It doesn't matter if you have high aspirations and big goals, because living with a low set of standards will prevent each one of us from ever reaching them. When we don’t stay in our lane, we can expect accidents and negative consequences to happen. Our lane is where we stay if we want to be guaranteed a better life filled with better feelings and better people. Our lane is held together by our boundaries and standards, and when we stay in our lane we are honoring our boundaries and maintaining our standards. Last week we talked about everything on boundaries in personal life and at work. This week we are deeply exploring what it means to have standards, what standards are, the difference between personal and career standards, high vs low standards, and what happens in our life when we do not maintain our standards and step out of our lane whether on purpose or on accident. We are also going to talk about why we might accidentally step all over our own boundaries and forget about our standards in pursuit of trying to feel better in life.
Staying in Our Lane Means We Maintain Our Personal Standards
Before driving forward with standards, I want to clear up what exactly our lane is, how we create our lane, and the best ways to stay in our lane to guarantee a better life everyday. When you are aware of the things, people, emotions, and financial situations you will absolutely not accept, that is a hard boundary. Hard boundaries are non negotiable terms and needs in your life that you absolutely can not and will not compromise on. Compromise happens with soft boundaries, but not with our hard boundaries. When we step over our boundaries or let someone else step over our boundaries then we are creating conflict not only in our external world of reality, but we are also creating issues and conflict within our internal world that is our mental health AKA nervous system. To be clear we can step over our own boundaries by saying yes when we really mean no or constantly people-pleasing. We allow others to step over our boundaries, for example, when we tell someone we do not accept verbal abuse, but they engage in those behaviors anyway and we still spend time with them. On the other side of our lane are our standards. Our standards of living are very much determined by, well, our standards we implement in our life. Our standards derive from the same place our boundaries come from, which is our self belief and the narrative we carry each day. Experiences such as childhood trauma and negative relationships can deeply impact what we think, feel, and believe about our Self and therefore affect how our life plays out each day.
What Are Standards
As a developmental specialist, if you ask me, standards are the bare f*ing minimum you are going to accept in life. The bare minimums you accept include all areas of your life; standards are maintained and upheld every single day by how you accept things into your life. The personal standards we keep determine the expectations we set and realize. Our standards determine the quality of our results in all areas of life from work to relationships, and standards determine the overall quality of our lives.
A great and solid example is relationship standards which are minimum requirements accepted in any relationship whether friendship or romantic. Relationship standards are when a person knows certain qualities must be present. The same goes for qualities and characteristics that are not to be present, in the case of unwanted behaviors or values, and failing to meet these requirements results in a “deal breaker.” On an emotional level, these types of relationship standards are inflexible and, if overstepped, can be considered a hard boundary of behavior never acceptable.
Your personal standards are reflected in how you treat yourself and in how you treat others. What’s more, they are also reflected in how you expect to be treated by other people. When we expect people to act a certain way, that means we have set standards about how people should act. Our standards are to help us in life. Having standards in life helps us move forward consistently, maintain finances, get what we need from our relationships, and improve our quality of life. Your personal standards are also reflected in the promises you keep, in the way you dress and manage your life, health, finances, and environment.
Our standards are personal and are reflected in the quality of your work, values, and communication. Values will be discussed in a minute. Everything we do and say provides others with insight into the personal standards we keep. We are a walking projection of our beliefs which manifest as standards in life. The following are some great examples of personal standards in life:
If your work or home environment is messy and disorganized, then that reflects the standards you uphold in this area of your life. Choosing to be messy reflects your personal standard and expectations, which we talk about in a minute, are low in regards to cleanliness. This also means you likely do not have or find much value in living a clean life. People with the same lower standards and values will find you most attractive to spend time with as there will be little pressure to perform in higher standards as well as no expectation to do so.
When your environment is clean and orderly, this tells people your standard of living is higher.
Here is some profound social psychology about standards that should not be ignored. When a person senses that we live by a low set of standards, then they will modify their behavior and judge us accordingly. On the other hand, if they sense that we hold high standards, then we are more likely to win their respect and admiration. High and low standards will be laid out later on. Because our personal standards are reflected in so many areas of your life, they are, therefore, always “on show” for the public, right?
