New year, same problems? If you’re looking for a sign, this is it. Balancing Standards and Expectations

By Shay Azman

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Have you ever watched a Tamil movie? I’m talking about the ones in the romantic comedy genre, the ones you watch just for the sake of watching. If you haven’t, let me, as someone who grew up watching them, paint a picture for you. Usually, there will be this gorgeous girl minding her own business, an educated beauty talking to her friends on her way to college. Then out of nowhere, the most average male that’s supposed to be the hero of this story starts stalking her on his cheap motorcycle. He continues to harass her even though she shows signs of disgust towards him until inevitably, just after a mere 3 hours of realising her existence, he confesses his love for her. She is naturally offended by this confession and is confused as to how she could have possibly attracted such bacteria. Soon, however, after a series of events which usually includes him winning in a fight against 300 men twice his size, she “falls in love” with him too. 

Growing up in a girls’ school, I have witnessed many guys who emulated such bacterial behaviour as they would roam around our school compound with their motorcycles and hair that looked like it came straight out of the movie “Trolls”. It’s sad to say that many girls reciprocated and viewed the negative attention as an indication of their allure. Due to norms such as catcalling and cycle-stalking being reinforced through representation in the media, people tend to unknowingly embed those standards into their own lives and perceive it to be what’s most desirable. Their expectations are almost unreachable, while their standards become upsettingly low, and this is where today’s topic stems from. I am writing this in hopes of convincing you into practising the lifestyle of high standards, low expectations. 

What’s the Difference?

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People often perceive standards and expectations as the same thing, when they’re actually two entirely different concepts. A standard is defined as something that is accepted as normal, a required or agreed-on level of quality or attainment, whilst expectations are a strong belief that something will happen or be the case. Most people tend to practice low standards and high expectations instead of vice versa, hence leading many people to tolerating their partner’s, friend’s, or employers’ abusive and venomous behaviour. They let these things happen to them because they set poor standards for what they tolerate and accept. When the expectations towards people and things in life are always too high, people will naturally hold on to the hope that he or she will change. You still have hope that your boss will stop taking you for granted, or you still have hope that you can fix a friendship with someone who couldn’t be bothered. This is all because of the expectations for them to change, the expectation that it will get better. When will the expectations stop rising and the standards stop declining? It is us who decides what we accept and reject in life. In the words of Ilyana Vanzant, an American inspirational speaker, spiritual teacher, and life coach, “You must set standards for how you want to be treated and what you expect from yourself and for yourself”. You have full control over who you want to be, where you want to be, and who you want to be with. The only reason you are where you are right now is solely because of your choices. And I promise you, you will regret not setting your standards higher and lowering your expectations towards people and things in your own life sooner or later. 

Perfecting the art of curating the ratios of standards and expectations isn’t the easiest thing especially since everybody is different and facing different circumstances and realities. However, there are a few key points to take into consideration when identifying, executing and maintaining your standards and expectations. But before we get into that, first and foremost, your standards must abide by the rules of S.M.A.R.T; a familiar term amongst those who have dabbled into business I’m sure. The acronym stands for; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. This means your standards should be realistically achievable. For example, you can’t aim for a prestigious career if you are not putting yourself out there, applying for the necessary interviews etc. With that in mind, let’s get into the simplified steps. There are 3 main steps in this process. 

Step 1: Recognising Your Worth

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You’ve probably heard this too many times in almost every angsty teenage rom-com, and you’re hearing it again now. Firstly, you need to know exactly what you want, need and deserve. In the words of Tony Robbins, an American author, life coach, and philanthropist, “If you don’t set a baseline standard for what you’ll accept in life, you’ll find it’s easy to slip into behaviours and attitudes or a quality of life that’s far below what you deserve”. With this in mind, you must only aim to accept people and things that match your standards. The hardest part about this is having the confidence to admit you deserve the best. But it is only after accepting that fact, are you able to take a step forward in improving your life. Admitting that you deserve good friends, a respectful partner and the best opportunities will eventually result in you achieving those things because you do not allow yourself to settle for less.

