During a recent run, I somehow got on the topic of the height percentiles of my two sons. One is very, very tall for his age, and the other is a pint-sized, little man. I then went on to discuss my height, my husband’s height, the average height of the American woman (which I am – 5’4” in case you were wondering), the average height of the American man (5’9” which my oldest daughter is projected to reach), and the height of all the grandparents.
One of my friends laughed and said she has no idea how tall anyone in her family is. Interestingly, I’m the artsy-fartsy, creative type while she’s the accountant, so you’d think she’d be the one talking numbers.
The conversation made me pause because I started to think about how I’ve always been tempted to quantify my self-worth using myriad stats and numbers. As a student, my GPA defined how smart I was (or wasn’t). My standardized test percentiles were important to me. The number on the scale was sometimes my cheerleader when a lower number registered or at least a weight that I deemed “acceptable” for the way I was eating (or not eating). The scale’s number was also frequently a harsh critic, taunting me for being weak or undisciplined.
When I used to homeschool, I used to feel like a Catholic slacker and even had one mom joke about me only having three kids at the time and that I’d better get on my Catholic game to compete with the large families. Yes, there were times I gauged my holiness by the number of children I had and whether or not I was homeschooling them.
Just recently – despite winning my age group in a local 10K race – I was disappointed in my pace, thinking I should be able to push harder and for longer.
Too often I’ve conflated my self-worth with some arbitrary number, percentile, or statistic. But here’s the thing: Numbers only offer information. Nothing more.
You are not a number.
You are not the sum of your weight, grade point average, age, number of social media followers, VO2 Max, salary, BMI, family size, caloric intake, credit score, clothing size, height, average daily steps, income percentile, webpage views, blood pressure, cup size, your past number of sexual partners, Facebook likes, running pace, or even Rosaries prayed.
The scale is not a barometer of your self-worth. Your GPA doesn’t know the depths of your wisdom.
Your VO2 Max (remember I’m a runner and a nerd, so this number interests me) cannot measure grit just like My Fitness Pal may be able to count macro and calories but cannot quantify pleasure.
Age is relative.
The amount of money in your bank account and your credit score do not understand generosity or recessions or sacrifice.
Prayers prayed are essential, but your confession and Rosary stats don’t automatically make you holy or not.
Your past number of sexual partners doesn’t know your heart, your fidelity, the grace that God has given you, or the good and beauty of your body and everything about you.
Jesus said to feed His sheep, but so many of us are spending so much time counting them that we forget to just go out into the world and to love and serve with what we’ve been given.
If we’re always worried whether our “life numbers” measure up or we find ourselves constantly comparing ourselves to others – that mom has more kids than I do and still finds time to sew and cook amazing meals and run marathons. I train hard, but I still can’t run as fast as her. Why do so many people follow that Instagrammer and not me? When will we ever get ahead financially? As soon as I lose those last 10 pounds or fit into my “skinny jeans,” I’ll be happy! – we make life about winners and losers instead of about people. We make our value about digits instead of dignity. We find ourselves constantly seesawing between judgment and anxiety over our inadequacies (whether real or only perceived).
Grace, mercy, kindness, love, joy, gratitude, peace, wisdom, authenticity…these cannot be easily measured or quantified at all, but they are what make you human and good enough.
You are good. You are enough.
Do not rely on any number, any other person, or competition you’ve made up in your head or perhaps competed in during your lifetime define you or your worth.