Standards And Norms

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 But what happens when these standards and norms we live by are outdated?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.

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Not Funny

I want to talk about racist, sexist and bigoted jokes. A lot of times when people condemn these jokes, they are referred to as being too sensitive or being members of the “fun police”.

They’d say, “what?! It’s just a joke! You know I’m not racist, c’mon!”

Sometimes, when they see that the subjects of the jokes aren’t playing, they’d get angry and say something to the effect of “wait, you don’t actually think I’m racist do you?!”

I call that the IIPV move otherwise known as:

Insult

Insist your insult is a joke and then

Play Victim.

No acknowledgement of the impact of their actions. Just indignation.

So... here’s why those jokes aren’t actually funny:

It’s triggering: It’s a reminder of the oppression that exists in our societies today and the many times the oppressed have had to hide parts of themselves to fit in at the risk of a loss of status, position and/or influence.

It perpetuates a dangerous cycle of ignorance and dehumanization: You make it okay to use language that marginalizes people which becomes culture (work culture, school culture, locker room culture, etc.) When it becomes culture that’s accepted, you silence people that are affected because they sometimes feel that speaking up will further separate them from the group. Additionally, when it becomes culture, the subjects of your jokes become objects as in less than human. As in easy to overlook, dismiss, demean, ridicule and belittle.

Just because you don’t intend to be racist, sexist or bigoted with your comments doesn’t mean you are not. It also doesn’t mean you get off scot-free.

Here’s the good thing though.

You can change.

You can stop.

When you decide to stop making racial, sexist and bigoted jokes the norm, it doesn’t mean you’re being politically correct.

It means you’re not being hurtful.

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Stumbling Into Self

Hey there!

Can you see it?

Can you feel it?

In case you’re wondering what I am talking about. I am talking about whether you can see your actualized self achieving your ultimate dreams.

Often times, in my life I have found myself lost meandering through routines after routines while searching for a compass to point me in the right direction.

Give me something I would say.

A sign!

Anything!

But alas nothing would materialize.

Nothing at all!

Despondent, I would carry on and on and I would make leaps after leaps into several unknown locations. These would constantly leave cuts and scrapes. Over time, these cuts and scrapes became scars.

Scars I was ashamed of.

But something interesting happened one day as I sat on the floor trying to pick myself up from yet another stumble.

My scars didn’t look so ugly to me anymore. A memory started to come to me.

I was reminded of something Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

“to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

These words that have made their way to my ears so often suddenly struck a chord with me in a way that I hadn’t felt before. All of a sudden, I found myself standing.

The clues had always been there. I had been searching for something that always lived in me. My Identity.

No, it was more than that. I was searching for comfort in my Identity.

Comfort in my identity led to an appreciation of my story and my story is my passion.

You see, in the past, I got in trouble seeking validation from external sources without cultivating my internal joy.

Through my joy, I found my courage.

So in my upright stance, I began to see it and to feel it.

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2 Leadership Lessons From Prime Minister Jacinda Arden

Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern, the 40th and current Prime Minister of New Zealand is synonymous with what leadership should be. 

Why do I say that?

Well let me break it down. 

The first thing is she’s not driven by convention: One of the things she initially dealt with was her perceived lack of experience. Opponents thought that because of her age, she wouldn’t be able to handle being a leader but that’s not what happened. Two months after Jacinda Ardern became the youngest-ever leader of New Zealand’s Labour Party, she became the country’s youngest Prime Minister in 150 years, and its youngest female Prime Minister ever. The whole thing was known as Jacindamania. 

Another example of her not being driven by convention is how she became the first leader of a country in nearly 30 years to give birth while in office. This sparked dialogue about whether prospective female employees should  inform employers about plans to have children. Some reporters were more forceful than others when asking these questions and shall we say, sexist?! 

Yea... sexist that works. 

Anyway, here’s her response to a reporter that was being persistent about this question after apparently not being satisfied with her first answer. 

“I decided to talk about it, it was my choice…, but for other women it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace. It is the woman’s decision about when they choose to have children. It should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have job opportunities.” 

Being a leader often means that you’ll defy convention. It requires bravery to go against the status quo and stand firm in your beliefs. You’ll almost certainly face opposition but don’t lose yourself in the process of trying to become more  appealing. 

Number 2. She’s a champion for inclusion and values: In one of the most heinous terrorist attacks in recent times, a white supremacist orchestrated a series of attacks that took the lives of 50 people and injured 50 others in Christchurch New Zealand. It was a low for us as a world and it highlighted how dangerous ideologies can lead to divisiveness and hate. 

It was also the moment Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ascended from New Zealand’s Prime Minister to Global Leader. First of all, she called the Christchurch anti-immigrant attack what it was, “a terrorist attack.” Believe it or not, not many leaders are willing to call terrorists, terrorists. 

Second of all, she chose that moment to remind the world and New Zealand that it was a time to unite and not be divisive. Her rallying cry for New Zealand and the world was “they are us” referring to the victims. 

She reminded us of the power we have when we come together.  While addressing the country, she said of New Zealand, “we were not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate. We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things—because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it.”  

In a moment that was incredibly difficult and still is for many families, she stood in solidarity. 

Another gesture of her championing inclusion was when she chose to wear a headscarf while visiting the families of those affected by the attacks. She didn’t have to but she did so as a sign of respect. She continued this trend as she addressed her parliament in the Arabic greeting. As-Salaam Alaikum".

Last but not least, as she addressed the crowd in Hagley Park post Christchurch. You’ll notice that she wears a Maori cloak, opens up the speech in the Maori language and continues in English while having an interpreter sign the message in New Zealand sign language. 

English. 

Maori.

New Zealand sign language.

The three official languages of New Zealand. 

No one was left alone.  

Some of you might not think that this level of cultural sensitivity matters but they do. They show that you’re more than words. They humanize people and let people feel seen, heard and understood. They prevent an ethnocentric way of looking at things or evaluating other peoples and cultures according to the standards of one's own culture.

You can tell a lot about people based on how they respond to situations. Some people shrink away and some people step up. Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern stepped up and reminded us that each of us can do so too! 

She reminded us of our humanity and the importance of living our values. 

We are not immune to the viruses of hate, of fear, of other. We never have been," she said, "but we can be the nation that discovers the cure".

                                      ~ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

A true leader is not driven by convention and is a champion for inclusion and values.

Till next time, use your difference to make a difference. 

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