I had my birthday early last month. For many years, I was ambivelent at the least, and occasionally super hostile when my birthday rolled around. I’d not enjoyed growing older, and birthdays brought out my worst securities and fears of not being liked or loved. I rarely planned parties for fear that no one would come (it happened once as a teenager) or leave early (also happened). And I spent the day anxiously watching Facebook messages come in, analysing each one for it’s sincerity and any scrap of affirmation or affection I could draw from it.
I know. This is a sad picture.
Happily, I’ve done a lot of heart and soul work the past few years and I am in a much stronger place emotionally. I still struggle with insecurities but they no longer exercise the same overt control over me that they did (although the work of digging out the subtler forms of insecurity in my life is just as hard).
And I’ve reclaimed birthdays! I realised it first last year, when I turned 30 and had one of my best days of the year. I woke up at the home of my best friend, to the sound of her son coming in and proclaiming loudly “it’s a dinosaur birthday!!” (the best kind, in case you are wondering). I spent the day being spoilt by friends. Oh, and I raised over €3000 to help to Ugandan women study at University. It was a pretty amazing birthday.
This year was more relaxed. Rasmus, Kaya and I went to our new favourite restaurant here in Luxembourg for all you can eat Japanese food. Baby Girl decided to pick that afternoon to take her first steps. And then I went out for dinner with seven of my closest friends.
We laughed so much that evening. Time flew by and it was about two hours later than I thought by the time we walked out the near-empty restaurant. I felt good. The next day was regular chores and mama-baby routines, but I was on a continued high from the day before.
At some point in the afternoon, one of my friends sent me a photo she’d snapped during the evening. I’d ordered the panna cotta for dessert and it had arrived complete with rather impressive firework. The photo catches me right then, surprised and a bit embarrassed but hugely happy.
And I think I look beautiful.
It feels almost arrogant to write that out, like I’m not allowed to assign that label to myself, I must wait for someone else to say it.
But I do. I think I look beautiful. When I first opened this photo on my phone, I gasped.
I think it’s because I’m glowing. Not just from that crazy firework, but from the love. From spending a day surrounded by people who know me and see me and like me. And suddenly agreeing with them.
In the past, I’ve been so dependent on other people’s affirmation. I crave encouragement. I once told a potential boss in an interview that it was my weakness and that I would need a lot of positive feedback to stay motivated! (She was amazing though and actually did it – I got positive feedback for every cup of coffee made, every policy documented summarised, every meeting minuted).
But here’s the difference. I’m starting to tell myself what I need to hear. I’m learning how to see it for myself, to see my strengths and successes and gifts, and to speak the affirmation to myself. To accept it and embrace it as true.
It’s an incredible feeling.
That photo took my breath away because it was the visual representation of what I have experienced recently, that when I own who I am, when I stand in the fullness of everything I was created to be and say “this is me”, it is incredibly beautiful. It feels strong and courageous and true.
And oh I am not done yet. I still slip back into unhealthy neediness and self-criticism. (I mean that kind of thought process that is so destructive, not the important self-awareness and growth process of dealing with areas of weakness).
But I keep sneaking peeks back at this photo and whispering to myself, “this is you. this is you. you are glowing. you are beautiful.” And in those moments I feel ready and I feel dangerous. It’s those moments I feel the Spirit do a little dance of excitement, see Her clap Her hands in delight as She sees me get it. This is who I was created to be. And this woman, finally agreeing, rises and begins.