My post I wrote Sunday on being okay with Normal, being fine with Fine left me thinking. Thinking a lot. More than I normally do about one of my own posts. Pondering Perfection. And how crazy it is that there are so many places in our lives where we seek what we believe is perfection. I think it’s safe to say we all have “Ideals” we strive to achieve throughout our lives. An ideal score on a test. An ideal class rank. An ideal rating on a review at work. An ideal weight. An ideal time in a race. An ideal size of pants. An ideal income. Interestingly, all of these ideals are Numbers. We live so much of our lives, trying to achieve a Number.
And when we finally do achieve that Number… what then? Can we then say, we’re Happy? Do we check it off our list or do we then change the Number and strive for even more? What if that Number really isn’t “All That”? Do we mention our achievement or keep it to ourselves?
I spent far too many years obsessing about my weight. I just couldn’t seem to be thin enough. I had a weight in my mind that I wanted to be and didn’t think I would be happy until I reached it. I’m not sure where I pulled the number from, but it sounded good and I believed at that weight, I could wear the size pants I also dreamed of wearing. My battle with weight is for another post, one I’m not ready to write, but I can say, it wasn’t until I got healthy and STOPPED obsessing, that I actually reached that Number. And now, I’m at that number, fine with how I look in clothes, rarely having a problem finding something I’m happy to wear.
And then shopping experience from hell happened.
With thoughts of my upcoming beach vacation in my head, I decided to go bathing suit shopping. I scooped a few suits off the rack and hurried into the changing room dreading seeing my pale flesh revealed from a long winter, but not fearing the experience other than that. I pulled on the first suit… and gasped. WHO was that looking back at me? THIS was not what that NUMBER was supposed to look like! Flab here, dimples there, jiggles here, wiggles there. No. No. No. Could it possibly have been that the right Number was not Right at all? They say muscle ways more than fat… it’s what got me through many of my depressed heavier days. What they don’t say as often is “No muscle ways less than In Shape”. I sat down on the bench in the fitting room, trying to avoid all eye contact with the three way mirror, and thought, “now what”. The ideal weight… wasn’t working for me. I realized that the Number had nothing to do with how happy I was with myself. What I want is not a number. Or a size. It’s a “look”… and as someone who likes to have measurable goals, I struggle with that.
It makes me wonder if this may be the same case in other areas of my life. I know that when I graduated college and was offered a job for $24K I immediately set my goal at $40K. I remember thinking, “If I could just make $40K, I’d be SET.” At $40K I wanted $60K, and on and on. I was just never satisfied. I saw more, better, higher end, better quality and Always Strove For More. The cliche says “money doesn’t buy happiness”. And I strongly agree with that statement. I have plenty of friends who have more money than they even know how to spend, and they complain more than my friends who live pay check to pay check. I guess the more they have, the more they can find dissatisfaction in. Again, it’s not the income Number that should be the goal, it’s the satisfaction from the money that should be the ideal. It’s how Happy you are with what you have.
I vividly remember the day I got into my first choice business school. I got the GMAT score I hoped for to get into that school and then got in. And as thrilled as I was, something in me was disappointed. Disappointed that I didn’t apply to a “Better” school. A higher ranked school. Why didn’t I REACH more? And even though I worked at companies that supposedly only MBA’s from “Better” schools got into, I struggled admitting that I went to my lower ranked school. Why did the rank matter? Why does the Number matter So Much.
Hannah is 5 and knows the difference between coming in first and coming in last. She wants to win and doesn’t want to lose. Her gymnastics teacher has them stand in order of who holds their handstand against the wall longest. She was last in line. And talks throughout the week about who was first, second, third, etc… She already understands it’s the Number that people care about. Yes, she has fun. “But mommy, I want to hold my handstand longest so I can be First.”
This post isn’t really coming together the way I had planned… it’s meandering, missing the point I started with… I’m still working out what my point is. But I know that just as I’d like Fine to be just Fine in my life and just as I want to make it clear that Perfect should not be the goal, I also want to teach my kids that they don’t always need to set their sights on a Number. I want to teach them that the Number really may not represent the happiness gained from the number. And it’s the Happiness that is important. The amount of Happiness should be the Ideal they seek.
If it were up to me, I’d do away with Numbers all together.