The Illusion of Standards is developed from the push to deny worth brought on by Blind Production. First a definition:

Within the belief that personal worth must be proven is the illusion there is a set of standards by which self-value is measured.

Within human experience is the need to compare, to understand, to interpret, and judge.

In this experience is the push to determine that which will protect and enhance, and that which might threaten or harm.

This motion of assessment is influenced by personal frames and life history. Beliefs, emotions, thoughts – in short, all of a person is brought to bear in every moment of understanding and explaining life experience.

In living an Outside-In life, external assistance and authority is sought in determining the difference between threat and support, between failure and success, between good and bad.

The belief, coupled within the motion of Power-Over and Future is All, holds that there is a set of standards which if followed will keep life safe, the family fed and housed, and a prosperous future guaranteed. Mostly importantly, following these standards proves personal worth.

Be this kind of person. Do these things. Follow these beliefs. If you do, then your needs will be met, and you will be considered valuable.

In attempting to define the moral good, these standards, especially in the form of –isms like racism, can become tools of discrimination and judgment. Manipulated, they give support to the agendas of Power-Over and flood Mass Consciousness with demands for perfection which are impossible to meet or maintain. Depending on how they are defined and implemented, standards can become excuse for defamation and violence. Simply, US who follow the standards are better than THEM who do not follow. What begins innocently or naively as a way to assess can become an influential manifesto of hate.

However, if personal worth is intrinsic and needs no proof, what happens to judgment and standards?

In the face of intrinsic value, the need for understanding doesn’t disappear. What disappears is the necessity to use judgment as a means for determining value, maintaining power, exerting control, or demeaning others to maintain power, control, or the status of asserting proof of worth.

To release the need for standards used to harshly criticize self and others, move into the assessment available within self-presence and resiliency.

Living from Inside-Out, demeaning judgment can transform into the reflective assessment of self-introspection.

Without the need to prove, judgment and criticism can be replaced by understanding.

Release the illusion of the need for standards with this simple action:

Begin within, seek to find understanding through discernment.

My Experience with the Illusion of Standards

As young children, most of us experienced firsthand the learning of right and wrong. I know I did. With two younger sisters, I learned not to hit, not to hog the toys, not to lie, not to interfere while others were talking.

In short, I was learning how to be a good girl. How to be liked and accepted. How to fit in and be part of the group – whether that group be at home, at school, at church, or within the community.

In the learning, I was presented with the standards of moral behavior to show what was good and what was bad. These standards appeared everywhere around me. In the cartoons and shows on television, in the schoolbooks I learned to read, the stories people told about others, and the behavior of my family and friends.

As I learned to blend in with the group, the ideal was respect and kindness. I also learned that academic progress, sports excellence, or good looks were acceptable avenues where one could stand out without much worry of retribution or danger. Inability in school, physical incapacity, and appearance flaws were certain to receive unkind words and cruel actions from classmates, siblings, and sometimes, even teachers and other adults. The double standard apparent and hurtful, lacking in either respect or kindness.

Like most, I learned to absorb these standards and their conflicts into the fabric of my being, using them as guidance away from the bad parts of me towards the forms acceptable to society. I learned different was unpleasant. I learned challenging others was bad. I learned that I was lacking.

Even though my life was peaceful and prosperous, I was afraid of not being enough to achieve the standards set for me. For in the process of learning acceptable standards, I had also learned judgment – not just of others but also of myself.

I was not a straight-A student and I was not a varsity athlete. As a child I didn’t have an acceptable body, had trouble walking, and couldn’t breathe properly.

No one needed to tell me I was deficient. I knew. I knew because I had learned the standards and could measure myself. I found myself lacking. I found I missed crucial parts of approved and proper existence. Each day which went by, more bad accumulated and less good was evident.

I was, however, a good girl. I did what I was told. I worked hard at school. I learned to ignore the bullies. I learned to inhabit two worlds.

One world was out there– the world beyond me at home, in school, society, and the world. The second world was inside my head – how I dealt with me and the experiences of out there. Within me, part of me was content with me. However, the part in dread of out there pushed me to be better, to be more like others, to excel like I knew I should to be accepted. To be good, I felt I needed to eliminate the differences I felt in myself. Part of which were easily remedied by changing my appearance, studying harder, running faster, and catching up.

