Numbers influence perceptions, should not define people

Illustration by Margo Kazak

Illustration by Margo Kazak

Mia Merchant, Opinions Editor

From ACT scores to salaries, our lives are defined by numbers. We may not realize it, but the way we perceive ourselves and the people around us is often influenced by numbers, such as grades, height, weight, likes on social media and other figures we place such great value on. I’m here to challenge that.

We can easily use numbers to define people because everyone knows how to measure things with them. But we shouldn’t make it easy for somebody else to define us by placing a value on a human based on a few digits.

Everyone’s heard that grades aren’t important from one place or another, and that’s true to a certain degree. When I started high school, I would stress over every single grade I got, whether it be a 10-point homework assignment or a four-question quiz in math. Whenever I didn’t get the score I desired, it would be the end of the world. It was as if an English quiz grade freshman year would be the deciding factor of where I go to college. It felt like I walked around with a little red number above my head that broadcasted my GPA, and people would criticize and judge me for it.

When people strive to be a number, they stop trying to be a human. You put so much emphasis on one insignificant little number, and then when you can’t live up to the cold, unfeeling, harsh reality of such a number, you take it out on yourself. You think less of yourself because you couldn’t meet expectations, when in fact, somewhere deep down, you know it’s only a pressure you, your parents, your school and your society put on you. When people see my GPA or the AP classes I’m taking, they think, “Oh, a smart girl, eh?” But I’m more than that; I love writing and traveling and my friends and family. I love being a human being, and if there is any way to broadcast that instead of a number, here it is.

Over time, I learned that I couldn’t place my own worth upon a grade or the size of my house or my height or anything else. Numbers can’t even begin to define human beings, and anyone else who says anything differently is too lazy to look beyond the surface and see who you really are. You are not any kind of arbitrary number that is  supposed to determine your worth. You are not your last grade on your biology test, or the size of your waist, or how much your family makes in a year.

But then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the number of likes you get on social media can show how you truly only value your real best friends: your family. Maybe your ACT scores can prove that you should go to Harvard instead of taking a gap year to go on a service trip to Nicaragua, where your family lives. Maybe your credit card debt can show the impulsive buy you made on your best friend’s birthday gift that you most definitely could not afford—but they loved it, and they love you, so it’s okay.

Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a message to stop doing your homework or caring about school. This is a message to stop letting your life be defined by it. Because you’re so much more than that, and if anyone ever says different, then they don’t deserve to be around you. The college admissions counselor who only takes the time to look at your SAT score to accept you is defining you by a number, and it’s a shame if they can’t see beyond that into your individuality.