I was in the classroom on the verge of sobbing as I held this piece of paper in my hand. Never in my short pre-teen life had I gotten any grade below a B, and written on the top of this white page was a C...satisfactory.
Woah. This hit pretty hard considering how much of a perfectionist I was at the time. School was my everything. If school didn't value me, I found it extremely hard to value myself. So at the ripe age of eleven, I saw myself as a failure.
But when my mom picked me up that day, what she had to say has shaped my life ever since.
"Remember that it's just a number," she said. I vividly remember rolling my eyes in response, thinking she was crazy. "Numbers are everything!" I thought to myself. "Numbers tell you if you are a good or a bad student, smart or dumb, good or bad. Numbers are all that matters..."
She continued, "Numbers will never be able to show the value you have inside."
I was so upset I didn't let these words of wisdom sink in. It wasn't until years later that I truly understood how important this idea was. Once I got it, everything changed.
Our entire lives, we have obsessed over numbers. First it was grades, GPA, and standardized test scores. Now it's about salary, number of countries traveled, and Instagram likes.
But what do these numbers actually tell us? If you've only been to two countries in your life does that mean you're not cultured? Of course not!
If you took an amazing photo thinking it would get 200+ likes and it only got 50, was it a bad photo? Hell no!
And if your salary is pretty meager in comparison to your peers, does that mean you or your work is of less value? You guessed it. No. Because at the end of the day, what matters most is what value YOU place on your actions, projects, and life.
The glimpses we have into other people's lives can trick us into thinking they've got it better, but really, it is often a complete illusion. All of us have met plenty of people with an incredible six-figure salary that are dead inside. Or the girl with a huge Instagram following but no real friends. Or the incessant traveler just running away from their problems at home. Society tells them they are a success. But sometimes, these success stories have a very different perception of themselves.
The lesson? Numbers are important and have a place in the world. But when they get in the way of your life fulfillment, it's time for a detox.
After all, you're the only one in charge of making your life count (pun intended). So instead of comparing your weight, net worth, or Tinder matches with other people, start living each day based on what lifts you up versus what makes you look like a success to others. It's just a number!
Kimberly Lucht is the founder and Executive Director of Rehumanize Me. She loves uncovering the common ground of humanity through dance and culture and witnessing individuals realize their full potential.