Simplicity. Generosity.Hospitality.) and use it to center ourselves and decide what’s important. Little by little, we chip away at those dreams and that mission statement. It takes time, but we know we’re headed somewhere. How many of us are merely existing and feel like we’re floating aimlessly with no real purpose? I know I have felt like that, so my family mission is a great reminder that I’m heading in the right direction.

Simple living may not feel that simple at first. There may be withdrawal symptoms for the first few weeks or months after giving up an old habit. But if you stick with it, that withdrawal fades and the temptation eventually leaves. It happened when I gave up sugar. It happened when I stopped buying clothes.

Long-term goals take time, but they are so much more valuable than an ice cream here and a Starbucks drink there. I’d rather save money on the daily things and put it toward those larger goals. And the cool thing about getting older is that time flies by faster. So invest. Not just financially, but in people, in relationships, and in yourself. Good things take time. 

Do you treat yourself to nice things often? How do you limit yourself or handle the expense? How do you keep “occasional treats” from becoming everyday habits? What are your favorite free or frugal gifts?

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Birthday selfie in my swapped “new to me” outfit!
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2 Comments

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  1. as always, i am inspired by your words. they resonate with me, for sure. they are things i’ve learned through life and keep needing to re-learn.

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