On Tuesday, I went to Aggie Muster because I received a scholarship from the Deep East Texas A&M Club. One table down from me, there was this girl. She was from Pine Tree, a school that my school not only rivals, but constantly tries to quantitatively be better than. She got a $4000 scholarship, quadrupling my measly $1000 one. So I did a mental stack-up: I’m a National Merit Scholar and the valedictorian of my class; all she’s got is drum major of the Pine Tree band, which is pathetic according to my school’s band directors. I was snooty and bitter because I thought I had been slighted, so I made up my mind to prove that I was better than this girl, this girl who had done nothing to me other than submit an application and be selected.
The way I compared myself to that girl is not an isolated incident. I am guilty of these types of judgments on a daily basis, just like I believe many other people are. The human race is a competitive one – survival of the fittest is a culture, a way of life. People will do whatever it takes, not to reach a certain standard, but to beat the guy next to them. Ours is a society based on quantification – we want more money, more cars, more square feet in our house, more Facebook friends, more Instagram likes. I’m guilty of it: I check my viewer stats on this blog on a daily basis. I’m looking to see how many people are reading, how many people are watching me, looking for a number that will somehow bring worth to what I’ve written.
I feel that this is a fundamental problem. The crux of the matter is this: I look to the approval of others, usually represented by a number, to find value in my work and my life. I don’t look at something I’ve written and think “I like that. I think I’ll post it.” I wonder how many people will read it and like it. I don’t post a picture on Instagram because I think it’s a cool picture; I post it because I think people will “double tap”. I’m not satisfied when somebody hands me a thousand dollars because they handed somebody else four times that. I wonder what was wrong with me, why they chose her instead of me. All my numbers seem to be perpetually less than somebody else’s, which translates into a perpetual state of disappointment and a feeling of worthlessness.
These comparisons, this reliance on the quantification of other people’s approval, is my biggest waste of time and drain of happiness and, I believe, is a source of dissatisfaction for many other people as well. I will never be the most popular person on social media. This will never be the most-read blog on the internet. My SAT score will never be perfect. My scholarship application won’t always be ranked highest. But I will not let these facts define my value because my worth is not defined by numbers.
There are two people whose opinions really matter, whose approval I should strive to seek: my God and myself. For a long time, I made people my god. I worked for good standing in the eyes of the world, for the title of “the best”, which by definition means better than everyone else. But I have chosen now to put God in his rightful place. His is the ultimate authority to put a value on my life, and He sees me as His infinitely valuable creation.
I am a person. The girl a table over me at Muster is a person. You are a person. Behind every Instagram picture, every Tweet, every blog, every Facebook account, there is a person, not defined or assigned value by a number, but loved by a Creator. When I fully realized this, I stopped making comparisons. I stopped feeling like crap about myself because my numbers were less than somebody else’s. I stopped judging people and being prideful because my numbers were greater than theirs. Getting out of that mindset is an ongoing struggle, yes, but it is a worthwhile one. Learning to find worth in the love of God is infinitely more rewarding than any value this world and its people can give me.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” – Galatians 1:10