I know for a fact I have reset the bar of standards for so many friends. Through the choices I make and the lane I maintain, I show my friends the type of romantic partner to accept, for example. When we accept below our standards we can watch in real time the negative impact on our life. Think about the sh*tty low level human you or someone you know has decided to date regardless of the red flags, warning signs, lack of shared values, and immensely heightened state of infatuation. At the end of the day, I can also remind my friends about the abusive relationship I chose to be in because I walked away from my self belief and threw away my standards.
When we throw our standards into the trash we should expect trash.
Other areas of life I can beam as an example of high standards is how I carry my Self in public and that standards I very much expect humans to uphold in public. I have high expectations as well as high standards for other adult humans. I show the behaviors to present as to receive respect rather than inconsideration or sexism. My strong values are reflected in how I act, and that sets the bar for how others perceive me as a human being. My values also create expectations, or possibly lack of, for what others are going to do in my realm of reality. Remember- what people think, they perceive and what people perceive, they feel and then they act on. What we act on AKA do everyday creates our habitual behaviors. We have to be careful with our thoughts and if we are developing standards, because these standards, or lack of, ultimately determine who we are as a person because our habits are who we are.
Expectations in Standards
The difference between an expectation and a standard is that the standard is the bar set in everyday life and the expectation is our belief about whether other people will ever reach our set bar. Most people expect their standards to be met, regardless if they ever communicated their needs. Sound familiar? It happens often between two people that an expectation is not being met simply because it was never communicated in the first place. Expectations are not the same as standards, and in a bit we are also going to clarify the difference alongside our values, too.
It is possible to have high standards and low expectations. Raising standards is not the same as raising expectations. It may be best for mental health and overall life satisfaction to not have expectations of people meeting your standards. This being said, the people closest to us must be in our lane or else we are asking for discomfort and ultimately a dysregulated nervous system. We can give our Self anxiety and exacerbate depression by not staying in our lane and having standards lower than our fundamental needs.
Something interesting about succeeding in life is that having high standards and low expectations means we are already succeeding on our own terms. One of the reasons “success” eludes so many creative people is because they create based on the standards and expectations of other creators (or critics). The most successful people create and stay in their own authentic lane.
Let's talk about expectations in a romantic relationship. We have all been down the dating road of trying to find our person to share a life with. It can get mighty confusing trying to differentiate feelings of infatuation and excitement AKA dopamine and oxytocin when meeting new people to date. We have been taught, mainly by big cinema, to expect relationships to be a massive mountain of love, good feelings, great times, and never ending smiles. So many relationships end after 1-2 years because that is when our brain chemicals begin to switch to what I call “long term mode” and we begin to realize our deeper emotions that derive from our needs. One to two years into a relationship we realize if our needs are being met or not by how comfortable or uncomfortable we feel everyday and this is our nervous system communicating to us. When we are comfortable that means our nervous system is regulated and we make choices aligned with our needs and within our lane. When we are uncomfortable, that means we ignored the physical, mental, emotional, and value-based warning signs of another person. We accepted someone below our standards and outside of our boundaries.
The following example is being conveyed from my standpoint of being heterosexually focused when I date for a life partner. Please put the pronoun or descriptor that works best for you as I will be using the word boyfriend and talking about a male human being. Imagine this: You start dating someone new and exciting. You basically expect the best boyfriend ever. Your emotions are so heightened that even the most rational person usually gets lost in new relationship feelings for just a bit. Thankfully, you get the boyfriend you need because he also cruises in your lane of standards and boundaries. When a person shares our lane, is quite aligned in life, and respects your boundaries and meets your standards this human very likely also shares many of the same values. Shared values are the backbone to any and all long lasting relationships whether friend-based, romantic, or life partner. Intense feelings, expectations, and a heightened state of love is simply not enough to maintain and continue a healthy long term relationship with another person. Standards and values are an excellent foundation.
The people with whom we surround our Self are, in fact, extensions of our Self. This is pretty heavy stuff, which becomes even more wild once you realize you do the same for the people you surround. Meaning, you are an extension of the beliefs and behaviors your friends have and this goes vice versa. In other words, birds of a feather flock together. And this is exactly why it is important to maintain your standards and stay in your life lane.
Are Values the Same as Standards?
