June 11, 2012

Measuring Up


We are taught from a young age to count and measure things. From our weight and length at birth to the number of years until we take our last breath, so much about our lives is charted, tracked, measured and evaluated. 

In school we are taught to identify different quantities and compare them through word problems.

“Timmy has 16 apples and George has 14 apples. Then Sam comes along with 17 apples. Who has the most apples?” Pretty harmless, right? Still I can’t help but wonder if having this concept of measuring and comparing ingrained in us throughout our lives doesn’t lead to some kind of long-term negative effects.

Measuring and evaluating isn’t inherently bad, but the problem it can cause usually has to do with the things we believe measurements are indicative of. Anyone will tell you that based on simple numbers, Sam has the most apples of the three boys (see above).

Fast forward to today… “Allison has 800 friends on Facebook, but Sarah has 1000 followers on Twitter. Kristen is connected to 2400 people on LinkedIn. Which girl is most popular?” See the problem here?

Measuring something that isn’t so concrete, such as popularity, is not as easy as counting or getting out a yardstick. Still we somehow try to measure and evaluate these things with the only tools we have…numbers.

I was chatting with a dear friend and fellow blogger yesterday about how we sometimes feel discouraged going to bookstores because it reminds us of all the books we wish we had written. More and more bloggers are getting book publishing deals and now this feels like one more way to measure success. Or really I should say to measure failure.

Why is it that someone else’s success feels like failure to us? Why do we get hung up in this idea that there is only so much success to go around and someone else experiencing it is taking away a piece of our pie? I am convinced we feel this way because of the way we are taught to measure and evaluate everything from such a young age. 

I heard these wise words recently about love: “You can’t measure love. And if you are constantly trying to measure it, you don’t really understand love at all.”

I think this is true about a great many things that, like love, just can’t be measured. Do you ever struggle with feeling like you need to measure and evaluate yourself? I’ve gotten better about giving myself a break in this area, but I still have a long ways to go…and there I go measuring again.