When Is It Good Enough?

I love the study of people and people watching.  I have an analytical mind and I'm fascinated by various people behaviors.  I've written a few posts about human behaviors (Observations From A Frequent Traveler and I'm Better At Being Me Than I Am At Being You as examples).  And although I've never used it, I have a degree in Psychology - people fascinate me!

Unrelenting Standards is a concept that I was introduced to a year ago that I didn't realize had an official name or diagnosis.  I learned about it from Reinventing Your Life, by Jeffrey Young and Janet Klosko.  Unrelenting Standards is one of eleven life traps that are described.  Young and Klosko write "If you are in the Unrelenting Standards life trap, you strive relentlessly to meet extremely high expectations of yourself. You place excessive emphasis on status, money, achievement, beauty, order or recognition at the expense of happiness, pleasure, health, a sense of accomplishment, and satisfying relationships.  You probably apply your rigid standards to other people as well and are very judgmental.  When you were a child, you were expected to be the best, and you were taught that anything else was failure. You learned that nothing you did was good enough."

I also learned that the perspective of high standards is from other people, not from the person who has unrelenting standards.  For example, this person believes their standards are average and normal and they view their success as average and normal.  However, to others, they are viewed as successful and a high achiever.  Characteristics evident are the feeling of pressure and not being able to relax or enjoy life.  This type is not comfortable unless they are striving for something more.  My assumption is that they also think that you should be striving for something more too.

Do you recognize this person?  You work with them on a project and to you, everything looks great - the  data, the analysis, the preparation, the presentation, etc.  but to them, they continue to drill down and analyze more and more, they strive for perfection.  Their attention to the smallest details is fanatical  - phrasing of words, utilizations of colors and fonts on the presentation, etc.  All of these are important, but how much time is spent on each and how many times are things changed?  Perfection.  Sometimes it's needed in order to make it better and to pay attention to the details - yet other times, it's not relevant.  There is a balance - always striving for perfection and the best product, service, etc., yet accepting when it's good enough and moving on.  When is good enough?

Apparently there are four reasons someone can become an unrelenting standards type:
  1. Their parents love for them was conditional on their meeting high standards. 
  2. One or both parents were models of high, unbalanced standards.
  3. They are compensating for feelings of defectiveness, social exclusion, deprivation or failure.
  4. One or both parents used shame or criticism when they failed to meet high expectations.
Awareness and patience are important when dealing with this type of person.  Is this you or is this someone that you interact with daily?  It's amazing what we do to ourselves and how we react to other people's opinion of us.  It can have a life long affect on us and those interacting with us.  So how do we deal with this type of person?  I'm not a psychologist or even a counselor, but I do have opinions, and yes, some experience.

For those that do not have this standard but engage with this type, I'm making the assumption that you aren't an underachiever, and if that's the case, then awareness is important.  Acknowledge that it's not about you and the criticism is not directed at you personally - it's more about them, then it is about you.  You can balance it by taking the good from the situation to be better.  You can also have an accountability partner for what is reasonable.  If you are in a situation where you can (i.e. this is a peer and not a boss), then thank them for their input but express your acceptance for the situation as it is (and the acceptable completion of the project).  You can also help to build them by complimenting and recognizing the good and success of this person.

For those who are stuck in an unrelenting standards cycle, learn to accept what others consider is enough as enough.  Another important fact is that although you may not be asking other people to do something that you aren't willing to do yourself, understand that you still may be asking too much.  You should also seek an accountability partner, who can be your check and balance in life to measure reasonableness.  Learn to relax and enjoy life.  Learn to laugh at yourself - genuinely.  Sometimes it is good enough and you can learn to live in the moment, experiencing the joy of life to its fullest!

True confession time?  How are your standards - are they high enough or are they too high?  My confession time is that I have more experience with being this type than I do with interacting with them.  I'm not proud of it, but it's how I became acquainted with this study in the first place.  And for those that know me, it developed as a result of overcompensating; which wouldn't surprise any that know me well. It's something that can be worked through and for me, although it's a continuous process, thankfully it has been worked through.

People are people and we were all created differently - not right or wrong, just different. For every type of person, experience the most in life, learn when it is good enough and learn to enjoy life to its fullest!


Sheri said...

In my family, high expectations were a way to be accepted by society. I lived in 5 different countries growing up (my dad is a research professor with projects around the world), and in order to fit into the new school, church, friends, clubs, neighborhood, I was taught that if you were "better" or had something to "offer", I would be accepted. I'm slowly learning in the "journey of Grace" that I am accepted no matter what my behavior is...good, bad or ugly behaviors...and for that, I am forever grateful!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Easily, the post is actually the greatest on this deserving topic. I agree with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your coming updates. . . . .St Louis Cardinals Hats,Tampa Bay Rays Hats,Canada Goose Coats