top of page

Standards vs Expectations

Women in Livingness Workshop

Standards vs Expectations

with Natalie Benhayon

Sunday 21st July 2019


If there’s one thing I know for sure, it is that we all have different standards of living. There are also those times when we place expectations on others and or upon ourselves to live up to our standards. And I know only too well what comes next – an environment ripe to become peeved, despondent, frustrated, disappointed, given up, controlling and even angry when your standards are not equaled, and or when your expectations are not met.

And so when the recent Women in Livingness workshop kicked off and Natalie Benhayon revealed the day was going to be about Standards & Expectations, I was quite delighted! I had already clocked how damaging and invariably useless expectations are in life and relationships, but I was ready to hear more about standards and what to do (or not do) in a situation where standards differ.

What exactly does it mean to ‘have a standard’?

As the workshop began, I pondered on what my definition of a standard is. For me, it is when there is a baseline, foundation or value about something that you just don’t go below. Like, I have a standard about how tidy I keep my car and kitchen; I have a standard about how respectfully I treat people; and I have a standard about how my daughter uses screen time.

It’s easy to register the obvious ones like the ones above, but I never really thought about every little thing I do/think/communicate/am etc. as being a ‘standard’; I thought it’s just my way of living. But as I learned through the workshop, to expand what a standard is out into every little aspect of life, is much bigger and demands much more responsibility.

My definition morphed into understanding a standard as:

  • Something I already do. It is not an ideal or wishful thinking; it is what I am already bringing life.

  • Something that doesn’t need to be taught, or to convince or impose onto someone.

  • A way of being with others that allows me to feel confident and connected to who I am without needing to be anything for anyone else.

When I honour my standards in how I am with others and especially how I am with myself, it brings a sense of settlement and ease in my body. I understand why people behave the way they do and have more space to understand life because I am not in any judgment, control or expectation of it.

But when I don’t honour the standard and compromise instead, I feel a disturbance within, like I have given something very precious away, which can lead to going into other bahaviours, like judgment, control, needing recognition from others or putting myself down to compensate and try to fill the void I am feeling.

“A standard lived or held with neither judgment nor justification, leads to being free to twig or discern what happens next. It may be that someone revolts, resists, refuses, accuses and just plain rejects you (really what they’re rejecting is what you stand for). Or it may be that someone enjoys and accepts a new way.

Being understanding either way, gives a wide scope of possibilities of how and what to express next. Then it doesn’t matter whether the other gets it or changes their behaviour; it’s simply an offering of what your standard is for another to take up or not.” [NB]

What I began to realise from what Natalie presented, is that it might be me who wants to resist and refuse another’s standard; fine of course, I’m allowed to do that. But being able to understand why and how someone got to where they now ‘stand’ is going to be the ticket to greater freedom and possibilities to grow. I think I’d rather have that freedom than be locked in the righteousness of my-way-or-the-highway thinking.

I’ve heard it said that different standards are just human nature and that we have been behaving like this for millennia, we just have to live with it, the future will be no different and we cannot hope to change. But I’m not so certain this is true. My sense is that while we are forever in a state of flux, change or evolution if you will, when it comes to setting a standard, we do know the difference between a good one and a ‘not-so-good’ one. The tensions arise when we get challenged when a canyon exists between our standard and someone else’s.

And when it comes to the challenges, I realised that it doesn’t actually matter which side of the canyon you are sitting on. You might be the one setting the ‘good or higher’ standard –living a behaviour that is more decent, more respectful, more inclusive, more loving than another’s. Or you might be sitting on the other ‘not-so-good’ side – living a behaviour that is perhaps a bit rough, sloppy, un (or less) caring, dis (or less) respectful of others or yourself and so on. (And I do know for sure that we can find ourselves sitting on either side of the canyon!) The problems, misunderstandings and hurts can arise when we fail to understand why it is that the other person is where they are at in life and within themselves. It’s so crucial to be willing to know why as ultimately any form of judgment exposes that the standard was not actually a standard in the first place. So what was it…?

We started to talk about expectations next in the workshop because often expectations are confused with standards. I know for example, that it’s easy for me and my husband to think (expect) we have the same standards as each other, but when we do that, we are placing an expectation that the other will have the same standard, and I know from experience, this is fraught with danger!

In actual fact, having expectations are the opposite of having standards, as expectations are:

  • An ideal of how we would like a person or situation to be or what we want life to bring us.

  • Hopeful ways we want ourselves to be and live up to.

  • Things we would like to live up to but don’t.

Now this doesn’t sound that bad does it? Surely it’s okay to have an ideal of a different or better version of ourselves, others and situations in life?

