Today is my birthday, and since birthdays are as good a time as any for some self-reflection, I’ve felt inclined to write on the matter. While I don’t typically place artificial limitations on myself in terms of where I want to go in any given essay, I knew that I didn’t want to write through the lens of motherhood; not for this one topic.
I’ve never been into celebrating my birthday; a fact that has nothing to do with resistance to aging, and everything to do with a resistance to being seen as wanting to be celebrated. I love celebrating other people, and would be gutted if a friend didn’t think herself worthy of a little fuss on her birthday, yet traditionally I have avoided attempts at fussing over me.
In fact, it wasn’t until I became I mother that I started caring about my birthday at all. Now I view it as the one special day (situated amongst many special days) where I can assert my desires for how I spend my time, guilt free. It’s the one day that I allow myself to reflect upon my time on this planet through no lenses at all, and why I save writing about my motherhood journey for another day…like, every single other day.
Over this last year, I have fully embraced that I am a giant people pleaser; a fact that has directed far too many of my life’s decisions, and is ultimately why I do not like celebrating my birthday. I am not a shy person. I love people. I love groups. If I’m honest, I love attention! I was, after all, an actor in a former life. But, I don’t like attention where I am being praised. I don’t like attention where I am being revered. I don’t like attention where I am being celebrated. Why? Because I don’t receive complimentary attention graciously. It makes me feel as though I have to diminish my accomplishment or importance, or I’ll be viewed as a jerk. I hold myself to standards to which I would never hold anyone else.
And this was the year I realized that there was more at stake than just my own need to be understood as humble. I realized that having such a massive aversion to potential negative feelings about me has caused me to make mistakes: I’ve allowed for many agree-to-disagree moments when I shouldn’t have stood for them; I’ve kept quiet when I should have spoken out; I’ve jumped to assumptions I must be wrong for lack of confidence; I’ve resisted assessments of character, believing it must be me who missed something. And why? Because I gave other people’s opinions of me WAY too much power. I gave too many f*cks, and in doing so, missed opportunities to be the actual good guy.
Tonight, I will joyfully celebrate my birthday, that I am privileged enough to have f*cks to give, and the promise of protecting them for something more valuable than what someone may think of me.