Taking My Birthday Off Of Facebook Was One Of The Best Forms Of Self-Care I've Ever Done
For most people, the thought of their birthday fills them with the utmost excitement and joy. It is a day of celebration and love and parties and communion. So for me, I couldn't understand why for such a long time when the clock struck 12:01 am on August 12th, I always felt full of dread, and apprehension, and anxiety.
I'll be honest and say that my birthday has always been a complex time for me, especially as one that has been dealing with mental health and self-worth issues their whole life. Even though the people in my community had always tried to make my day filled with love and celebration, my harsh inner voice always made it seem like I was never loved enough-- that I wasn't as valued as the other people in my life, and that my birthday, and subsequently my life, didn't really matter.
I think part of my apprehension developed because I was a summer baby. And not only was I a summer baby, but I was a late summer baby at that, whose birthday always fell right after summer camp ended, but way before school started. So I never really grew up having a big joyous celebration, or having lots of people wishing me happy birthday, which often fueled my self-worth issues.
And even though I tend to have more good days than dark days as I've gotten older, for some reason my birthday has always been one of those tender sore spots, and Facebook certainly did not help.
I don't remember when it was, but a few years ago they introduced a feature that counted up how many people posted on your page for your birthday, and listed it at the top of your wall like a scarlet letter for the world to see.
Adding this feature truly sent my birthday anxiety over the edge because it felt like a social status competition that I was always going to lose.
And it’s funny because I've never really been one to care about my social media standing. But given that my birthday has always been a tender subject for me, the addition of this feature, in my mind, only fueled my harsh inner voice with the proof that it had been looking for to show me that my life didn’t matter.
And so for years I would be sick to my stomach feeling the need to go through my birthday posts to thank those that remembered, but also unable to keep my mind from wandering into that dark place that would say I didn’t get as many posts as so-and-so because my life didn't matter. Even though I didn't care that much about social media, I couldn't deny the toll that it was taking on my self-esteem and mental health, especially when all of the numbers and the metrics and the likes just made it so easy to compare myself to other people.
And then I turned 25. And I’m not sure if hitting the first quarter of your life suddenly opens you up to newfound wisdom, but there was something about turning 25 that just made me really start to wonder why the hell was I summing up the value of my life by the number of Facebook birthday posts I got, or people who said yes on my birthday party invite? And more importantly, why was I choosing to engage in activities that I knew always made me feel like shit?
So last year I decided to take my birthday off of Facebook. And while it was a little weird at first, I have to say it was one of the most amazing forms of self-care that I've ever done for myself. It made me realize that in the past my birthday was never something that I celebrated for myself; it was always meant to be a symbol of my value in the eyes of other people. It was like my life couldn’t have value outside of how many people remembered or wanted to celebrate with me.
And real talk, that shit really eats at your spirit. Your birthday should always be about you enjoying yourself, and the people/activities that make you excited to live to see another day. I think when I turned 25 I realized how much I desired to make my birthday about me, and how important it was for me, personally, to find ways to give my life value and meaning outside of other people.
While I get fewer birthday texts or posts than I did in years past, and I don't go out of my way to throw crazy parties, these messages and small gatherings have way more value to me now because they typically are from and with people who truly care about, and value my existence in the world. And as we become more deeply entrenched in the fast-paced social media world that we live in now, I'm really starting to value quality over quantity more and more everyday.
It's almost kind of sad how easy it is to feel inadequate on social media nowadays, as I don't believe that this was the intention behind most social media platforms. It's crazy how something that was made to be a positive force in the world also has the same amount of power to destroy your self-esteem. And now, even something as simple as how many people comment on your wall for your birthday can be used as another weapon against your sense of worth in the world.
I've been struggling with my self-worth since my childhood, and with every year since then I am proud of the choices that I make to continually see and support myself as the worthy person that I intrinsically know that I am, but sometimes (unfortunately) have a hard time seeing.
Reclaiming my birthday for me, and spending it doing the things I love, and with the people I care about, along with not caring about how many likes/comments it gets me on social media has been one of the most beautiful parts about getting older, and seeing myself grow and learn how to choose self-love over self-criticism. I'm still a work in progress, but I'm very much enjoying the journey.