Breaking Standards - "The Aliya Shoe"

“You would be the one in the group to get pregnant and drop out,” she says as she looks at me. I let out a chuckled sigh under my breath and shamefully look down. How dare she say that?! I think to myself.

The other girls at the lunch table agree with a nod as they pick at their salads. One of them adds, “Yea, Fran’s always been the fierce one! She would be the one getting into trouble with her DC attitude. Right, Fran?” I am honestly about to slit someone’s throat at this point. I roll my eyes and respond, “I mean, that’s not the picture I would paint.”

I no longer want to be part of this conversation. So, I get up and say, “I have to go finish up the next class’s assignment. I’ll catch up with you all later...”

One of the girls interrupts me, “Do you want to copy my assignment? It’ll take you too long to finish it up, so just use mine.” I think about it for a split second. It would be an easy way out, but then, of course, they will see me as the Latina that cheated her way through school. But she is right - it does take me twice as long to do the assignments because my family couldn’t afford tutors like theirs can. “That’s ok, I got it,” I said, frustrated, as I threw out my lunch and walked away.

In that moment I realize that even my close friends have set a standard for me. They don’t expect me to succeed in school because only 30% of Latinas are graduating. They expect me to drop out because that’s what other Latinas in my neighborhood are doing. They have a standard so low that I am just another “average” Latina to them - nothing more. And I have to admit, that pisses me off!!!

I walk into the library and ferociously work to finish up my homework assignment, all the while thinking to myself, How dare they put me in their “average” box?! I’ll tear their box to pieces! Watch!

The anger of that moment triggered something in me so strong that I inherited a drive to always break people’s standards - whether it was at home, in the workplace, or in my community - I refuse to ever be placed in an “average” box.


Many of us are not interested in interrupting the plain, boring status quo in our lives, workplaces, and circles. We are just so comfortable with the way things are that any effort to break the standard (go beyond the average, or the expected) just seems like too much work.

Anytime a standard is set, someone (or a system) is telling you that there is a level of quality or a measure by which you are evaluated. In other words, it is the average; the way you are expected to perform, to behave, etc. Nothing more and nothing less. Meeting the standard means that you fit into the average box; you are performing at the level expected.

But I’m going to dare you - especially since we’re closing out 2015 and going into 2016 - to break standards! Be bold, be confident, and get someone around you talking!

It can literally be any standard - set by you, your boss, your family, your partner, whoever. Whatever the set measure or norm is, break it! Prove to yourself that you have the capacity to break out of the average box and stand out.  

When was the last time you set a bar so high, it was mind boggling? Or have you ever?

Let me paint the picture for you: You show unconditional love to someone who others have rejected, or give more than you are believed to have, or crush your deadline at work. The first time you do it, people applaud you, thinking it’s a one time thing. But you do it continuously, until everyone around you realizes that it's a habit for you to go above norms and you just don’t fit into their standard boxes. They don’t even know what to call you anymore, so they come up with names like “unreal,” “fierce,” “not human,” “from another world,” “gifted,” you get the drift. You've left them astounded! All of a sudden they start to think to themselves, “How do I break the standard?” Not only did you break the standard, but you’ve provoked people around you to reach past what they believe to be the norm.

Don’t be afraid to break standards and provoke change around you. Change has always started one person at a time - and this time, that person is going to be you!


Each post is named after a pair of "fictitious" (for now) shoes. For this post, I chose the name "Aliya," which means “superior, high, rising above.”