February 9th was my birthday and I spent it alone by myself.
I am a bit of an introvert and my birthday happens during exam time so I have gotten used to spending it by myself while my friends crammed for exams.
But something interesting happened the first time I had to spend it alone. Unlike the previous birthday in which I was consumed by the “celebration” of it – text messages, facebook, phone calls, and hanging out with friends; this time I felt revealed and relaxed. I did not have to conform and “celebrate” my birthday.
Do you have to celebrate your birthday with a crowd?
Yes, I wasn’t celebrating my birthday the way society expects – have a party, take pictures and post on social media, hang out with friends etc.
But why did I have a strong resentment towards being alone on my birthday? Why did I feel so insecure about not being wanted?
Only because I was not celebrating the birthdays with friends does not mean I was a looser or lesser than others celebrating birthdays.
How would I celebrate my birthday alone if not tied with societal expectations of celebrating birthdays?
Those questions became more fascinating to me than trying to celebrate my birthday.
I put the pen to the paper in my journal and spent my birthday self-reflecting. and this is what I learned.
1. Value personal improvement more than “celebrating” on birthdays
What is the point of mindless celebration of birthdays?
Birthdays are bitter sweat. One one side you are celebrating getting older but on the other side you have one less year to live.
Thus, the best use of your finite birthdays is to invest in yourself via personal improvement. Yes, you can have a party and hang out with friends too. Just make sure to balance both – personal improvement and celebration.
To get you inspired, here are 24 successful people that reflected and improved on their birthdays.
2. Ignore societal norms of a good birthday
The goal of your birthday should not be to “follow the herd” but rather to make the most of the birthday for YOU. Here are some examples of people making the most of their birthdays for themselves;
- Monks spend their birthdays in isolation and peace
- Terminally ill patients like to spend it with their closest loved ones
- Students spend their birthdays studying for exams or completing assignments
- A low-income father or mother will spend it earning to support their house and kids
- A homeless person or beggar may spend the birthday trying to just get enough food and water
If you are reading this, the chances are that you are in a different spot than the people above. Be thankful and re-visit your definition of a “good birthday”.
3. Embrace being outside your comfort zone
If I was not forced to spend my birthday alone, I may not have ever developed the habit of self-reflection on my birthdays.
It was being outside my comfort zone that allowed me to experience something new. Otherwise, I may still being going through my finite birthdays with shallow instead of deep and meaningful celebrations.
How I spend my birthdays now
Fast forward 5 years, I am in the habit of celebrating my birthday first with myself before I do with others. It makes me appreciate the finite birthdays, recharge, eliminate noise, enjoy the journey, and grow through my birthdays.
Below is a sample journal entry from my birthday in 2014. I have been doing these self-reflections ever since. If you want to learn more on how to use journals for self-improvement, please the daily journal page.
- Reflect – How has been the past year for me? Actual vs Goal.
- Appreciate – What good things have happened and how to do them more next year?
- Visualize – How would I want the next year to look like?
- Commit – What do I need to do to get there?
- Why – Why am I doing this? What is the bigger purpose?