Yes, there are ways to celebrate your birthday without popping your introvert bubble.
My birthday is in May, so I was fortunate enough to have not just one, but two birthdays during the Covid-19 lockdown. And do you know what was amazing about them? I could just have a birthday without the stress of having to plan, and later attend, any type of party. It felt amazing: There was absolutely no pressure to manipulate my birthday into anything other than a day just to celebrate me.
At times, a birthday party may feel like an obligation, something to placate the people who love you and want to express this love through a party. I’m sure I’m not the only introvert who has dreaded my own birthday: Will I be expected to host a plethora of loud people in my otherwise blissfully quiet space? Am I weird if I just don’t want to? What are we even supposed to do at our birthday party while people try to talk to us and — ugh — even sing at us? Can I please leave and go read my book now?
But now, giving myself permission to pick out exactly what I want to do on my special day, I’m realizing that there are ways to celebrate yourself without popping your introvert bubble. What do introverts actually like to do on their birthdays? Here are some ideas to celebrate just you on your birthday!
6 Ways for Introverts to Celebrate Their Birthdays
1. Host a teeny-tiny party and only invite those in your inner circle.
This past May, I had a super small itty-bitty pandemic-safe birthday party. My parents, aunt, and exactly one close friend came, socially distanced and masked, to my backyard for some cake.
It was perfect. There was none of that ugly/overwhelmed/drained feeling that usually comes with big parties. I just got to have cake and spend time with people I really care about. While the pandemic was a perfect excuse to have a very small and safe gathering, there’s no reason I can’t continue to have a very small birthday celebration in the future. I enjoyed having a low-key celebration, and felt like I had done something out of the ordinary with the people I care about.
While I may be notorious for skipping out on the vast majority of parties, my birthday was one time when I did actually want to do something to mark the occasion. It felt right to have just a few people come celebrate with me. But setting up a party on my own terms — that is, one with a highly selective guest list — was pretty fun. I’ve also found that when having company over, it helps to set time parameters beforehand: “The party will go from 4:30-7.” After that, I’ll want to go back to my “introvert zen zone” and bask in the private glory of my birthday.
2. Get out in nature — go hiking or camping with friends or solo.
While the thought of being stuck in a crowded city makes my skin crawl, I adore the woods. Introverts vibe with nature. In fact, one study even concluded that introverts are more likely to enjoy themselves in the mountains, whereas extroverts tend to prefer the ocean.
Getting out of the house and finding a day hike, or even making a weekend out of it and camping out, can help mark your special day without feeling overwhelmed. Introverts tend to have keen observation skills, meaning it’s actually pretty stimulating for us to spend a few hours looking at squirrels or birdwatching. Spending time in nature, seeing beautiful landscapes, and getting to escape noisy society for a while is a dream come true for many an introvert.
Another nice thing about going for a hike is it usually doesn’t make sense to bring a lot of people with you: narrow trails and thick foliage make it difficult to navigate a big group. Instead, grab a quiet friend or two (or even take just yourself!) and enjoy the quiet and solitude of nature.
3. Reflect on your past year and set an intention for the next one.
Each New Year, I try to set an intention for my year — not necessarily a resolution, but something meaningful and achievable. I like to do the same on my birthday. For example, this past May, I decided to try to write and journal more. Setting an intention, and reflecting back on the past 365 days, is a great option to honor your birthday, but without making a big people-y fuss over it. After all, your birthday is for you. Even just taking some time to journal about the past year — perhaps making a list of things or experiences you’re grateful for or that you’ve enjoyed — can help to mark your next year.
And setting an intention doesn’t have to be a laundry list of goals and expectations: It could even be something that you’re curious about. For example, I’m very curious about what the next year will bring regarding post-pandemic reopenings — reentry fear is real! — and I’m wondering how I will be able to adapt.
Journaling and reflecting about the past year also helped me see that I’d gotten much closer to my family during the pandemic, and to realize that that’s something worth celebrating. Setting aside time to reflect on the previous year helps me mark my birthday in a way that is meaningful to me.
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4. Tour a library or museum — some even offer free admission on your birthday.
I love libraries. I love losing myself in stacks of books and basking in the collective feeling of people quietly reading and enjoying themselves. Some libraries, such as the Boston Public Library, even offer guided tours, in which you can learn about the history and architecture of the library itself. Super cool, right?! Then, after you’ve gone out and seen the library, you can hunker down with a book and delve into a day of reading.
If going to a library feels more like a normal-day activity, your birthday can also be a great excuse to take advantage of a local museum. Even though museums have a tendency to attract crowds, people aren’t expected to spend time socializing: There’s too much art to look at and reflect upon. Certain places, such as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston or the Long Island Aquarium, even offer free admission on your birthday.
5. Organize a book drive, donate to charity, or volunteer.
While there’s a lot of commercial focus on giving gifts to someone on their birthday, it’s a nice change of pace to use your special day as an excuse to donate and give to someone else, like to a special cause. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got some old books lying around that would serve a better purpose in the hands of someone who hasn’t read them yet. It feels great to give back — arguably better than it feels to have friends shower you with gifts.
Lots of public libraries and school libraries will accept gently used book donations, and you’ll end up with extra space and a cleaned-out bookshelf. If you’re more organized than I am and you don’t hold onto old books long after you’ve read them, you can also take a friend or two to a bookstore and pick out some books to buy, then donate. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, but it does feel good to know that you’re making a point of helping others on your birthday.
If a book drive isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of charities in need of volunteers, donations, and other forms of support. Take time to reflect on a cause that is meaningful to you, be it education, the environment, food security, mental health support, or something else, and find how you can help support it. It really does feel good to give back, and it can help you make an impact while also celebrating yourself.
6. Bake yourself your favorite dessert and celebrate you.
Who says you have to wait around for someone to bake a cake for you? Your birthday is a time to indulge. It’s the perfect time to try out a new recipe, or make your favorite cake. Baking is actually a great activity for introverts: It requires quiet concentration and allows us to unleash our creativity. I love watching raw ingredients get mixed into batter, then magically turn into a cake in the oven. If you’re baking with guests, it also gives you a concrete thing to do, rather than just standing around while trying to think about something to talk about.
Baking for yourself is also a great option because it can be done in the privacy of your own kitchen. We introverts looooove our alone time, and having a birthday doesn’t necessarily mean we want to go run out and surround ourselves with people. It’s perfectly valid to want to spend time alone with yourself, and to also want to treat yourself. If you decide to spend your birthday alone, putting some time and energy into baking your favorite treat can help make your birthday feel particularly special. And that’s what it’s all about.