I think we can all agree that celebrating the birthdays of our children and the other youngsters in our lives is a top priority—after all, it is a very special day for these little people. We are socialized from a young age to celebrate our birthdays, have birthday parties, and get the chance to make decisions on plans for the day: pick the movie or TV show, meals, etc, but at what age does this fall off? In my work with various demographics, something that has come to my attention lately is that birthdays are a big deal for everyone, especially adults. However, many people don’t let on how important their birthday actually is to them. This leaves many people disappointed when those close to them don’t clue in to the fact that their loved one actually wishes that someone would make a big deal for them. This leads to arguments in couples, hurt feelings, loneliness, and more. What should be a special day often becomes a point of contention. Perhaps as a result, it seems to be the case that as we age, we tend to behave as though we place less importance on our special day, even if this isn’t truly how we feel.
As my own birthday approaches in a couple weeks, my family and closest friends know what a big deal this day is for me. Throughout my entire adult life, I have always made it a point to take a vacation day from work on my birthday, and ensure I have something fun or relaxing planned for the day. Why do I do this? I can assure you that it’s not because I am a spoiled brat who feels the world should revolve around me at least once per year. The reason my birthday, and everyone’s birthday for that matter, should be such a big deal is because it is the one day of the year that is just about me.
Historically, the tradition of birthday celebrations was created to ward off the evil spirits that show up on the day of one’s birth; having family and friends around was thought to help to keep the bad spirits away from the birthday girl or boy, and lighting candles sent messages to angels. While you may or may not believe this to be true today, there are several more reasons you should be celebrating your birthday each year:
First and foremost, it is a great way to engage in the ever-important act of self-care. Taking time for one’s self to recharge is important every day, however, reserving a day each year to be able to have it be all about you is not only OK, but in my opinion, essential. I feel this is especially important for parents and caregivers, who generally have a difficult time scheduling in “me-time”; let it be a day where the dishes don’t have to be done by you, the house can be cleaned by someone else, and you can sleep in as late as you wish.
Secondly, it is a great time for reflection and future goal setting. Many people will engage in this act on January 1st when the calendar turns to a new year, but for me, my birthday is of more personal significance in terms of demarcating the turning over of another year; a time to relish in my accomplishments, learn from my mistakes, and set goals for the coming year.
Third, it is a time to be reminded of how special you are to those in your life. I preface this point with caution, however, as this is one that will take some speaking up to those around you about what you want, and what is important to you. The hurt feelings I referred to earlier are often a result of the expectation of your friends or family to read your mind, which just is not realistic.
I could go on and on about the reasons why birthdays are awesome, but feel that these three are the most important ones to focus on. I encourage everyone to take the first step and talk to those closest around you about how you want to celebrate your birthday, and even how you don’t want to. Furthermore, make the effort to make the birthdays of the ones you love a big day. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it’s important. You’re a big deal. Celebrate it.