When I was jotting down some blog post ideas that came to me one evening, this topic originally started as why the size on your clothes label doesn’t matter, but as I lay in bed the idea just grew and grew. I got thinking about how many numbers in our life can make us worry, feel sad or disappointed, feel anxious, and how much we let them shape us or let them affect how we feel. What really is a number? A shape on a piece of paper that was created to indicate something or give direction, but certainly not something that we should let dictate our lives. Of course this is just my opinion, but I do feel strongly that we should live our best lives and make the most of every moment, and never feel like can’t achieve something or feel limited by a number, whether that be a size label, age, pay check or Instagram followers.
When did numbers become such a controlling aspect of our lives? Honestly, they are such a big part of our lives, and I know that I myself think about them pretty much from the moment I wake up until I fall asleep, that it can be hard to let go of living by numbers. The size of the clothes you put on each day, the money you earn from your job, how many people ‘liked’ the picture that picture you posted on Instagram this morning, the weight you lift in the gym, how many calories you consume in a meal; the list could go on.
I recently have started to let go of this, because you know what? Happiness is not in the numbers. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I originally started writing with the idea that it was going to be about clothes sizes. As a woman, size can be such a big deal – if you don’t fit into a certain size clothing, it can really affect how you feel about your body; the number on that label is therefore defining you and making you feel a certain way, which from my experience is usually negative. I can even go as far to say that I haven’t bought a piece of clothing that I liked because it didn’t fit me. Yes, I could have just got the next size up, but you know what, I didn’t want to get the next size up because I only wanted my clothes to be a smaller size so I would rather go without. Even writing that now just sounds ridiculous, but I know so many people who would agree that this has also happened to them.
Only recently have I started to just ignore the label and worry about whether it fits my body or not. It’s no secret that I am a shopaholic and forever cycling clothes in and out of my wardrobes, so for me to have an internal battle about the number on the label for every single piece of clothing I try on is far too much time than I am willing to give to something that varies so much from store to store that it might as well not even be there.
What if there were no sizes, and we just picked up a few that looked about right and tried those on? I’m pretty sure those jeans that read your size but were far from buttoning up wouldn’t make you feel half as bad if they didn’t even have a size – you’d probably just grab another pair and try again. There are also a few people who I personally find inspirational that I follow, and often size up or down to make sure the fit is right for them, which although seems such a simple idea, really helps with not letting the size define you. I now love doing this; and what’s more, I love that I am now happy to just grab a few and go for the one that I think fits my body best, rather than try to fit my body into the item just because of the number that is written in the label.
Numbers affect everyone in their careers; I’m pretty sure 99% of us are striving for the next level and the higher paycheck that comes with it. We work ourselves to death to get up to the next rung and the next pay bracket, to have a better title on our CV and feel like the number we get paid is a reflection of how good we are, but do we ever stop to think if we are truly happy? There are even studies that show that happiness stops increasing after a certain salary income, which is probably when we stop trying to reach the amount that we think defines us and actually focus on being happy.
I will be the first to admit that I am not earning as much as I would like to be from my job right now, but who is? Don’t we all want a pay rise, and I’m sure most would jump at the chance of a promotion if it were on the table. I used to be a little embarrassed at my salary, as I thought it were a lot less than I ‘should’ be on by a certain point in my life – but who decided this? I definitely don’t know but I did let it make me feel like I wasn’t good enough.
Now though, I realise that the number doesn’t matter quite as much to me anymore. I of course still would love to have a higher figure on my payslip each month, and I am most definitely working long hours, going above and beyond to gain new skills and add to my CV, doing things that are certainly not part of my job description, as well as writing a blog in my spare time which is practically the same as having a second job; but this is because I want to do it. I don’t just want to go home and watch TV all evening then get up and do it again – I want to get somewhere, be smarter, more productive, gain more skills and live up to my full potential.
