My life used to be ruled by numbers.
I relied on arbitrary metrics to tell me how I should feel about myself, and it’s no surprise that those metrics only led me to a deep sense of unhappiness and unfulfillment.
Thankfully, I’ve broken free from the false security these numbers used to offer me. As I go about life, now (mostly) free from the self-condemnation and self-reliance they used to induce, I recognize that they are still enslaving so many people.
I believe that every person is unique and beautiful, and we are not meant to waste our lives despising ourselves. I believe we were made to experience life fully, and we can’t do that if we’re stuck tearing ourselves to pieces in front of the mirror.
It’s taken me a long time to realize that my worth is independent of these numbers, the metrics the world often uses to determine someone’s value. It hasn’t been easy to interrupt the thought patterns that reinforced these numbers as accurate representations of who I was.
But since I’ve done the work and received the grace to become free from these numbers, I have found peace and confidence in my true identity. My hope is that this post will shed some light on numbers you may attach your value to, and show how these attachments might not be serving you. I understand how uncomfortable that can be, but change is rarely comfortable!
These are the numbers I no longer use to calculate my worth:
I used to be a slave to the scale. I checked and recorded my weight every week, and regardless of the number I saw, the effect it had on me was always negative – I would either slip into a shame spiral or puff myself up in pride. If a number fell beneath whatever arbitrary goal I had set for myself, I continued the dangerous behaviors that had gotten me there. If the number was “too high,” losing weight would be the only thing I thought about for the next week.
Since cutting myself free from the emotional rollercoaster induced by the scale, I have gained peace about my body. It’s been over two years since I’ve weighed myself. While it was difficult at first not knowing how much I weighed, I soon found that this lack of awareness gave me the mental freedom to recognize how meaningless that number truly was.
Going shopping for clothes can be extremely emotionally taxing when you’re not so in love with the size of your body. Especially if your body has gone through changes recently and your usual pant size is no longer a good fit, it’s easy to get down on yourself for not being the size you think you “should” be.
I’ve been there.
I used to think that I was somehow less attractive, less beautiful, and less me unless I fit into a certain pant size. I was embarrassed if I learned that a friend of mine wore a smaller size, even if our body types were completely different.
All this started to change for me when I learned about the history of standard sizing for women’s clothing. I learned that when clothing started to be mass-produced, manufacturers needed a way to categorize that clothing for women of different sizes. Over the years, clothing companies have created their own definitions for what sizes are considered Small, Medium, Large, and Extra-Large, and those definitions often completely miss the mark of average sizes for women.
Long story short, your pant size is arbitrary. And no, it’s not a good measure of your worth. Realizing this was another step toward greater freedom to love the person God created me to be.
Calories I Ate Today
Another number I used to measure myself by was the number of calories I consumed in a day. To determine this number, I obsessively tracked every bite of food that went into my mouth. Using a fitness app on my phone, I made sure to stay under the number of calories I had alotted for myself that day, and I did so religiously.
I know a lot of people use apps to keep track of how much they’re eating, but I personally prefer to listen to my own hunger and fullness cues to tell me whether or not I need more food.
Since I deleted all of my fitness tracking apps years ago, I have learned how to trust my body again. I no longer feel the need to control my portions, and I have migrated from a restrictive mindset to an abundant one.
People have been eating this way since the beginning of time while tracking calories is a relatively new concept. I used to imagine that if I ever stopped tracking what I was eating, I would lose control and never stop eating. Since taking steps to detach from this need to control and restrict my food consumption, I now know that I can trust myself to nourish my body with the right amounts and types of food. And even if I don’t perfectly adhere to my body’s signals, that’s ok too.
Time I Spent Exercising
Much like the quantity of food I ate, I used to be very regimented about how many times I worked out in a given week. And if I didn’t exercise “hard enough” or make it to a workout I had scheduled? I thought I was a failure.
Exercise is still a huge passion of mine. I love the way I feel after a workout, and I try to engage in some type of exercise as often as I can. That being said, my relationship with exercise is completely different from what it used to be like.
I now spend time moving my body in ways I enjoy. I try my best to follow through when I have a workout planned, even if I don’t feel like it, because I know how much it benefits my mental clarity and mood. But if something comes up and I miss a workout, I don’t waste time beating myself up for it. Instead, I wake up again the next day and try again.
The biggest shift in my attitude toward exercise is my motivation. I used to work out as a way to control what my body looked like. Now, my primary motivation for exercising is to keep my mind healthy and my body functioning optimally.
This shift in motivation has allowed peace to replace the anxiety I used to feel about working out. I now think of every workout as one way I can be a good steward of the gifts God has given me – by literally exercising those gifts, I feel like I am praising Him in gratitude for the blessing of a functioning, capable body.
Instagram Followers & Likes
It takes less than one second to like someone’s photo on Instagram. Contrast that with the minutes and sometimes hours I used to spend analyzing how many people were double-tapping a photo I had posted that day.
Many of the metrics I used to measure my worth were based on a false image of what I believed I needed to become. They were numbers I felt I had the power to manipulate and control. This metric, however, was more difficult to access.
After taking several long hiatuses from Instagram, I’ve come to the realization that, for me, it’s easy to start equating my value with the apparent social approval I receive online via likes and follows. It’s also easy to spend so much precious time trying to make my life look a certain way to the outside world in order to gain more validation.
Ultimately, no one really cares. So you shouldn’t either.
I believe social media is a powerful tool, especially as a means of cultural change. I also think there is a danger in putting too much stock in how others receive us on these platforms. I choose not to think twice about the numbers that appear on my profile because those numbers have never fulfilled me, and they ultimately have nothing to say about my worth.
Freedom waits on the other side of detachment from these numbers. I believe your worth lies in something far greater than any of these criteria, and I pray that you come to realize that too.
If any of these points resonated with you, and you desire to break free from their grip, I highly encourage you to read through my tips for starting Intuitive Eating.