Really quickly let's clear the air about the difference of values and standards. Values are individual beliefs that motivate us to act one way or another. Values serve as a guide for our human behavior. Values range from integrity to privacy to empathy to friendship. Generally, people are predisposed to adopt the values that they are raised with. Furthermore, how we are made to feel as children determines our beliefs that then create our values. When we are raised to believe and feel like we are worthless or unlovable, then those beliefs manifest as our own as adults and we can adopt heightened values due to lost values as a child. People that have experienced trauma as a child may very well have a strong value towards freedom as an adult. Those with PTSD may also over appreciate freedom and the ability to control their environment. Another example is, clarity and security may be of heightened importance as an adult because when things were unclear or ambiguous in the past as a child that meant something bad was about to happen to you. This may manifest as asking too many questions for clarification, needing a play by play detail before going somewhere, or not wanting to go places in fear of the unknown. This type of reaction to not move forward is better known as anxiety.
How Standards Shape & Change Our Life
I have already started mentioning the powerful impact of how standards shape and can change our daily reality and overall life. It’s hard to not seriously talk about standards in life without very much touching on how the values and expectations we carry everyday directly determine what we choose to accept in our lane. Our past experiences shape us into who we are today. To be clear, our past does not control or wholly define us. It was our starting block, and for some of us, our first building blocks were not set with care by those that mattered to us most. In turn, what we believe about the world is affected and impacted; some would say infected, but I always argue against such sticky useless language. It is important as adults for us to work on increasing our self awareness everyday as to get more clarity on who we are, what we need, and what is not acceptable in our life.
When we experience negligence, lack of care, or constant disapproval during adolescence, we have a tendency to grow into people-pleasers and yes-sayers as adults typically lacking the ability to put them Self first. Most often codependency is an issue in all types of relationships from friends to romantic to even possibly work when we are neglected or disregarded as a child.
When we experience prolonged stress or trauma during adolescence, we tend to grow into anxious or depressed adults with low esteem and lacking self belief. Our nervous system learns to live within dysregulation because we are always in fight or flight mode with high cortisol stress hormone levels. Having a dysregulated nervous system very likely causes issues in adults such as hair loss, chronic nausea or fatigue, lack of motivation and drive, mental health issues and diagnoses.
You might be wondering what childhood and our past experiences have to do with our standards as adults. Our experiences have everything to do with what we believe to accept as adults. What we think is acceptable in our life directly derives from what we have gone through and how we feel about it all. Mistreatment usually means we have standards that protect us. But, it can also mean we adopted beliefs that than create inappropriate or even maladaptive standards as adults. If you think you aren’t a very worthwhile human, then you are going to have low standards and accept a lot of shitty things and people into your life. In some people's terms, this is what it means to be a low life. Your lower level animal emotionally reactive mind is making quick decisions for your Self because your mind and body AKA nervous system think you need to self protect.
High Standards vs Low Standards
Before we get into the meat and fat and juice that is high and low standards, let's ask our Self the following: What type of standards do you live by, high or low? Have people ever told you that they think you have high or low standards?
I have been told time again, and I project this loudly anyways, that I have very high standards.
It's amazing the amount of shit storms I have still let ensue in my life, for many years, regardless of said high standards. My codependency would get the best of me quite a few times throughout my twenties. We live, we learn. I’m here to hopefully stop you in whatever tracks are not working for you in life by sharing my life alongside psychology & neuroscience to help steer you back into your lane.
Low standards are where we can let in a lot of mess into our life. If you feel or experience any of the following, it is likely you live with low standards. Here are ways to identify if you have low standards:
You Are Constantly Compromising Your Needs.
You support your partner but do not ask for support in return, nor receive it.
You are bored often and have a lot of free time.
You feel disrespected more than others.
You say Yes to anything and everything.
Emotional connection is not the greatest concern to you.
You prefer quantity or quality.
You enter friendships and romantic relationships fast.
Essentially, having low standards means you do not put your Self first. Again, this has everything to do with the narrative and beliefs you carry every single day. Truly go inward and find the voice that is guiding you towards or away from your needs. What are you saying to your Self every day? I was blown away to realize that for at least a decade I was telling myself repeatedly that I am not worthy of love and nobody actually likes me - these negative beliefs and self-talk absolutely come from my terrible childhood experiences and negligent upbringing. When we think we are worthless, then we will accept most anything into our life. Before we know it, we may be looking around at 30, 40, 50 years of making decisions and welcoming people into our life that totally are not good for us. Amplifying self awareness will always better protect you from opting for lower level choices or fast acting solutions that gratify. What truly guarantees you will remain in your lane and live the life you need is by having a solid life blueprint with total clarity on all 5 fundamental components of life which are Life Vision, Self Belief, Grit, Growth Mindset, and Goals.
