For years and years, I've subconsciously lived my life based on a point system. I've kept a running tab -- a hidden error log file -- where I've silently collected points like a mathematician. I've tallied and subtracted, multiplied and divided, constantly totaling these stupid points based on... oh, I don't know. People, I guess. Approval, mostly. If I aligned with society's standards. Lived up to expectations. Followed through.
My point system is quite simple, really. So simple that it just happened without me even realizing it, as if this was my brain's autopilot setting in determining my self-worth. The points were a way for me to see if I was winning at life or not. The higher the points, the better I was doing.
Go to the restaurants for girl's night and tell funny jokes? Point.
Eat half of the brownie? Point.
Be dependable at work and help co-workers constantly? Point.
Make successful, not-so-awkward small talk with strangers? Double points, because small talk is the worst.
I give myself points.
I subtract points, too. I subtract points more often than I give points, because I have a guilty conscience and am a people-pleaser and get bullied by the words "should" and "could have" and "just go."
Cancel last-minute on a friend? Subtract.
Call in sick to work? Subtract.
Eat cereal for dinner because I was too lazy to go grocery shopping? Subtract.
Skip the workout? Then skip the workout again. Subtract, subtract, subtract.
After canceling plans with friends one night because I was feeling tired and worn out and sick, I found myself thinking, Well, there goes some points. You failed.
But then, a small voice echoed from my heartstrings to my brainwaves. But what are the points for? What are you failing, exactly?
To win, of course, my ego answered. Life, of course.
To win what? my heart answered. Aren't you tired of collecting these points for a contest that isn't even happening? You can't fail a test that you aren't taking.
I thought for a moment. Then I answered out loud. "Yes. True."
It hit me like a ton of bricks. The realization that I am spending so much time trying to please people, to collect these ridiculous imaginary points for what? To win a contest? There's no big "life contest." We're all trying to figure this thing out. To have people like me? OK, people can like me, but what happens if I don't like myself? What happens if I am exhausted or do things I don't like to do or run myself ragged, all in the name of imaginary points for nothing? The only person keeping track of these silly points is me.
I'm not sure where the point system came from. Maybe it started in elementary school, where I learned high points meant high grades and high grades meant scholarships and accolades and praise. Maybe it was running for student council and counting votes and making promises. Maybe it happened when MySpace had a Top 8 and then Facebook had Friends and Instagram had Likes and Twitter had Retweets.
All I know is it's exhausting. Trying to keep up with the points and the people and trying to remember what I want and what my heart is telling me instead of what the Shoulds and the Could Haves want and what these societal expectations have placed on us.
And I wonder if anyone else is exhausted, too. And if so, you certainly aren't alone in this point-counting, "should have"-shaming, inner-dialogue consisting of a bully that is our own selves.
We're in this together. Women often feel the pressure to be everything, to do everything, to go everywhere and say yes often.
But I'm saying no.
I'm done counting points. I will eat the entire brownie. I will say no when I want to say no and try not to feel guilty about it.
We need to try to remember that this is our lives. We only get so many trips around the sun, and we need to spend our days doing things that enhance our lives based on our terms. What we truly feel. What we truly want.
Society can put expectations on us, but we don't have to accept them.
I am enough. You are enough. We are enough. No amount of points can determine our self-worth.
And you know what? I'm not good at math, anyway.