You remember how in high school, hangin’ out with our girl/guy friends, we used to evaluate our co-ed classmates by assigning them a number? Like, with 1 being extremely unattractive, and 10 being super hot?
Someone would say, “What do you think of Max?”
And someone else would say, “9. Definitely a 9.”
And someone else would say, “Max?! A 9? As if! A 5, maybe!”
And they’d go back and forth like that for a while.
In some ways, I loved high school. And in other ways, I’m so glad those days are gone.
Because really, Max is not a 9 or a 5, or a 1 or a 10. Max is a person. (Actually, I didn’t know anyone in high school named Max; he’s just here to serve a rhetorical purpose.)
Maybe Max has a nice smile and a snappy sense of style, but he interrupts you every time you talk, and he shares your taste in video games, but you don’t see eye-to-eye about movies, except you recently found out that you both, to your surprise, secretly love Napolean Dynamite. In other words, people are complex entities with complex identities that cannot be summed with a number.
Obviously, I don’t do that anymore. (although I wouldn’t be surprised if some adults do) It got me thinking, though, about all the other ways that we quantify our selves and our identities. Weight and age are the obvious ones. But there are so many other ways that we “measure” our lives and ourselves by some quantitative figure.
Partly it’s a result, I think, of language. We tend to say, “I’m XXX pounds/kilos.”
But you are not XXX pounds. You may weigh XXX, but that is not who you are. If tomorrow you weighed XYZ, you would still be you.
We do the same thing with age. We say, “I’m XX.” But you’re not XX. You have been alive for XX years, but that is not who you are. When you turn XY, you will still be you.
You are not a clothing size. You just happen to fit into a piece of clothing that someone decided to call a 2, or an 8, or a 16, or a 22. (And those sizes aren’t even consistent, anyway. With some brands, I wear an extra small, and with others, an extra large. Go figure.)
You are not your height or the circumference of your waist.
You are not your GPA, your ACT or SAT score, your class rank.
You are not the number of degrees you have, or the number of years it took to get them.
You are not the time it takes you to run a marathon.
Maybe you have the best GPA you’ve ever had, or you’ve biked more miles this year than ever before, or got the best marathon time you ever have. And that’s awesome–you should be proud! But that is not who you are. And if next time, you run a little slower, get a few fewer miles in…that’s not who you are either.
You are not the number of times per week you make it to the gym or the number of pushups you can do.
You are not first, or second, or last. Maybe you finished first–and that’s awesome! Or maybe you finished last. And hey–you finished–and that’s awesome!
You are not your salary.
You are not the number of Facebook friends you have. You are not the number of likes, page views, followers, comments, re-pins you get.
You are not your address, your birthday, your SSN.
You are not a phone number to be picked up at a bar.
You are not a statistic. You are not the 6.7% of Americans with depression or the 1.1% with schizophrenia or the 0.6% with anorexia or the 1% with autism spectrum disorder. You are a person who might happen to have depression or schizophrenia or anorexia or autism spectrum disorder. But that is not who you are.
You are not a number! You are a person.