Unrelenting Standards in Relationships: Your Best Will Never Be Good Enough
The bane of one’s existence can very easily come in the form of being in a relationship with someone who has unrelentingly high standards. Matters are made even worse when you do, too. Many unsuspecting people out there in the world live a quiet life of repressed anger and resentment (which often turns into passive aggression in relationships) because the bottom line is, no one gets things, or does things, the way they do them – the “right way.” To these folks, the glass is always not just half-empty, but dirty, and put away in the wrong spot by somebody else. And no matter what you do, or how you do it, or even who does it, it’s just never good enough…
So what gives? Unrelenting high standards surface in three basic ways…
2. Efficiency and/or Time
The perfectionist lives in constant criticism with surroundings, and as a result is highly anxious, fearful at the core, that some aspect of things will be out of place, and simply not perfect, and that he or she will somehow be responsible. The efficient individual lives life on a tight schedule, always mindful of being productive, on time, and managing things in the best way possible for everyone (at least in the eye of the beholder). Rigidity, on the other hand, is blatantly rule-oriented whether it comes to morals, ethics, religious beliefs, laws, company policies, traditions, etc.
As if one of these tendencies weren’t enough, the hypercritical, or those suffering from unrelentingly high standards, often live life with mixes of one or more of these themes, all running concurrently at the same time. Not only does the high standard holder seem like a neurotic mess, it makes neurotic messes of those people that have to share space with them, too.
Living daily life within the confines of seemingly ultra-ordered chaos can be enough to make a person want to poke out their eyes with sharp sticks, meaning the high standard holder and everyone around them are totally miserable most of the time. In psychology, unrelenting standards are considered a schema, and an early maladaptive coping mechanism. So in other words, those of us with these traits have had them a very long time, likely since early childhood. While they can be overcome, it’s not an easy feat.
When someone is sick and tired of being sick and tired of basically everything, the best place to start is within. Reflect on the tough areas—those that make us the most uncomfortable are the ones that need to be worked through first, on the path to peace of mind and well-being. Since this is a major undertaking, it’s important for one to find a supportive counselor, therapist, life coach, or all three, as the journey into self-discovery and healing begins. A few questions before you begin might include:
What is helpful to me about this behavior, and what hurts me?
Has this behavior served its original purpose, and if so, am I ready to release it today?
In continuing this behavior, what are the long-term consequences and/or benefits to it?
The core cause of unrelenting high standards is rooted in distorted ideas of self-worth. The individual that the “self” belongs to can only truly determine self-worth. Our innate value and place in life is not determined by a perfect home, wardrobe or appearance, by what great managerial skills we have, by how punctual we are, or even how loudly and often we speak the gospel of rules for each and every institution surrounding us in life. We are valuable and worthy just because, and to somehow feel we are not is a crime against the soul, the spirit, and the essence of who and what we are. Focusing our attention on the exterior and extraneous aspects of life is nothing more than a clever diversion from the truth, which is that we are boundless beings living in an infinite universe of possibilities, potentials and joy, all of which is within the reach of all.
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