There are a lot of numbers in our lives, and we often put too much emphasis on how much value those figures truly have.
Even in Yelp ratings.
One day recently while I was at my pool, I overheard two young women next to me chatting. I had forgotten my headphones, so I really had no choice but to listen to them as I silently read my book. Their conversation drew me in because it baffled me. They kept saying numbers in relation to people, and then I realized they were talking about people’s ratings.
At first, I thought they were rating guys they knew, and I felt like I was listening to a conversation on a sitcom or something, but I thought the numbers they were giving were extremely low, so maybe they were expecting everyone to look like Ryan Reynolds. Then they said something about Yelp, though, so I figured maybe people have ratings on Yelp like they do on Uber. I’m honestly still not sure exactly what they were talking about because they paused that topic to take a selfie for Snapchat, and then their conversation transitioned to their Snapchat streaks (whatever those are—I’m not well-versed in that app).
Listening to them made me think about how much numbers try to define our lives.
I wrote a book that I’m trying to get published, and I recently spoke with a literary agent who seemed interested in helping me get connected with a publisher. I sent her information regarding my book and some sample chapters, and she said she was very impressed. Then she asked for how many Instagram followers I have, and she was not so impressed. In fact, she told me to reach back out to her when I had built up my platform a bit more and had closer to 20,000 followers.
Well that was a sucker punch to the gut.
This whole numbers thing starts pretty much from the moments we enter the world—we’re given Social Security numbers to identify us, and the numbers just keep coming from there. We have student and employee ID numbers that often seem to replace our names. Then there are our heights. Our weights. Our grades and test scores and class rankings. Our credit scores. Our salaries. Our likes. Our number of followers.
So.many.numbers. It can be exhausting.
When I was running more competitively and racing almost monthly, I cared about numbers more than I like to admit. I stressed over my mileage, my splits during speed work, my paces on tempo and even easy runs (which made my easy runs not so easy), my overall place in each race, what my PRs were, and what my time was each time I crossed that finish line. It was almost (or completely) obsessive how much I cared about those numbers more than I did actually allowing myself to enjoy doing something I truly love.
I understand that numbers have significance. At the end of the game, the number of points or runs or goals matters in determining the winner. The time on the clock matters in declaring who ran or swam the fastest. And there are a heck of a lot of other numbers that matter for various reasons, especially in sports.
But, while those numbers mean different things, they don’t define us, and they certainly don’t determine how much we matter.
If you know me or have been reading my blog for a while, you know that the number of boyfriends I’ve had doesn’t need any actual hands to count, and the number of dates I’ve been on isn’t much higher. When I was in high school and college and even in my 20s, I let those nonexistent numbers make me believe things about myself that weren’t true. Just like I did with some of my race results, I let them make me believe that I wasn’t good enough. In running, it meant that I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t fast enough. In dating (or not dating, rather), it meant that I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t pretty enough or experienced enough or big-boobed enough or whatever enough for the guys I was interested in at the time.
And I hate that even numbers have the power to put that “not enough” mentality inside our minds and change the way we view ourselves and our worth.
Numbers are always going to be there telling us how much we make and owe and weigh, how our posts are doing on social media, how many points we scored, how fast or slowly we finish whatever feats we’re trying to accomplish—I could keep going, because there are a number of numbers out there. But no matter how much worth those numbers hold in our lives and in the lives of those around us, those numbers can’t determine our worth if we don’t let them.
I hope that you don’t let the numbers in your life define who you are or change the way you see yourself. Some entities may only know you as a nine-digit number, but God knows and calls you by name and cares about every single thing about you. You don’t have to stress and worry about all of the numbers trying to tell you who you are or what you are or aren’t. In the end, those numbers honestly don’t mean anything of value.
Because you’re worth infinitely more than any number that exists out there.