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How Do You Measure Yourself?

by Leigh Shulman Jun 25, 2010
A couple weeks ago, I put out a call asking for different scales we use to measure ourselves. My original plan was to look at how these scales effect our self worth, but as the types of measurements rolled in, I found myself overwhelmed.

It starts at birth when immediately you’re taken and tested with Apgar scores. Are you pink enough? Do you cry enough? Make enough faces?

It’s easy to understand why Apgar scores are important, though. They let us know quickly and easily whether or not a newborn needs immediate medical attention, but what about the other measures of our lives?

Here’s the rundown. Deep breath please….

Facebook friends. Linked In connections. Twitter followers. Pants size. Bra size. How much does your baby weigh? How many miles do you run? How often and how fast? Marital status. How many children do you have? How many countries visited. Languages spoken. Borders crossed. How many times have you been to Burning Man?

We have measurements to decide whether our children are gifted enough to start first grade on the accelerated track and No Child Left Behind tests to show if a student reads and writes well enough to pass to the next grade.

Those tests in turn help us determine whether our teachers are teaching well enough for our children to pass those tests. Don’t forget SATs, A-levels, O-levels, APs, and whatever your home country equivalent would be.

Once you pass all those tests with high scores, you’re then free to move to the next level.

In college and university, the yardstick arrives in the form of cum laude, class rank and don’t forget the extra points for where you get your degree. Honor societies, sororities, academic clubs and sports teams. All that helps others decide whether or not someone should hire you, when it will then be decided how much money you’ll make for salary.

From there, these logically follow:

How much do you have in the bank? Credit rating. How many days vacation and where do you go. How many square feet in your house or apartment. What kind of car do you drive? How posh is your neighborhood? Depending on your profession and how many years you’ve been in the field, other tests quickly follow. Tests and more tests rank you on a scale of how good a lawyer, doctor, accountant — or really anything else — you are. And if you’re a blogger, you simple cannot forget Alexa ranking, Linked In connections, Google Page Rank, website stats and RSS subscribers.

Once we know exactly how much you make, where you live and what you drive, it’s far easier to find where you fit socially. Are you married or single? How many sexual partners have you had? Do you have orgasms one at a time or multiple and how big is your penis? How often do you have sex? How often do you date and where do you take your dates. What brands of clothing do you wear? What size clothing?

What is wealth without health?

We measure what we eat by calories and weight which help us maintain our hips, chests and clothing size. And just when you thought your food was safe once inside your body, here comes Rate My Poo to tell you how your shit compares to others. There’s even a Top 10.

There’s eyesight, hearing, height, weight, cholesterol, blood sugar levels and blood pressure. How long does it take to get pregnant? What is your sperm count? How many children do you have? What month did your child learn to sit up, crawl, walk and speak? How many hours in labor? Which then leads right back to where we began with Apgar scores.

Then, when you find yourself listless and confused from all the prodding, poking, pulling and testing, someone comes along to quantify your happiness and self esteem.

Anyone else ready to have a nervous breakdown?

While these scales do provide us important information, at what point do we stop living our lives by numbers? Numbers that ultimately have the potential to damage our internal self esteem when we find others simply don’t respect us enough because we don’t rate highly enough.

What happens if the playing field changes? Let’s say you’ve done supremely well in high school, aced your college qualifying exams and then suddenly your family moves to another country where those scores mean nothing. Or you’re the perfect size 6 in clothing and somehow find yourself in a place where a larger, plumper body type is preferred?

What does that say about you? What does that say about our system?


What would happen were we to suddenly get rid of all these personal and professional measurements? Are some of them necessary to ensure our happiness and well being? Share your thoughts below.

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