The problem was that there was something in me which I liked but which I knew instinctively made me very different than my perception of others. I could not figure out how to change this difference. Instead, I tried desperately to hide it, to pretend nothing was out of sorts, that nothing was wrong with me. I felt if I could act as if nothing was wrong with me, I could avoid exposure as a fraud and as the failure I felt myself to be because of this something.

Looking back, across the peaks and valleys of my life, I now know that I was not and am not a failure. I did not fail myself. I’ve learned that I am smarter in a way than any academic test could ever measure. I have learned that my body is capable beyond the needs of field sports and award competitions. I have learned that harsh criticism strips me of self-love and self-acceptance. I, like all people, am the beauty of my experience.

Most importantly, I have learned to embrace my differences because my differences are what make me, Me – a unique, capable, and wise human being. I am beyond the standards of social judgment and familial prejudice.

All the experience – the pain and pleasure, excitement, unkind words and the poems of my gorgeous heart – all of it has integrated into the wholeness I am today and have always been.

For I have released the illusions of all of those standards, all of those ways in which fear and control have attempted to keep me down, safe from the unknown, subservient to a social standard which will not see that my differences contribute to the circle of the greater whole.

What makes me different is what makes me, ME. My silly laugh and my ability to be aware of future possibility – all that which is at least slightly different are the parts of me in here which contribute to the connection with out there.

In accepting my differences, I recognize that we are not all alike, we are not all made from exactly the same mold.

I’ve learned that my world finds safety within inclusion. I don’t need standards to measure who can be my friend and who I make enemy. We are all connected. Some people get my jokes better than others. My differences resonate with some but not with all. That’s okay.

Putting aside the tyranny of my own self judgment empowers me to see others as I would have them see me: learning, laughing, and loving.

When I find peace within myself, I feel more confident that I will connect peacefully with the out there. In the connection, out there and in here are no longer in conflict and the risk of exposure disappears entirely.

In the peace, without the compulsion to measure up, I am happy to be me.

In all moments, I have learned to begin in here with me. For in here is where I begin to understand out there without the hindrance of judgment and standard. Inside-Out instead of Outside-In.

No one needs to measure up.

We are all here doing our best. When we seek to understand beyond judgment we are seeking to live within loving connection. No longer held back trying to meet demanding standards I am present to me and open to understanding you.

The Fallacy of Illusion of Standards

Within the belief that worth must be proven is the illusion there is a set of standards by which self-value is measured. These standards form the basis for all the pressure points to be evaluated and judged.

To be deemed worthy, production must meet the standards of valuable service – whatever they may be. This illusion of standards maintains a bias towards the ideals of service misplacement.

However, intentionally to maintain fear, power, and control there are no clearly defined standards. The search for standards maintains the judgment of Blind Production and the control of Power-Over.

The illusion offers standards as necessary to know how to live life, prove worth, and judge others. In Power-Over the balance of standards is always in favor of the dominating power structure and establishes the inequality of US vs. THEM. Once dominance is attained, the power structure will behave at will even when behavior is not within the standards which brought ascendancy. Standards are not for those with power, standards are a form of coercion over those out of power.

In Power-With, standards as judgment are not required. Instead, the structure of power exists as choice among equals where each individual is sacred, of divine origin. The system of choice is a balance between the needs of the individual and the needs of the group. Standards are more about value and guideline than rigid judgmental structure. This allows a fluidity based on context and value as well as individual and collective behavior and exchange. Thus, the judgment of better or worse is irrelevant and unnecessary.

When Blind Production ceases to hold dominance, the focus of life shifts from proving worth to the experience of balance, expression, and growth. Tied into judgment, your view was on your lap. As you begin to loosen the control of Blind Production, awareness and assessment begin to step forward and offer guidance as a way beyond the incessant pursuit of living up to you-know- not-what.

As you move into the trust of truth, you find that your awareness offers you a strong sense of your value and worth through the energetic motion of resonance. No longer trying to align with the chaos of the outside you are learning to find strength and peace within.

The Illusion of Standards creates a belief in a preferred measure for determining worth or value. More than quantifying value, this pressure point reinforces, perhaps even instills or creates, a need for judgment. A bit of a chicken and egg issue of which comes first value or judgment. For example, is value present only within judgment and thus judgment is a necessary part of human relationships? Or, if value and worth are intrinsic, what is being measured within judgment?

