The Not-So-Standard Standard

When it comes to standards, we are filthy rich.

Standard operating procedures and standards to live up to. High and low, double and gold.

And standard bearers and standard deviations to keep all those standards in line.

I think standards can be useful. They are a playbook of what’s common and conventional.

But there’s a catch.

Unlike baseball caps, standards aren’t one size fits all.

On a good day, they are one size fits some. Yet these standards for the few are served to the many.

The standard time to eat lunch.

The standard age to tie the knot.

The standard route to the C-Suite job.

With standards everywhere we go, it’s hard not to measure ourselves against them.

And if we don’t measure up, it’s even harder not to punch ourselves up over it.

Because it feels like we don’t have much to show for ourselves. Like we missed the mark. Like we’re getting a scarlet ‘F’ in life.

But that’s just not accurate.

Because I think we can confuse the ubiquity of standards for the worth of standards.

Grace Paley, one of the first authors to write about women’s daily lives, had this to say when she spoke with The Paris Review in 1992:

“There’s an idea that there’s this great mainstream, which may be wide but is kind of shallow and slow-moving. It’s the tributaries that seem to have the energy.”

We can get sucked into that slow, shallow, standard mainstream. And open ourselves up to a world of hurt.

Because for whatever reason, it may seem like we’re sinking more than swimming. And as we sink, we miss out on the tributaries surging with possibility.

Which stinks.

Rather than be filthy rich in the standards of others, let’s be filthy rich in our own.

That we set. For ourselves. Based on what matters to us and who we want to be.

Because it’s easy to get sidetracked. And standards are like guide rails on the highway that keep us on course.

Not someone else’s course. Set by someone else’s standards.

But our own.

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