The ingrained fixation on numbers is a hard pill to swallow.
On a daily basis, I’m not as number-hungry (pun intended) as I used to be. I’m luckily in a healthier mindset where, despite knowing the number of calories in many foods, I don’t let it get it me too much. I try to avoid body scales like the plague.
My eating disorder is an ugly part of my mind. It’s always there, ready to pounce when I’m weak. The battle against those thoughts never ceases.
So, when I recognize any sort of behavior I engaged in at a young age, my immediate reaction is to stop it. I haven’t had many instances where I feel compelled to intervene, but inevitably, the moment arose.
At my elementary school, health officials were distributing preventative medication for an apparent disease that may be lurking. Let’s just say it involves mosquito-transmitted worms. Yeah, not a huge fan of that.
I stood in the thick lines of students also awaiting to receive a huge, chalk-like pill and several other tablets to down in mango juice. The makeshift operation itself was interesting enough to behold, but that’s not the focus today. Nor is the focus the mini panic attack I experienced in that hectic little room, stuffed to the brim with loud kids.
While in this line, a medical permission form in my hand, I got a little antsy upon seeing a scale on the ground. Everyone needing to step on it to know how much medication to receive. Luckily, it was in kilograms (I admit, I converted it to pounds at home), but I refused to dwell on the number written down on the form.
I was probably the only one following this routine. The little girls in front of me in line, each with the same form, spent the whole waiting period comparing and commenting on one another’s number. Several even asked me what number I had.
To put this in perspective, the oldest girls in this conversation were ten. Girls likely not experiencing much of any puberty. Girls who should be more worried about their math scores than their body weights.
I’m slightly dumbfounded by this phenomenon, but I shouldn’t be surprised. I too was comparing my body to others when I was even younger than ten. I longed to be one of the girls who never had to worry about what they ate, wore the smallest sizes, and received labels like “tiny” or “petite.”
Standing in this cramped line, watching kids gag on a dusty-tasting pill, my mind is racing. Flashbacks full of emotions. Anger. Disgust. Empathy.
The moment I hear them pointing out their assigned kilograms, I intervene. I stay firm. “Please, you don’t need to know each other’s numbers. They really don’t matter. It’s not a big deal.”
Whether they really listened to me, I don’t know. I probably would’ve felt the same way. Sure, this one teacher is saying this, but everything else around me is saying otherwise.
worth is NOT scaled.
We innately seek something, anything, to help us determine who we are. What is my name? Where do I belong? Why am I this way? And, with any scientific hypothesis, we must evaluate our self-definition by a control variable. Make comparisons to draw conclusions.
The problem with this reasoning is that we aren’t test animals. Our current circumstances are merely a snapshot of right now. The conclusions drawn could be wrong in an hour, a day, a month, a year.
Out of everything you could possibly test and define yourself by, your most telling traits aren’t visible. They’re qualitative, not quantitative. We cannot measure them on a scale or piece of measuring tape.
You’re God’s fearfully and wonderfully made work of art. A unique puzzle piece of Holy Spirit in human form. The moment you took your first wailing breath, you proclaimed your immense value to the world. A purpose waiting to be fulfilled.
The only numbers that matter are the numbers of lives you touch. We celebrate the times we’ve felt overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, not the clothing sizes we fit into. People see our eyes and smiles, not our waist circumference.
You’re someone’s perfect person. Yes, that whole soulmate mumbo-jumbo has truth in it. Sometimes we have several, but we all have someone. Not even always romantic, either. Whether you’ve met yet or not, you’ll warm someone’s soul like the coziest sweater and mug of cocoa on a dreary day.
In fact, many people love you, exactly as you are, regardless of your physique. They love your humor, your wonderful personality, your energy. You receive an abundance of love and blessings beyond your wildest imagination.
making lasting change.
When my turn was next up in line, I gave a nurse my medical form. She henpecked all the information into a smart phone (again, kind of sketchy, but that’s American Samoa for you), and I took whatever they gave me. Chew this, swallow these. Would you like milk, juice, or water for this random drug concoction?
The young students I met, I might never meet again. I might never know if my words resonated in their minds. Their futures aren’t within my immediate grasp. All that’s left to do is hope and pray for change.
This change is beyond this single experience. It should be a wake-up call to recognize how we inundate young people with damaging ideas of where self-worth lies. Of what truly matters in life. Of what “beautiful” is.
I cannot turn back time (as our Queen Cher belts out) and resist the genetic predisposition for degrading obsession. What I can do, though, is raise my voice. Online, in the classroom, wherever. We need to relinquish our ties to superficiality and place value in the spirit.
Those of us already experienced climbers of treacherous mental mountains, it’s too late to save us. But our youth? Those not even yet born? We can do something powerful. It all starts with how we interact with the world and one another. The words we choose, compliments of being “bold” and “kind,” not “pretty.”
Like I said, this first-world fascination with weight and body shape is a hard pill to swallow. We can’t sugarcoat it by drowning it in mango juice. Nobody deserves to chew on it, leaving an acrid taste in the mouth.
Choose your words and actions carefully. Realize the influence you have. Show every living being love and support beyond the surface, beyond the scale. Let’s cure the disease we’ve created.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie