Moving away from numerical self-worth

Today, I want to talk about self-worth. More specifically, how we can distance ourselves from a number-based value system. Obviously I’m no expert, but I thought it would be interesting to explore and deconstruct the importance we give to numbers in society as a means of evaluating our worth. I’ll be talking about clothing sizes, scales and bodily measurements, amongst other things!

Categorisation fixation

One thing that I explored quite a lot in University this year was our obsession, as humans, with categorisation. We can see this phenomenon in gender/ sexuality categories, racial ones, dietary ones… among a whole host of others. I think that we derive a certain level of comfort and satisfaction from being able to put humans into specific boxes (e.g. girl/boy). And, to a degree, the same applies to numbers and self-worth. I’ll explain this in the next sections.

not much relevance but photo from my brother’s graduation!
Clothing sizes

In a society where smaller still often equates to better, I’ve seen firsthand the satisfaction people get from saying that they’re a “size 6”. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wearing this size, but I do think it’s interesting that we use these numbers to value ourselves. Being anything above a size 10 has been coloured as profoundly negative. We have given these numbers the power to define and value us. Not everyone will feel this way, but subconsciously or not, I do believe that most people’s self-worth has been influenced by this sizing system in some way.

Bodily measurements

Believe it or not, I have been asked – several times – how big my waist is. Previously, when I used to reply, I would receive in response raised eyebrows, exclamations that “that can’t be true, it’s bigger than me!”, as well as other signs of disbelief. It would make me associate that number with being “bad”, “too big” (“especially for a small girl!”), “abnormal”. I began to value myself through this numerical system. I saw myself as a measurement rather than a human being. So now, when asked this question, I simply ignore it or say “what sort of a question is that?”. Rhetorically, obviously, because it’s not a question.

fudge recipe on my Instagram!
The Scales

Another thing that has happened to me a lot is being asked how much I weigh. Whilst this does frustrate me, because weight is both a private and a personal matter, I also understand where these questions are coming from. When I had my eating disorder, I remember wanting to know other people’s weights so that I could compare and ensure I was at an “acceptable” one. The thing is, weight is a pretty irrelevant number in the grand scheme of things. That’s why BMI has largely gone out of fashion. Your weight, as a simple number, completely strips the value of meaning. It does not take into account muscle mass, bone density, height, genetics, gender, lifestyle… I think you get my point. Someone can be lighter, but that does not necessarily mean they are healthier or worthier.

me and Dad (question is: who is winning the tanning contest?)
So what can we do?

Something that has really helped me is focusing on function over numbers. My body can do incredible things, irrespective of its numbers. We are all uniquely magnificent, and a number will never tell you that. Health is not a number, worth is not a number, and YOU are not a number. It’s hard, I know that from personal experience, and it’s easy to lose sight of that. But each time you find yourself criticising your body for not being the number you want it do be, try to oppose this with three things you’re body has allowed you to do on that day. Fight negativity with positivity. Soon, it will become a habit rather than an effort, and the numbers won’t hold as much power over you anymore.

lunch featuring Moorish humous (I’m interning with them)

I hope this post has been useful to some of you, and remember that you are never alone in these struggles. My DMs are always open if you need a chat!

Emma ♥♥