Essentially, the illusion is the purpose of the standards. Perceived as a way to determine value, standards perpetuate the use of judgment as a way to mistreat, devalue, or demean almost anything, and especially people. Standards justify mistreatment by defining value. That defined as lesser value often receives less respect and less honor than that judged to be of higher value. The illusion hides the mistreatment under the guise of a need to determine or perceive value.

To understand how the illusion works, begin with the foundation of power dynamics: agreements. Whether by formal or informal means, an agreement is a consensus which guides exchange between two or more people. Agreements, both conscious and unconscious, form the basis of all human exchange. Most of the agreements we abide by were created before us, over generations of human experience. As we grow, we learn these agreements while we learn that not everyone is in agreement.

For Power-With, the basis of any agreement is that each person will gain equivalently from an exchange or at least one will not fare worse than another. Consent is present on all sides; coercion is not tolerated. There is no effort to take over or dominate any party to the agreement. If there is a perception of imbalance, everyone works out the issues that all benefit.

The agreements made through Power-With are based on trust. There is a willingness by all parties to trust one another. There is also trust that if the agreement is not followed or broken somehow, everyone will deal in good faith and remedy the situation in a way which works to the benefit of all involved. When agreements are respected, trust is reinforced. With trust, there will be interest in new agreements and continued exchange.

However, not everyone respects agreements. They may ignore parts or the whole often because they don’t see merit for themselves in the agreement. Maybe the agreement was made long before or without their input. Maybe they don’t trust others or the agreement to be beneficial.

Further, there will be those whose purpose is to not respect the agreement, or the people involved. Their intention is to manipulate the agreement to their benefit only. They have no interest in maintaining equality. They have no interest in sharing any benefit. Manipulation is to their benefit only. Manipulation chokes trust and pushes fear.

Essentially Power-Over chooses to either ignore or undermine any Power-With agreement. There is little benefit and limited dominance which can be attained by acting with respect. Breaking down the connection of trust is of benefit and will expand influence and control. The standards are used in retaliation and proof of the failure of the other side to maintain the agreement in an appropriate and beneficial manner. Power-Over turns the spirit of the agreement against any who disagreed.

Taking this a step further, Power-Over defines the qualities or characteristics of those who can enter into agreement. These defined elements become the standards by which all exchange, relationship, experience, and most importantly, people are measured to determine value and inclusion in the chosen group Power-Over. Consciously or unconsciously, those who are included agree to follow and duplicate the actions, thoughts, and beliefs of their power hungry leader.

With standards in place comes the acceptance of judgment instead of discernment.

Within this discussion, discernment is awareness of difference. Discernment observes, witnesses, and draws no conclusion about intention, agreement, or value of any difference. Discernment feels no need to do so because its focus is now and What Is in this moment and has been agreed to. A person in discernment may have personal response to what is observed, yet is able to keep the awareness separate from exchange with others. Difference is not perceived as a reason to react, defend, or attack.

In contrast, following accepted standards: judgment assigns value based on difference. The determined value, aligned with standards, determines the position of the difference on a scale from acceptable to unacceptable, good to bad. The standards created by a Power-Over are created to the benefit of Power-Over and the intentions held now, and whatever will accrue more influence and control in the future.

All power exchange is held against the standards and judged accordingly. Nothing can escape judgment because this is the requirement made by Power-Over in all of its agreements and exchanges. How dominant people interact with us or others is guided by the illusion that the standards determined value. Hidden behind the illusion is the agreement which permits the authoritarian power to behave however it wishes using judgment to treat whoever however to power’s benefit.

If you are judged defiant, the power structure has permission to attack. If you are judged to be a lesser human, Power-Over can do anything it determines beneficial including throwing people in jail or taking their lives. Vigilantism, mob rule, and structural bias are all examples of permissible behavior within the judgment and standards of Power-Over.

Within this agreement, standards are illusion to hide the truth of mistrust, disrespect, and dishonor the powerful perpetuate to their exclusive benefit.

Standards justify mistreatment by defining value. Standards support assigning value to difference based on the needs of one power structure. Standards take advantage of the consequences of broken agreements. Standards subvert trust, worth, and belief wanting to exchange yours for the dominant power.

For the issue with agreements is what happens when they are not followed either intentionally or unintentionally. There has always been those who desire to bend both agreement and consequence to their will and desire. There is an excuse an abuse of connection and is the path of Power-Over all ways.

