We live in a society that is obsessed with aging, or rather, anti-aging. This obsession is not recent, it has been with us for years. It moves from one medium to another, depending what is the most popular at the moment. Several years ago, it was magazines and now it’s social media utilizing influencers and celebrities.
The message is not always straightforward, sometimes it hides behind self-care or general grooming. For example, sunscreens have recently become incredibly popular on social media. Naturally, using adequate sun protection against sun damage and cancer is important, but the main reason so many young people do it is to minimize the signs of aging and look younger. This shows that regardless of how the message is conveyed, it is still the same: aging is something undesirable. The problem is deeper than a specific medium or beauty standards in a certain area. It’s deeply ingrained in our culture and has an impact on different aspects of our lives.
The way we perceive birthdays is directly influenced by the obsession and desire to look young. Small children enjoy birthdays - after all, it is their day. They receive presents and have a party with friends and family. The positive attention is focused on them. Adults tend to not have such elaborate celebrations - this is likely to be a symptom of the undesirable aging process rather than a simple lack of enthusiasm for 'their day'.
If one hates getting older, why would they celebrate it?
Every year, when it’s their time to change the number of years they have officially been on earth, many people get sad. The so-called “reality” hits them - a year has passed and what have they achieved? And suddenly, none of their everyday successes come to mind. They forget the struggles they battle every day and think that they have nothing to be proud of.
On top of that, the pressure to be at the “correct stage in life” exacerbates that problem. At every given age, there is societal pressure to have achieved something, whether it be graduating from university, having a certain salary or buying your first house. Some manage to rise to the challenge, but many do not - especially in a world where many of these milestones are getting farther and farther from reach. This means that many often end up feeling “behind” or unsuccessful. However, this whole mindset is a trap.
There is no such thing as a “correct stage in life”. Every person goes through life differently. People’s lives are incredibly complex, with a lot of nuances, and trying to summarize them by simplifying them to grand events is pointless. Everyone is at different points in life, despite the fact that some are of the same age. Every day, each of us struggles though and celebrates moments in our lives. We grow differently and our characters, as well as incidents in our lives, shape the way we perceive the world and how we develop. On top of that, many accomplishments are a result of continuous effort and take much longer than one year. Despite no end result yet, the progress should not be dismissed. This is why it is not possible to judge someone’s life by checking off a list of “accomplishments”. And yet, birthdays are still often days to remind us how “behind” in life we are.
Instead, we should try to get rid of this mindset entirely. Getting older and visibly aging should be respected instead. Every person celebrating their birthdays managed to survive another year. During that year, they had the chance to fail and succeed and to learn from their mistakes. They also learned more about the world around them and, more importantly, about themselves. Slowly, everyone gets to mature and grow into their own body. They can look back at how they were and how their life unfolded. Every passing year is an amazing opportunity for personal growth, no matter what “big” successes each person achieved that year.
Aging is nothing to worry about - it's a beautiful part of life. It is a sign of change - a positive change. As people change on the inside, they also change on the outside. On top of that, visible aging (the exact process most of us try to stop and reverse) is a sign from Mother Nature that our cycle of life is entering a new stage. This inherently means that our body is adapting to its new balance and that we have evolved beyond the stage of our previous body. So instead of feeling depressed during birthdays, let’s view this as an opportunity to celebrate ourselves and all the small battles we won to be here.