Step 2: No Discounts!

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Secondly, no compromises. Perhaps you’ve been friends with someone for a long time or you’ve been dating someone for a while now. Maybe they met your standards at first. They were respectful, supportive, loving, and it was an overall healthy and mutually beneficial acquaintanceship. But things start going downhill when the person you once knew starts turning into a stranger. At that point, if all efforts to fix the broken trust in the relationship is to no avail, you will have to accept the fact that it’s no longer mendable and is therefore noxious to your growth as a person. There is no option of compromising your standards. “But she/he was so nice to me at first”, “Maybe she/he just needs time” or “It’ll all go back to normal if we just keep trying”. Do they sound familiar? You can’t keep making excuses for people who don’t even have valid excuses for themselves, just to keep them in your lives for old times’ sake. It would mean you’re lowering your standards for these people. Remember step one? Knowing you deserve better than the treatment you’re receiving will give you strength and motivation to remove these people from your life. And this is where expectations come in. 

Alexander Pope, one of the greatest English poets, and the foremost poet of the early eighteenth century once said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”. Even with your standards set high, your expectations towards things out of your control must be limited to avoid falling victim to disappointment or heartbreak in the case of someone letting you down. Imagine going to the store to buy bread. You don’t opt for the expired one, bringing it home and expecting it to magically not be expired anymore. You pick the best out of the bunch, bring it home and make the most out of it and if by any chance you don’t get to use it all up before it goes rotten, you don’t keep it around “for old times’ sake”, you throw it away, because you know well enough you’ll be suffering at the expense. Now I know bread and people don’t exactly hold identical value and worth, but it goes to show how we’re extremely strict and intolerant with the things that don’t affect us that significantly as compared to things that do. You must accept the fact that you can’t control how people behave, but you do have full control over who you accept into your life and the boundaries or limits you set, and you know for sure that is what’s best for you.

Step 3: Stand Guard

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You will inevitably come across people who will question your standards. “It’s normal for them to do that, you’re overreacting”, “You’re so demanding”, or “Don’t you think you’re setting the bar too high?”. This is the part where you must stand by your standards and not let those kinds of comments lead to your own self-doubt. The moment you start questioning your standards is when you start allowing other people to define what you deserve. Constantly remind yourself of your worth and have a firm grip of what you deserve and what you don’t. Never allow others to have a say in that. Try seeing it as being the security guard of your life. The quality of the people and opportunities you allow into your circle will ultimately define the quality of your circle. What is the point of having so many people around when they bring no positive inputs or inspiration to you but instead worsen your anxiety and insecurities? What is the point of taking up every job offer or opportunity presented to you despite having no passion or interest towards them? Is it not more beneficial to only invest in not many, but few people and things who truly bring out the best in you and assist you in overcoming the worst in you?

Now it’s your turn.
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Mentally note down the people in your life who come to mind when the following characteristics are mentioned: Disrespectful. Unfaithful. Pessimistic. Manipulative. Disloyal. Conceited. Dishonest. No matter how much you’ve talked about this with them, they refuse to change for the better. Now imagine your life without this person and their negativity. Think of how much better you’d feel without the hate that they sow, and how much you would thrive and grow as a person without it. Now imagine your life if you never confronted this person and let yourself be continually treated like a doormat. If you do not take the initiative to weed out what is toxic and unnecessary, you will allow yourself to be continually mistreated in your future career or relationships because you’re so used to being treated that way. By then, it’ll be too difficult to take action as you have not dared to stand up for yourself before. In the spirit of isolation, take this as an opportunity to glow up inside and out. I’d like you to confront the person you had in mind just now, whether through text or in person (although with social distancing and all, texting would be the better option). Of course, this is all in your hands. I can’t force you to end your relationships or give up on your current opportunities, but I can only hope you know what’s best for yourself. On the other hand, if the person who came to mind was you, then maybe it’s time to reflect and improve. And if you’re confronted by someone who believes you could change for the better, accept their feedback with an open mind so that you’ll be able to better yourself as an individual. Why search for the right person, when you can be the right person yourself? 

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