My thirteen-year-old son, Will, looked over at me with his large, reflective brown eyes and asked, “Mom, what will happen if I don’t get a good grade on this test?”
Will and I were both quietly working. I was writing and he was studying for a test. We were seated at the long, cherry table in our dining room, which has become our family command central. Essentially, almost all of the homework, projects, writing, inspiration and artistic masterpieces are created in this room and on this table.
I lifted my head up from my writing and returned his look of inquiry with a response that beckoned him to find the truth within himself.
“Will, you know the answer to that question…”
I knew that he wasn’t really asking me about the test. It was a bigger question than that. Will is a straight-A student. Not because we demand that or push him. That’s what he wants. Will wasn’t concerned about failing a class or consequences from us. He was asking me if he could give himself permission to relax. Will wanted to know if he could make mistakes. He wanted to know that he is worth more than a letter on a sheet of paper.
And, although he did, in fact, know the answer to his own question, he feigned ignorance. Will wasn’t sure. He needed reinforcement. He wanted to be released from the self-imposed chains of worry.
“What?”, Will asked, urging me to relinquish him. As if I was a lifeboat who would return him safely to shore.
So, I obliged, but not with feelings of being put upon or burdened. I live for moments when my children ask me to affirm what I know to be true. It was a parental layup. I was Dwyane Wade and all eyes were on me to effortlessly deliver the ball to the net.
Although my children are open to all perspectives, they are not always in the mood for mine. I reserve my views for these instances. I observe, seek and find, openings in reality, which allow me to share my wisdom and truth. I consider it my mission, directive and honor to raise my children to be kind, giving, responsible adults. And, it has been my experience, that helping them know their inherent self-worth facilitates all of these other qualities very naturally. When children love and value themselves, everything else seems to fall into place.
And, at this point, Will needed a reminder of what was real and true.
So I responded with a tone that made it clear that this was my truth, so that he could feel free to choose it as well.
“What!? Nothing is going to happen. You know that in your heart. Are you going to allow a test to quantify your worth? There isn’t a test on earth that could or you should let define you. You are so much more than that.”
Will looked at me with the expression of relief and “yep, that’s what I thought, I’m good”. Said not a word. And went on with his night buoyed by an ease that we all deserve to feel every moment of every day.
And, I heard the imaginary fans cheer for both of us.
Truth was served.
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. Lao Tzu
I share this story because I believe it is time that we all begin to relax our steady focus on measuring something that truly cannot be measured.
I know that humanity, individually and collectively, is far greater than a number, letter, or calculation; far richer in complexity and depth. Yes, we do live in a world where tests, grades, likes, views, comments, tweets, followers, and numerical judgement and assessment abound, but this doesn’t have to limit us, if we choose to not let it.
I say, don’t pigeonhole your worth to a numerical or alphabetical category. I propose, let’s do less quantifying, qualifying, measuring and comparing. I ask you to consider not relegating yourself to a box or smallness, because someone else has given you a value by which to define yourself.
No other human being can define you but you.
Reality is created from the inside.
You are not a bank account, a compensation package, an average, a statistic or a grade. You are not the house that you live in, the car that you drive, the clothes that you wear, or the material items that you possess. You are not even the roles that you play or titles that you use of President, Vice President, mother, father, sister, brother, wife, husband, manager or employee.
Why? Because that is limitation. And, you are so much more.
You are the love, kindness and compassion in your heart. You are the creative vision which dwells within you. You are the experiences, which are uniquely yours, and have taught you what you don’t prefer, so you can live in a manner that you do prefer. You are the wisdom acquired by living through and beyond the challenges you have faced.
You are whomever you desire in each moment, without dragging burdens of the past forward to the present.
You are beyond categorization, measurement, quantification, and titles.
You are the light that shines through. Don’t allow others to define you. Live the glorious truth of who you are without limitation.
You are everything.