The number one thing we give our power away to no matter our sex, race, age, ect….
Here are 2 different scenarios with a common theme. Can you find it?
1. The other day after dinner I was walking outside with my 2-year-old son and the streetlights began to turn on. My son started counting each light as they lit up. First one, then two, and then three all the way to 10! Yes, I am a very proud mommy. I am ecstatic and slightly terrified that my son is already learning to count. His face was beaming with pride and excitement as he repeated the numbers over and over again; each time ending with a loud scream on 10. It was a big accomplishment for a 2-year-old.
2. Last week one of my clients wanted me to take her circumference measurements to see how her body was responding to her workouts. She came into the studio very happy and proud of how dedicated she had been to her recent exercise efforts. Her entire demeanor and energy shifted as the measuring tape reviled that she had lost a half an inch here and another half an inch there. These were not the numbers she had anticipated nor wanted. It looked as if a storm cloud had settled in over her face and a feeling of hopelessness hung heavy in the air. The happiness and pride she had been filled with when she arrived was sucked out of the room simply from the resulting numbers on an insignificant little measuring tape.
So, million-dollar question: What do these two scenarios have in common?
Numbers hold so much power in all areas of life; a credit score, the points needed to get an “A” in history class, the amount of money in a bank account, a race time to qualify for the Olympics, the dreaded SAT score, age, weight and jean size just to name a few. ALL of these numbers can hold so much power over our emotions and our state of mind. They have the power to determine our self worth and confidence if we let them. We feel stupid for not getting a higher score on the SAT’s, we feel embarrassed or entitled from the amount of money in our bank account, we feel ashamed of our body when the medical community defines our weight as obese and we beam with excitement as we zip up a pair of skinny jeans that we haven’t worn in years.
When I look back on my 33 years on this planet, most of the stress, anxiety, joy and pride I felt at one point or another were from numbers. During my eating disorder it was the number on the scale that determined my self-worth and now, more recently, the volatile number on my bank account statement has been the primary source of anxiety and stress. In both scenarios, if I was not at the number I felt was “good” or acceptable, I was a failure. I was not worthy. I was an embarrassment. I needed to fix that number to feel good about myself again. A number was determining my self worth.
I recently Googled “history of numbers” and I learned that counting and numbers originated around 4,000 BC in Sumeria (one of the earliest civilizations). Sumeria was a busy town where people needed to keep track of goods that were being traded, used up or added. So the people of Sumeria started counting by using a system of tokens, which eventually led to using clay tablets and soon after the first accountant was born. So these figures that I, still to this day, hand so much power over to, were all started as a way to determine if Joe had more chickens than Larry. Kind of silly when you think about it. Did those damn Sumerian’s have any idea how obsessed society would become over these figures on their clay tablets?
What are we to do about this number obsession? What can we do to take back our power and separate our self-worth from numbers? I am not suggesting that we do away with numbers. Numbers are what advanced society. We might still be living in caves, wearing a goatskin and rubbing two sticks together to start a fire if it weren’t for the invention and advancement of numbers.
So, no, I am not suggesting that we abolish the number system. What I am asking you to do is pause for a moment and ask yourself where in your life are numbers determining your self worth? Where in your life are you allowing numbers to determine your emotions? What if there were no numbers? What if money didn’t exist? What if every scale in the world suddenly disappeared? How would you feel about yourself? Would you still be proud or embarrassed? Would you sill feel ashamed or beautiful?
Untangling your self worth from a number is not an easy task. Knowing you are worthy regardless of your age, height, weight, bank account, test score, credit score, ect is difficult but possible. Living in a space that is not defined by a number can be both beautiful and terrifying.
My son becomes more and more excited about counting everyday. And just as much as my heart fills with pride it also questions his future. A day might come when he too will question his self worth based on a number and when it does, I will be here with a reassuring hug.