Power dynamics come down to dominance or equal exchange. One way to say this is the difference between the honesty of WIN-WIN or the manipulation of WIN-LOSE. Power-With operates within WIN-WIN and Power-Over will always choose WIN-LOSE. The difference rests within the concepts sharing or stealing (meaning taking what is not yours). The need to protect and survive comes when the power dynamic is skewed to WIN-LOSE. Trust becomes a scarce commodity. Though trust is the foundation of any human exchange. Standards subvert trust inherent within the individual and between people.

Daily Life within the Illusion of Standards

In daily life, standards create labels used to judge and defend reaction or treatment of others. More importantly the labels create distance between people, dehumanizing everyone.

Instead of seeing your cousin Ronnie or your neighbor Shelly, you see an illegal immigrant, a dumb Republican, a crazy liberal, a welfare mother, a privileged white man, a murderous woman. The labels are predetermined standards just waiting for your use to separate you from connection with the very real person you have just judged. Blinded by illusionary standards, the labels feel comfortable and comforting – a way to live easier in the face of whatever is creating fear within you. You seek others with your same labels confident that this someone you can trust to be in agreement with you against them.

Standards and labels are so ingrained into our interface with the world, it’s hard to see around them. It’s hard to even know they are present creating each and every lens you use to see the world.

The presence of standards reinforces the need to use them in judgment of self and others. Every relationship is processed through the lens of judgment, holding the real person at arm’s length and often only seeing the labels attached to the person.

Human nature wants to understand everything. Because our agreements come to us from the history of the planet, standards are enveloped in the myths of existence and the sacred stories of spiritual tradition.

Mary, who told me she had been a child bride within a polygamist community, said, “What finally helped me break free was asking if what happened to me when I was fourteen was okay with me.” She went on to explain she was 31 before she had the courage in the very depths of herself to even think in this direction. She felt defiant and knew that defiance of any kind was forbidden. Her very real fear was God would see into her heart and mind, and report then her to her husband.

“I know now this is not how the divine works, but back then, this was the way the community worked. The slogan was God sees all, reports all.”

While this may seem like an extreme example, it does demonstrate how agreements work with standards to control behavior and belief. Mary knew that just a thought which defied the rules of her community could, in judgment, condemn her. To question meant I had to see a path beyond what had been defined for us all as the moral good.

“By focusing the first question on me alone I was able to free myself because I didn’t then need to work out the implications of my answers for anyone else.” At 32, Mary found help from a domestic violence center to leave this group and start a new life.

Other clients have appeared with similar experiences of authoritarian rule within their home lives. From physical and sexual abuse to emotional and psychological manipulation, these women have faced the illusion head on and refused to endure the treatment protected by the judgment.

One of them said to me, “I spent my whole life hearing that I was an abominable sin because I was female. I felt like I would never be good enough. until one day I came across a book by Maya Angelou. Before I had even read word, I felt my world shift. Her words and her experience helped me find my way out. Helped me find me.”

Another client, raised Muslim in a mostly Jewish community, told me how he was bullied at school and stopped often by police to be searched and detained for no reason other than he and his family were different and labeled dangerous. “My grandfather counseled patience and non-resistance. My father counseled quiet defiance against oppression. I found my own path between the two by choosing to become a lawyer focused on immigrant rights in my country. Personally, I choose to seek understanding with each person I encounter regardless of religion or country of origin.”

Every person dealing with the limitations of standards placed upon them have the same internal push: Am I ever going to be good enough? Facing judgment which dismisses or denies intrinsic personal worth brings on feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and fading confidence. When this judgment comes from your surrounding community or within the structural system of your society, there is overwhelming encouragement to give up yourself and believe in your lack and your failure. Then it’s easy to believe it’s all your fault because you did not follow the agreements of proper behavior. Whatever is deemed wrong with you is held as your responsibility and, thus, the failure to conform is entirely on you.

At this juncture comment you have a choice to make. You can choose denial of self, acceptance of the judging standards, and find your value from outside in. You can also choose a denial of self in which you completely disassociate often through addiction or social withdrawal. You can also choose a path to gain Power-Over proving your worth through domination and control.

Illusion of Standards is an excerpt from my book, To Do Your Work. To read other excerpts from this work-in-progress, start here.

To learn more about the concepts within To Do Your Work, begin with this article: The Spiritual Practice of Personal Power.