The number doesn’t define me because I already know how good I am and this is only getting better. The number may not be the same as others’, but I am happy. I have a great job in a company that I love, I am engaged to an amazing guy, I own a property and am looking to buy a second, my mum and dad are both incredible and always supportive of me, I put my heart and soul into my blog and have something amazing to show for my time spent outside work, I get to go to epic events and work with brands I admire, I have the best friend I could ask for and an awesome group of friends surrounding me, I live very comfortably without worrying about not having enough money to do or buy what I want (obviously excluding all of the designer handbags and shoes, but we can all dream)… the list is pretty long, and to think I let a number decide that I shouldn’t be happy by a certain stage in life when I have already achieved all of this?
Another thing that can be very controlling, especially for women, in terms of numbers is calories. The number of calories in food has been something for me that has been on extreme ends of the scale in terms of how much I think about it or let it affect me. In university I basically got my daily calorie intake from alcohol, and got into the habit of eating very little in between this (maybe because I was too busy sleeping off the night before in preparation for the next one). Looking back on it now I do think I over-thought how much calories in food could affect how I looked, and probably carried this mentality on for a few years after uni too. Without realising, I probably under-ate way too much during working days, but at the weekends and evenings I began to enjoy meals and treats more without caring or thinking about the cals. I always remember people asking me how I ate so much and stayed so skinny, but now looking back on that, it was probably just because I didn’t really bother eating enough during the work-week that I didn’t end up turning into a walking burger.
It’s only over the last few years where I have become more comfortable not thinking about calories and not letting what I think will be the least calorie dense item on a menu decide what I will have for dinner, when in fact some salads have the same amount of calories as the “unhealthy” item you really wanted, so you should have just had it, obviously taken a photo for instagram, enjoyed it and got on with your life.
A huge part of my journey with this was when I got into the gym and lifting weights. I found something I loved to do and felt really great for it, which is really how it should be. I see so many people doing hours of cardio to burn off X amount of calories, when exercise should be something that makes you feel great; the aesthetics is just an amazing bonus! As with anything I get into, I did a tonne of research which included the food aspect to help with weight training and I did begin to count calories again, but this time it was to increase them(!!!) This was kinda scary at first, but the crazy thing is that the more I ate, the leaner I got, and I actually ended up feeling the best I had in as long as I could remember. I was always full and actually struggled a lot of the time to consume enough calories each day, my clothes fitted me better, I was more confident, my skin and hair was a million times better than it was before, I didn’t get ill half as much, and all that time I had spent worrying about not eating things because they contained too many calories went straight out the window. Food nourishes, feeds and medicates our bodies, and it took me almost 30 years to really realise this properly.
There is such a big health focus in everyday life now that calories is not something you can get away with so easily, and actually sometimes when I have goals or I get back into training a lot in the gym again, I do use My Fitness Pal to track what I’m eating and get an idea of the micro and macro nutrients I usually eat in a day. When I was going to the gym a lot I actually did this every single day and found that it can get quite addictive, but in an unhealthy way, and I started to feel uncomfortable not knowing how many calories I had eaten, which is why I try not to do this so much anymore. I have a pretty good idea of how much I generally eat, and actually, I want to enjoy my life and not let the number on a packet consume me. I love healthy food so during the week I will pack myself a lunch that I love and I know is nourishing for my body, whether that be a bagel, a salad, a jacket potato or a pasta dish, and if I want that pizza at the weekend (which is most weekends lets be honest) then I will have it, love it, and not feel guilty at all. I don’t have time to worry about that stuff anymore, and I’m pretty sure that when I’m older I will want to remember all the amazing food and drink I tried in my time (as well as be in better health), not look back and wish that I hadn’t eaten that amazing 3 course meal because the cals were too high.
I could write paragraphs and paragraphs on various numbers that become part of our lives, and quickly end up being something that make us feel a certain way, define how we act, or even feel like they determine our value. The truth is that none of these numbers determine the value of any person; the numbers in our clothes shouldn’t make us try to fit into them or feel bad if we don’t (after all they are pretty much inconsistent across every brand going), there isn’t a salary that you should be at by a certain point in your life, calories shouldn’t decide what you eat at every meal – you should, we don’t need to buy items with large price tags to impress others, nor do we need to follow loads of people on Instagram to get them to follow us back, just to then unfollow them and make it look like we naturally have thousands of followers (also who has time to do this?!) and age is just a number – go live your life and enjoy every moment, don’t waste time letting numbers define you or caring what other people might think, because life is just too short.