We live in a society that’s run by numbers. Think about it — from birth, we are measured, ranked, and added to statistics. As babies, we are part of a designated percentile for height and weight. We’re given milestones we’re meant to have reached by certain points in order to be considered “normal”. In high school, we get defined by our GPAs, our class rank, our SAT scores. As we move into adulthood, the numbers don’t stop — and an alarming number of them have to do with our health (and happiness). But they shouldn’t! I present to you: the numbers that I’m done caring about, for good.
1. My age.
Parents are told their babies need to be walking/talking/peeing on their own by X number of months; then, those babies grow up and think they need to be engaged/married/homeowners/parents by a certain age. For me, the pressure is more related to my career and what I feel like society deems “being a grown up.” I sometimes feel like a married woman of nearly 32 should have neatly tailored pants and a fridge full of organic vegetables and grass-fed meats, but what I actually have is leggings covered in photos of Benedict Cumberbatch and a fridge full of… nothing, because I don’t like to cook. It’s taken a long time, but I’ve finally learned to let these expectations and pressures go. I don’t have to cook or shop at Ann Taylor to be good at being 32. We don’t have to be any specific thing by any specific age, as long as we are honoring who we are and pursuing what we love.
Remember that scene in Reality Bites where Winona Ryder says, “I always thought I would be somebody by the age of 23,” and Ethan Hawke tells her, “The only thing you have to be by the age of 23 is yourself.”? This is true (corny, but TRUE), no matter what your age.
2. My weight.
Lina wrote about this a few months back, but it’s worth reiterating. Your weight is a number that should not (and does not) reflect your health, your happiness, or your worth. Your weight doesn’t tell you how strong you are. It doesn’t recognize what you are capable of, or how healthy your heart is, or how happy you are. So don’t give it a power it doesn’t deserve.
3. My dress size.
I remember when I used to read the Sweet Valley High series, and they always made a big deal about how Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield were a “perfect size 6.” For my pre-teen brain, that was powerful stuff — I knew that I, too, wanted to grow up to be a perfect size 6, or whatever size would be considered perfect at the time. (What is it now, like a -1?)
But as it turns out, sizes are RIDICULOUS. Sure, it helps to have a general idea of size when doing important things like online shopping, but stores and labels have taken to defining sizes so liberally that it’s insane to attach any meaning to them. Thanks to “vanity sizing”, I have clothes that are a size 2 and clothes that are a size 8. I have smalls, mediums, and larges. It’s all very confusing, and it’s all to be ignored. Just like your weight, your dress size/jean size/Benedict-Cumberbatch-leggings size doesn’t define you or determine your worth. I no longer want to be a perfect size 6 or even know what that means — I just want to be a size STRONG. 😉
I understand the appeal of numbers; really, I do. There’s something calming, familiar, and gratifying about being able to boil it all down to numbers, to let your calories out be greater than your calories in and then boom! All your goals achieved. But as many of us know from experience, that’s not really how it works. Not all calories are created equally. 300 calories of avocado is not the same as 300 calories of Cheetos. Monitoring every bite you take and every step you take can be exhausting, discouraging, and ultimately unrewarding. Pick your food for its flavor, its nourishment, its deliciousness. Pick your workouts for how much fun they are, how strong they make you feel, how much you like to sweat. Leave the numbers out of it.