Sunday, March 1, 2009

i am not a number

Since the day I learned to count, numbers told me how good or bad of a person I was. A 99 percent on a test meant I was one percent less than perfect. Anything below a 4.0 GPA meant I was not as smart as I should be. If the scale showed more than 100 pounds, I was fatter than I should be. There were no shades of grey when it came to evaluating myself--only perfect and imperfect. And I was rarely perfect. If I did reach an ideal number, there was always a new perfect. A 4.0 GPA one semester wasn't good enough, because my cumulative GPA was only 3.8. A 100 on a test was not enough if I missed the extra credit. Or, if there was no extra credit, it only made me a good person that day, not the next. When I reached 100 pounds, all of a sudden only double-digit weights were acceptable.

I don't think I'm completely to blame for my obsession with numbers. For the most part, children are taught that high grades are good, and low grades are bad; that high amounts of fat and calories are bad, and low-fat or low-calorie is good. I learned that above a 1400 on my SATs would give me a shot at the ivy leagues, and that a 1390 meant I just wasn't good enough. (Even my 1460 wasn't good enough for me; it wasn't a 1600). Popular culture has taught me that smaller numbers in some areas of my life, and larger numbers in others, are the key to happiness. Lose 10 pounds. Earn 1 million dollars. Be a size 0. Lower your cholesterol, raise your credit score, then you can be happy.

Not anymore. I will no longer be a slave to numbers. I will be happy with less than perfect. Today, my mission is not to be the right weight, it's to accept who I am with all of my imperfections. There will always be room for improvement, and there is nothing wrong with striving to be better. But, I've realized that there is no such thing as perfect in an imperfect world. And, if there was, I wouldn't want to be it.

1 comment:

  1. So true. When you and your sisters were little guys, I agonized to our wise pediatrician, Ted Chapman, that I was so far from a perfect Mom. He said, "And think how awful it would be for your kids if you were perfect!" He gave me permission to be myself, appreciate that I was and am doing my best, and that striving for perfection itself can be a stumbling block. Here's to loving ourselves just the way we are and enjoying sharing what we have to give! ily, Mom