If you have a highly sensitive person in your life, there is a question that will come up often (once every year at least).
What to do for the HSP’s birthday.
Now you might think that what you, as a non-highly-sensitive person, enjoy will be perfect for the highly sensitive person.
Don’t think that!
It will invariably wind up causing difficulties and maybe even serious misunderstandings down the line.
The thing is, you probably even won’t know or realize it because a highly sensitive person will empathize with you.
They will understand the time and effort that you put into anything you do for them and will be hesitant to say anything negative about it.
They know how hard you worked for it.
So consider this post (and this inside information) a favor …
… not just for highly sensitive people but for those who love them.
Here are three things you should never do for a highly sensitive person’s birthday.
1: Throwing a Surprise Party for an HSP
I’m speaking from experience and can tell you that this is one of the worst things you could do for an HSP on their birthday.
Not only will it leave them in a very uncomfortable situation on the day itself, but it will also make them think you really don’t understand them (if you assume that a big, surprise birthday party is something they would actually enjoy).
I was in my mid-20s when a couple of roommates/work acquaintances decided to throw me a surprise birthday party.
Although my partner was not directly involved in the planning, he was aware of it and the two of us arrived home after an outing on my birthday to a house full of people.
I was immediately overwhelmed and ready to turn around and run the other way.
I quickly forged through all the people into my room and pretended to be on the phone with a work call (on a Saturday evening) just to give myself time to adjust to the overwhelming circumstances that I was suddenly surrounded by.
I had imagined a quiet evening and suddenly there were about 30 people in the house, half of whom I had never even met.
I tried to say something to my partner but his stance was that my “friends” had put so much time and effort into it that I should appreciate what they’d done and “just go out there and have fun.”
I really did try.
At least, I did go out there, but I did not have fun.
The whole evening was torturous. It stands among my top worst birthdays ever.
Even worse is that, afterwards, my housemates thought I had a great time and expected to be thanked when in reality the evening was miserable.
I was hurt that they misunderstood me so much that they thought I would actually enjoy a surprise birthday party, crowds of people, and loud music rather than what I had been expecting: a quiet evening at home with my partner.
Keep this on the top on your mental list of what not to do on a highly sensitive person’s birthday.
Stay away from surprise birthday parties.
2. Inviting Friends (Even If It’s Not a Surprise)
By now you are convinced it would not be a good idea to throw a surprise birthday party for your HSP loved one.
But here is another thing you don’t want to do:
You don’t want to invite a big group of people over to your HSP friend’s or loved one’s house (even if they know about it).
For years, it has been a thing where my partner throws a birthday party for me and does the cooking so it seems like a decent trade-off …
But in all honesty, it’s not.
I’m invariably the one who needs to clean up the house in advance and make it “guest ready” as well as clean up the cooking mess …
And, of course, clean up after everyone leaves, too.
This does not equate to a peaceful and relaxing HSP birthday.
Because as a highly sensitive person, I’m so attuned to other people’s desires and wishes, I have always gone along with the plan.
When my partner says, “Hey let’s invite these friends over for your birthday and I’ll pick up the cake and make some food,” I usually say yes.
At the end of my birthday, I’m always so exhausted and feel like it just hasn’t been my day, but I’ve always been hesitant to say anything about it.
Last year, however, we weren’t able to invite anyone over for my birthday because … guess what … COVID.
It was a quiet day at home and my partner did make the food and pick up a cake but there was not a lot of clean up required in advance and not a lot of entertaining of guests.
None, in fact, and I didn’t have to clean up afterwards.
It was a great day.
I’ve decided that this is the way I want to do it from now on.
This year, I will kindly yet firmly till my partner, “Thanks but no thanks,” when he suggests having guests over for my birthday.
I’ll tell him he can invite the guests for his birthday not mine.
3. Tickets to a Crowded Public Event
Now, this is not going to be the case for every highly sensitive person.
In fact, only 70% of HSPs are introverts so some highly sensitive people might appreciate something like this.
However, even if they are extroverts, they are still highly sensitive …
And this means they are easily overwhelmed by strong stimuli such as crowded environments and loud noises.
This is why it’s generally not a good idea to present a highly sensitive person with birthday tickets to a ball game or a rock concert.
Even if it’s a band they like or a sports team they love, make sure you know in advance whether or not they actually want to go see that event live.
When I was in my mid to late 20s, I went to a few concerts.
Invariably, the next day I was exhausted and had a bad headache and it took me several days to recover.
Because I wasn’t familiar with what a highly sensitive person is, I didn’t know what was wrong with me.
I have never been to a ball game and never would want to go …
But over the last few years when I had the opportunity to do go to a concert, I declined.
Movie theaters are about as loud and crowded of an outing as I will willingly go to.
So the question you have now might be this:
What can you do for your HSP loved one if you want to treat them on their birthday?
What can you do that they will actually appreciate and enjoy?
That will be the subject of our next blog post.