Don’t Let the Digits on the Screen Define YOU!

I don’t know about you but I find numbers can have a huge psychological impact on me and alter my behavior for the rest of the day.  If I weigh myself in the morning and the scale screams “WEIGHT GAIN” I begin my day by saying “F** it” and then go in one of two directions:  “F** it” becomes a war cry and tackle my weight gain and everything else that I come across that day in battle mode; or “F** it” becomes a motto for failure and I slump into despair.  More and more I notice how numbers, data and statistics drive our daily decisions and impact how we feel about ourselves.  From our scales to our calorie intake, our blood pressure, to our fitness trackers, it’s data that we negotiate each and every day.

Numbers, how we feel about numbers and what numbers we want to identify with have spawned multi-billion dollar industries. From frozen foods, fitness programs, protein shakes, health bars, cellulite creams, diet pills, fitness trackers, software and shape wear, it’s all about slimming you down, sucking you in or firming you up or getting you to move toward that ideal number that makes you physically valuable.  Our whole identity revolves around how (in)congruent our ideal numbers are with our real self, both in our self worth and in how society perceives us.  This video of Roslyn Mays came across my social feed the other day and really made me think about how our body (not our intelligence or activism or kindness) determines our self-worth.  Are you physically valuable?

Data collection is powerful, potent and has the potential to make or break our day.  Case in point:  The indoor cycling studio that I teach at has a computer system in place that gives real-time data access to our clients.  This means that at any point during class, our riders can see how fast they are spinning, how much resistance they have, their power output, their mileage and calories burnt.

This is an amazing tool for both riders and instructor.  As I instruct, the data gives me an indication of where each rider is, and with that information I might decide to adjust my cueing, clarify rpm or mention technique to get the best out of my clients.  However, this data stream also has its downfalls. The numbers aren’t always accurate, bikes don’t hold their calibration equally, and wear-and-tear on the bikes might impact the data generated.

Unfortunately, the data creates meaning for us and this determines not only our perception of class, but how we feel about our performance in class. I have clients come to me after class dissatisfied with their low readings.  The frustration stems from the data not truly reflecting how hard they felt they worked in class.  They leave feeling defeated, and rightly so.  Sometimes riders will come to me ecstatic about their ride, knowing all to well that they were riding the bike everyone named “Lance Armstrong” and its steroid-infused readings put them way above their normal class output.  These riders are not only elated, but highly motivated to come back again (and loved my class).  The data impacts my perception of class.  No matter how well choreographed, how great the music selection and how much energy I receive from my riders, if the numbers don’t reflect what I’m used to seeing in my classes I also begin to doubt my ability as a spin instructor.  Either way, every response to the data is valid, because these readings have a huge impact on our whole self.

You see, we are not compartmentalized beings, but fully-functioning three-dimensional complex creatures that manifest our emotional, physical and psychological well-being in all areas of our life.  I cannot separate my personal self from my work self, social self and my fitness self.  My whole being comes along with me each and every day and what I experience in any moment impacts how I enter and approach every moment thereafter.  We are more than numbers, streams of data, pants size or scale readings.  If I continue to focus on my readings, I continue to send my awareness outside my body, to disembody myself from the present moment and my true feelings (physical, emotional and psychological).  How am I feeling right now?  Should I be pushing myself this hard right now?

Perhaps we should ask ourselves if the streams of data just provide another excuse for us not to focus into ourselves, our core values, our fluid tendencies and our connectivity to each other.  The more disembodied we become, the more this shapes our society as disconnected and less communal.  Numbers are tools we should use on occasion to help us navigate through our life, but they are not our life.  You may be someone’s entire universe or you may bring the only moment of happiness to someone’s life today.  You are so much more than digits on any screen.

Written by SHiFT Instructor and Guest Blogger Samantha Parsons, who has a VERY interesting background in dance, business, fitness, sports marketing, recruitment…  She is passionate about the mind body connection as it relates to movement, incorporating it into her career as a leadership coach and business consultant.  Check out her blog.