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Birthday Blues: Why Is My Birthday A Competition?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at DESU chapter.

In all honesty, I don’t like my birthday. Every year since I turned 16 I’ve cried on my birthday. Why, you may ask? Because somehow, someway, the day would never go the way I wanted it to go. Whether my plans fell through or the people I considered family did not show up for me the way I wanted; my birthday has always seemed more like a competition rather than a celebration.

Birthdays have always been a big event in my life. I was (un)fortunate enough to be born on New Year’s Day, so the pressure to not only bring in a new age but a new year is ten times as heavy. Add on the fact that I’m turning 21 this year and the need to impress is intense. 

I know I’m not the only person who experiences what I like to call the “Birthday Blues.”

“Birthday Blues” can be described as anxiety/sadness leading up to your birthday and the actual day.

I can wholeheartedly admit that ever since I was 16, my birthday has stressed me out more than it excited me. It was always, “What can I do for my birthday that is post-worthy?” “How many people will post me for my birthday?” “Will anyone show up if I have something?” and similar thoughts in that range, all focusing on whether or not my peers will perceive my birthday as this amazing celebration, the same way that I perceive others through social media.

And with each year, there’s this constant pressure to do something bigger and better than the year before. If you went out to eat one birthday, the next year has to be a better restaurant or, better yet, have a catering company with a curated menu. And even though everyone says this about literally everything; I blame social media.

The lavish and seemingly perfect birthday celebrations of our peers are all too easy to watch in the era of social media. The curated images and updates on platforms like Instagram and TikTok can create an unrealistic standard for what a birthday should look like, so when someone’s celebration falls short of the obvious extravagance of others, they might feel less than. 

Granted, it’s not all social media’s fault. Nobody forced a phone into our hands and made us look at the Instagram birthday dump, watch the birthday vlogs, or see the thousands of ‘happy birthday’ story reposts. But I have to admit I miss when birthdays were about going somewhere simple like rollerskating or just bringing cupcakes into class – which I never got to do because we’d be on winter break. 

You get the point though: birthday celebrations are no longer just about celebrating the day you were born. It’s about how many people interact with your birthday post, who says happy birthday to you so you know to say it back to, or who dedicates a full post to you showcasing their love for you to their following. 

Yet, amidst the virtual applause, reflecting on the true meaning of a special day such as one’s birthday is crucial. Beyond the social media extravagance lies the authentic joy that comes from genuine, heartfelt moments, and experiences shared with people who truly matter in your life. 

As we navigate this digital age of celebration, let’s keep sight of the profound and personal significance that a birthday holds. A birthday is supposed to be a personal milestone for living another year. To celebrate that, it should be about what you want. Not how you want others to see what you did.

I put this into practice this year by doing whatever I wanted for my birthday. My friends and I went to make candles and had a nice, simple dinner afterward. I can wholeheartedly say that I enjoyed my birthday so much more than any previous year. 

I felt celebrated and loved, not only by other people but most importantly myself. After reading this, I hope you can too.

Alaysia Gregory is the Marketing and Publicity Director at Her Campus at Delaware State University chapter. She oversees outreach, public relations, and all things publicity for the chapter. Beyond Her Campus, Alaysia is involved in campus. She serves as E.L.I.T.E.'s Corresponding Secretary, L.O.V.E.'s President, and as a Senior Resident Assistant on Campus. She is currently a junior at Delaware State University, majoring in Business Management with a concentration in Marketing. In her spare time, Alaysia loves vlogging, reading, and graphic design. She has recently taken up cooking with friends on weekends, or trying new restaurants in her area with her boyfriend. She's also a fan of watching youtube videos and playing the sims.