I want to discuss what we have come to define as standards and norms in our lives today. Off the top of my head, I think about how we see beauty, professionalism, status, gender roles and education. On some level, we have attached certain expectations to these things and decided what should be the standard or what should be considered normal.
We have built institutions and industries based on these so called "standards" and "norms." But how did these things even become standards and norms?
To understand this, one has to really dissect what these two words mean. Standard is defined as a level of quality or attainment and a norm is defined as something that is usual, typical, or standard.
As you can see, these words are synonyms and they suggest that there is something to attain in order to either be normal or elite. In every generation, a group of people over a period of time agree that some things should be considered quality and then culture is formed as a result of these shared values.
These shared values are often not inclusive in nature because they are typically a reflection of the biases of whoever has power at the time. But what happens when these standards and norms we live by are outdated? What happens when they are harmful? Who decides to refresh our conditioning and biases to let us know that we need to update our thinking? Do enough of us care enough to change the status quo?
What happens when these standards and norms become overtly and systematically beneficial to one group over another? Will people be brave enough to acknowledge this and shift things in order to balance the equilibrium? Will people be willing to admit that they have been part of the problem?
What happens is that we hurt our world. We see things through limited perspectives. We stifle originality. We erase cultures. We promote self-hatred by advocating for conformity at the expense of self.
So, Instead of blindly following standards and norms that we have been taught, perhaps we should question, challenge and expand those standards and norms to include more people being themselves. I have a feeling that we will see ourselves more if we commit to making this a habit.
Being considered conventionally beautiful shouldn't be a thing because what is convention when it comes to beauty in a world of 7.5 billion people?
Being professional shouldn't mean that you have to hurt the natural texture of your hair to fit a standard.
Being educated shouldn't have to involve only going to schools.
So I ask you this world: what standards and norms are you willing to update today? Our very existence depends on your answer to this question.