The Higher Standard//Samantha Pérez

I have sold myself short

I had accepted that there are things I want that are out of my reach

I had taught myself to learn my limits

I had told myself some accomplishments will just be impossible

I had created these barriers within my mind that I was only capable of a certain amount, and then my potential just ran out. I built these walls within the confines of my brain that I wasn’t able to achieve as much as some of the people around me; that I would never be as successful as him or her because I wasn’t smart enough or talented enough or good enough.

So many of us have built these barriers that limit us as human beings, and then we become comfortable with them to the point that we may even forget about them. In “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace, he talks about this default state of mind in which we adopt a pessimistic view about life where we start to regard everything around us as annoying. I believe we have another default state of mind — one in which we view ourselves as less than what we are and what we can do.

You wanted to try something new, but you thought you would never be good at it. You got a B+ in a class and just automatically accepted it as “not bad.” You had a goal that you just let slip out of your grasp because it just “wasn’t meant to be.” Many of us view these occurrences, these missed opportunities, as a result of circumstances that we could not control. Either the teacher was too hard or that career path was too competitive or it just wasn’t the right time. It is natural for us as human beings to make these excuses for ourselves to protect our fragile egos, but at the end of the day, you are responsible for your own success. The human mind is capable of so much more than we give it credit for. Your mindset can dictate exactly what you can and cannot do.

During high school, I decided that I just wasn’t as intelligent as some of my classmates, so I shouldn’t expect myself to do and achieve the same things they were. I refused to hold myself to a certain standard because I automatically decided I was beneath it. I was right, I’m not as naturally smart as those kids. My IQ number probably isn’t close to what theirs is, but that is not what this is all about. We live in a society that promotes competition between individuals. The billboards riddled with women and men who have impossible bodies, the idea that you “have to be a bitch to be successful,” and the peers that question you when you tell them what you plan to achieve are all telling you that you are worth less than this person or that person. A lot of different people and aspects of my life were giving me the notion that I wasn’t smart enough, but it was me who was taking them in and accepting them as reasons for why my potential was limited. It has taken me until recently to recognize that my intelligence has nothing to do with what I can accomplish; how hard I work is what actually matters and makes a difference.

In one of the first essays I wrote for this class, I discussed how college students weren’t doing anything to halt factory farming because they didn’t feel they could actually create any real change. Again, this is that default mind setting that we are less efficacious than we actually are. It’s easier to adopt this mindset because then we do not have to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and then we have a less chance of failing. However, failing is something that is human. It is an essential feature of the human existence. If we are living a life in which we choose to shy away from the chance to fail, we are denying our humanity.


I do not expect anyone to read this and automatically have a new outlook on themselves and their potential. The point of this post is not to have people start running after opportunities left and right and/or making monumental efforts to instigate change (although if that happens I must have written a really great blog post). Rather, the main objective of this post is to urge you, the reader, to always hold yourself to a higher standard that is not within our default mindset. Hold yourself to the higher standard of the unlimited extent of the human will. The last thing a person wants to do when they are tired and beaten down by life, consider a college student who just finished a three hour final exam, is admit they could have studied longer and worked harder. However, by holding ourselves to a higher standard, it says something about our own perceptions of our self worth. We deserve to be held to this standard because we can achieve it.

Whatever it is you want to do, whether you wish to pursue a dream or create change, hold on to it, believe in it, believe in yourself and the fact that you can do it. If you continue to live in this default mindset in which you don’t believe in the full extent of your efficaciousness and refuse to hold yourself to a higher standard, then you are truly disavowing your humanity.

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