But unfortunately the way it goes with expectations is they lead to being controlling and manipulative because we’re demanding an outcome we want to see. We don’t think about whether it’s even possible for another to give that outcome to themselves or anyone else for that matter. We can even start scheming a payback or revenge for our expectations not being met by dismissing someone else’s standard altogether. We can go into blame, judgment and assumptions and try to hold others accountable for their lack of consideration. How exhausting!

With this invaluable and now in-depth understanding of expectations and standards, the difference between the two are worlds apart and can no longer be confused with each other.

Is it important to hold and grow standards?

There’s no point in talking about raising standards if you don’t know why it’s important. When a society has low standards, it leaves the door open to behaviours that we’d rather not exist. Nude selfies and sexting virtual strangers as part of the courting ritual for both adults & kids come to mind. It’s not technology that allows this; it’s a drop away from living a decent version of ourselves that has caused this.

I wondered if ‘sexting’ is in the Oxford dictionary as my computer is trying to correct my spelling! ... It is. Apparently it’s now just part of growing up that is unavoidable and has been normalised under the guise of being ‘progressive’. But if we were absolutely honest, you know you’d rather your 10-year-old daughter didn’t do this, proof we know the standard of decency.

So what happens when we live a standard no one likes or wants us to hold?

We are bombarded big time by people’s lack of standards! This happens so often it’s not funny. While every fibre of our being is telling us how we want to be (i.e. we want to live out our standard), the world can react because it is showing a point and level of living life that they may not be willing to live themselves for many reasons.

Handing the microphone over to the workshop attendees was in a sad way hilarious, hearing direct quotes from what happens in those reactions from another when a standard is actually held...

  • You’re so intense; You’re such a nana; You’re weird; You’re hard work

  • Relationships are all about compromises

  • What are you, a nun?

  • You think you’re better than me/us

  • You’re un-datable

  • Everyone knows there’s something wrong with you

  • You’re living an illusion

  • You’re too fussy

  • Don’t you love me?

  • You’re unrealistic

  • That’s just not normal

  • You talk too much about feelings

  • You have too many rules

  • You’re so judgmental

  • But no one else does

  • No one can ever live up to your standards

  • You always have to have it your way

  • You’re the fun-police

  • Compromise isn’t such a bad thing

  • You need to be more sympathetic

  • You’re just too independent

  • Sometimes you just have to lower your standards to get along

  • A sense, without any words, that your standard is not welcome

With comments like this coming at us, I could see how easy is it to feel the pressure of the outside world on our inner world and cave in to compromise on a standard, it’s happened to me once or twice (!). The tension of different standards can feel so disharmonious that I want it to go away (duh!), so I lower/drop the standard to avoid the disturbance. So much is telling us to conform, it’s become normalised and in the justification process, the lower standard is what’s getting further normalised.

As Natalie presented, “It’s like having a garden of weeds, and planting a few flowers to make it better, but it’s still a bed of weeds.”

The problem is that the moment we calculate, sympathise, defend, measure or validate our choices, we leave our own standard and end up way down a rabbit hole of compromise & conforming and it’s heralded as a good thing, but all it ends with is a measured version of our self.

So then the million-dollar question is – How do we hold our standards regardless of reactions and expectations from others?

It’s not that hard. Yes there is a lot of responsibility on the person carrying the standard to stay steady and hold, understand, respond, and not judge or critique, but it’s needed. Desperately.

We need to know and hold our standards very dear to our selves and who we are on the inside, no matter what is happening on the outside. We need to consider that another person needs to see, hear, experience, read, feel, smell, taste, and touch what you have as a standard so another can have the opportunity to feel a new standard for them self.

Every part of you has to not want to lower or compromise on that, because you know how important it is to have standards in this world where non-standards are the norm.

I know that every part of me does not want kids to use mobile phones the way they use them today. I do not want the pressures bombarding them to cave in to the new norm of virtually living through a screen. I do not want this ‘norm’ to exist. It doesn’t make me a nun, a prude, an old fogey or un-progressive person. It makes me very willing to hold steady in my standard, and in that I know how to parent my young daughter with no justifying and no questioning of myself because it just feels true and real to me. I understand that that 12 year old posting a seductive picture of herself is coming from her craving connection with her parents. And I know I’m empowering myself through honouring my standard and empowering my daughter to know that she is worth setting standards for herself too.

This is how to raise standards in communities / workplaces / parenting / schools / friendships / marriages / globally. Our body – our sensitivity – tells us the truth and teaches us what to do, which the masses can hear, see and feel.

"Be the woman who questions the low or non-standards from her body.” [NB]

The woman who is willing to be seen for her standards and lets people be as they are (with no expectations) by never holding back the reflection of the standards she lives in anyway, is to me a Woman in Livingness.


bottom of page