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Impossible Standards

If you were drawn to this post, it’s likely because you hold yourself and others to an extremely high standard with the intention of creating amazing results in business, in relationships, in health, or in other areas. Today I want to explore the ways in which these high standards might be holding you back and doing the exact opposite of what you intended when you set them. In this post, I’ll talk about where these impossibly high standards come from and why you set them, how they’re likely affecting you negatively today, and how you can release your grip on them so that you can actually live the life thought that those standards would help you create.


You may have consciously set some of the standards that you have for yourself or others, but many are likely to have been set completely unconsciously. Some of the reasons you set these high standards include a desire to avoid risk or pain or failure, a desire to control your environment, a desire to control others, a desire to control the outcome of a situation, a desire to avoid rejection by attaining perfection and achieving eternal approval, and many more. The thought was “maybe if I make sure that I perform this well/act this perfectly/achieve this thing, then this person or group will love me, accept me, appreciate me, never abandon me or hurt me.“ Later on in life, when we became more independent, we accepted the villain role as well as the victim role, and this thought turned into “maybe if I make sure that I perform this well/act this perfectly/achieve this thing, then I will love me, accept me, appreciate me, and never abandon me.“

In essence, harmfully high standards are a form of attempted protection from something that we no longer need protection from—judgment and disapproval. When we were children, we interpreted these things as incredibly dangerous. Sometimes, failure to meet certain expectations of our parents or caretakers resulted in physical harm, abuse, hunger, or homelessness. But we are adults now. We’ve come this far. If we are still holding the bar for acceptance, love, approval, and compassion impossibly high, we are only hurting ourselves, not bringing ourselves closer to the peace we think we’ll get when we finally prove that we are “good enough“.


I’d be willing to bet that if you take a moment to step away from and observe your life, you could find areas in which your fear of not meeting this often unstated and ever-heightening standard is preventing you from trying new things, growing, and learning. It’s so ironic, isn’t it? We are terrified of losing the approval that we never had control over anyways (because we can never control other people’s thoughts and feelings towards us), and this fear prevents us from going out and taking the very risks that are necessary in order for us to evolve and develop into the high-achieving, successful people we think will be able to garnish approval from others. It’s so twisted. I’m curious to know and I want you to write to me with an answer: in what areas of your life are your impossibly high standards holding you back, and how?


My favorite thing in the world about healing from codependency is realizing “hey….I’m the adult now“. Yes, our child selves are still alive and well inside of us, but we are the adults and we get to make the rules. If you don’t want to play by the rules that say you are not deserving of the love, safety, and acceptance you desire unless you meet a certain set of criteria that get more and more unattainable every day, you don’t have to. You can walk away from those rules and start living by a new code—one that feels good, one that feels supportive and empowering, one that gives you the latitude to go out and try things without fearing the painful consequences of failure (not meeting those impossibly high standards and losing the approval from others that you never even had control over in the first place).


That’s my challenge to you today, this week, this month…choose one area, just one to start with, in which you will examine the ways in which you are holding yourself to an impossibly high standard that you didn’t consciously choose to put in place. Observe the ways in which this standard is holding you back and preventing you from really spreading your wings and developing in this area. Choose 3 ways in which you will take steps to grow in this area that may result in a mistake or a “failure“, and choose ahead of time what you will decide to make those mistakes mean about you. You are the adult. You are no longer in danger because of someone else’s disapproval of you. You can decide to applaud your mistakes, you can decide to appreciate your missteps and commend yourself for being brave enough to try and conscious enough to learn and grow. Trust me, your life gets so much bigger, brighter, and more beautiful when you choose to live this way instead of in constant, terrified pursuit of standards that are ever changing and never attainable.

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