Celebrating Myself: Working Through Self-Criticism and the Birthday Blues
I am officially turning 28 today and I debated celebrating this year. I've always called my birthday my favorite holiday but 28 seemed to haunt me. Lately, I have been feeling a lack of purpose and struggling with comparison. I glance around at my friends and family and can't help but to compare. I am single. I am not in a career that satisfies me nor do I have a clue of what I want to do. I have a degree, but no idea how to use it. I am in debt and living with my parents. I often feel disconnected from my family and friends, but worst of all, I feel disconnected from myself.
I had so many expectations on where I should be by my late twenties and to have them shattered by reality really hurts.
After a recent and long session with my therapist, I am holding on to a much better sense of clarity surrounding this particular birthday and my ongoing issue with being self-critical. That these feelings, though valid, are just that, feelings. They aren't the reality in which I live. Often times I forget to take time to celebrate myself.
When I was younger my mom would buy random birthday cakes throughout the year and we would blow out candles just to have an excuse to celebrate. Blowing out candles to make a wish seemed so magical. Now in adulthood, I have become cynical. Forgetting the magic that makes me special.
So for this post, I wanted to invite you to a celebration and ask you to celebrate yourself as well. Because we often forget just how far we have come and all that we have accomplished.
10 Things to Celebrate about Myself
1. Recovering from an Eating Disorder
Though I am still working on my recovery I have come a long way. My recovery process changes as I progress, but I am stronger and healthier and I feel more empowered in this body than when I was at war with it years ago.
2. First in my Family to Graduate
As the first person in my immediate family to graduate high school, go to college, and receive a master's degree I sometimes forget that it is an accomplishment. I forget to celebrate the hard work and the years of studying, late nights, and the extra time it took for me to get to where I am.
3. Returned Peace Corps Volunteer
Being a Peace Corps Volunteer was hard. They say it's the best job you ever love. It definitely was challenging and though two years later I am still working through some of the things I experienced, I wouldn't trade those years for anything. I celebrate my commitment and love I found for myself during that part of my life.
4. Started a Blog
This has been one of the scariest things I have ever done. To be openly vulnerable, to write and share so freely. A close family member has always told me "do something until it isn't fun anymore" and I plan to continue to honor that.
5. Good Friend
I take pride in the fact that I am a loyal person. I hold the people in my life closely, maybe sometimes too close as I might smother them. I am loyal, kind, and compassionate. I don't have very many friends but the ones that I do have I cherish. I keep a very close circle and find value in my relationships as they are the glue in my world.
6. Learned Aerials
Learning aerials has been life-changing. I've been able to learn a new skill, meet new people, and gain a sense of community. It's taught me body awareness, to understand strength, be kinder to myself, and present. But above all, it's taught me to listen to my body. I can celebrate the fact that I have gained a new skill while also feeling present in my body, a place I longed to avoid most of my life.
Exploring, getting lost, meeting strangers, and finding the beauty in new places all excite me. I can't have a bad day in a new city. I love to sit on the wrong bus or wait in line at a cafe I have never been to for a coffee I might hate. Being able to have seen other places excites me. I celebrate that I don't get bored with new places because there is so much to see.
8. Learned How to Ride a Bike
It wasn't until very recently that I learned how to ride a bicycle. Many people over the years tried to teach me but I just couldn't grasp it, until one of my best friends patiently stuck it out with me. We now go almost every weekend on long bike rides and I feel extremely free. It's a newfound passion that I really connect with and because I enjoy learning new skills its something I celebrate.
9. Saw the Grand Canyon
I've always wanted to see the Grand Canyon. When I finally went, I was fortunate enough to go with one of my best friends. It was around Christmas time and one of the hardest trips of my life as I received some painful news. But I had never seen anything so beautiful as the depths of the Canyon. It felt like it could swallow your entire world. It was a long ride back and I wanted to leave all my hurt there, feel nothing ever again. But I celebrate that even while writing this I am not numb, I can grieve, feel, and see beauty.
10. Taking my Time to Learn about Commitment
Sometimes I feel incredibly alone. Choosing to date with intention is difficult and I am not perfect. I have been single for almost 7 years. Through those years I have been with people who I have hurt and who have hurt me and often times fall back into negative dating patterns. But I am committed to myself. Committed to dating healthier, because I do not want to hurt others or myself. I celebrate how far I have overcome issues with communication and past traumas by continuing to work on setting healthy boundaries.
So as I reflect on the things I constantly punish myself for I see that they tend to be things I am just self-critical of. Sure, I am single, but if I am honest, I am taking my time to work through past traumas and understand healthy boundaries that will make me a better partner.
And I may not understand my purpose right now but at least I am passionate. My career doesn't have to define me. Taking this time to live with my parents is a good time to re-connect with them, our family has been through so much, and it been a blessing to be able to be there as a support.
If I allow myself to spend more time celebrating my progress and less time punishing myself for not being on the same level as others who are not living my life as I am not living theirs.
Maybe today you buy yourself a birthday cake and blow out a few candles to celebrate yourself. Because we just don't do that enough. And we stop punishing ourselves for the things we do not have because maybe we aren't ready or supposed to have them yet. And just maybe we compare ourselves to ourselves because we have come so far from where we began and we celebrate our progress.