A popular question I saw on Google that is asked frequently causes great concern, if you ask me, for humanity if we were to adopt this approach to life, which if you look around, a lot of us already do. The question is: “Should I lower my standards to get a boyfriend?”
Let me posit this: “Should you chop off your legs to better fit in small spaces?” Because, this is basically the same question. You are going to compromise who you fundamentally are which in turn will dysregulate your nervous system and cause illness in a multitude of ways. The onset of depression alone is enough to hopefully compel you to not throw away your needs for another. Lowering your standards won't attract the kind of partner you want, it will attract people who are looking for an easy time and do not have their life in order. You will attract careless people. Think about it, these people have to do nothing and have to put up no effort to attract you. Lastly, your standards should be something you set for yourself out of self-love. The desire to be loved indeed comes from our experiences as a child. Be a strong adult, override your internal feelings of incessant want to be loved by anything, and choose your Self first to truly reap the benefits of healthy choices.
Choosing to live a higher life is not spiritual bullshit. Choosing to live a higher life means you understand that you are priority number one, you maintain your lane of standards and boundaries, and you are always striving for more and better within your unique life blueprint. High standards offer a higher life and elevated contentment. Examples of high standards that surely improve life are strong work ethic, solid communication, work-life balance, sociable, and trustworthy. If you ask me, the aforementioned are a bare minimum of standards in my life and I urge you to raise your standards to at least these minimums as well. The only things you have to lose are lower level things and people that likely gunk up your life whether you realize it or not.
When dating, high standards are crucial to guaranteeing you aren't going to wake up next to someone in 3 months wondering why the f* you ever chose them in the first place. Emotions can be super tricky! Infatuation is like a veil of deceit if we let it drive our vessel. You should always choose a partner based on shared values, common ground on boundaries, and they absolutely meet your bare minimum standards and hopefully exceed even just a bit. A person with high standards knows that the human who will be worth their time will understand their worth, and treat them right. A person with high standards is someone who has confidence and ambition, and while at times they may question their own abilities, they never fail to go beyond their insecurities when it truly counts. Going beyond insecurities can feel like the greatest hurdle to overcome in the whole world, but this is exactly what I have been talking about in regards to transcending our past experiences and making better decisions. Making better decisions comes from our higher level mind in our prefrontal cortex where reason, logic, and thought process take solace. When we have lower standards and make poor choices we are acting from our lower level mind and reacting off of emotions, and these emotions can be from decades ago that we unconsciously hold in our core.
The Life and Mental Health Impact of Low or No Standards
When you have low standards, you will often fall prey to other people’s influence. This happens because you fail to stand up for yourself — you fail to stand up for your principles and beliefs. You fail to stand up for your self because you were unconsciously taught to be fearful of putting your Self first. Your personal standards are intertwined with your level of self-esteem and self belief. Therefore, to raise your self-esteem requires first raising your personal standards and maintaining them. Feel the benefits from having standards that serve you everyday.
How High Standards Do Not Guarantee a Perfect Life
When we set a standard we are inviting only things into our life that we need. Accept no less than your standards every day. Your habits, cycles, and patterns form because you allow them alongside your set standards. Expecting that every human is going to meet your standards is setting your Self up for constant disappointment and resentment towards other humans and quite possibly the world. You are who you are because you choose to be. Never expect another person to love the life you exactly are. How boring that would be, anyways, if we were all exactly the same. This being said we are all vastly different and on varying levels of how to do life. Low level humans usually flock with other lower level humans. Higher level humans usually live life alongside others that have high standards as well.
Why is it that even with high standards we can have not-good things happen in our life? It is likely because we expected too much, gave too much, or did not communicate enough. Listen, you aren't going to get life perfect. But, if at least 80% of everything you do works out the way it needs to, you should be content and even proud with how you are doing in life. If you feel constantly walked all over or like you are surrounded by people that aren’t actually good for you, then this means you need to get to know your Self better and raise your standards as well as likely contract better boundaries, too.
Having high standards can mean that we expect so much from the world that we end up darn near hating the world because it is not living up to our expectations. You will survive if the world does not live up to your expectations, but you will struggle to survive if you do not live up to your own standards. Living with low expectations and high standards is one hell of a strong lifestyle success tool that surely amplifies your day to day life. Seriously, the best approach to standards is having high standards and low expectations. Try it ;)
It is always up to us! We always have control, even if it seems we have lost it. It never slips away from our grasp.
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All the best today beebs!
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