“Your standards are too high!”
Or, “You want too much.”
Or, “You expect too much.”
The message may be unspoken but nevertheless clear; it can come your way by gesture, a facial expression or attitude.
Or it could be spoken out loud, directly, with a tone that’s contemptuous, dismissive or impatient.
Sometimes, the words may sound sincere, but you’ll know something is off because you’ll feel the faux compassion…
If you have ever been on the receiving end of a message like this we are quite sure you may have felt that something in the relationship had just seriously been dimmed.
You probably felt un-heard, under-appreciated and, quite likely, confused.
It can be confusing when the standards and expectations you have about things in your life comes under scrutiny. Simple things as well as big things can be targeted: food; drink; a service you’ve paid for; art… friendship… and so much more….
You allow things into your world – that is your prerogative – and you attach a standard to them. Who’s to say if your standard is too high or too low?
We think this is important territory to mine for Self-Discovery and greater Self-Trust.
* * * *
It doesn’t feel good when someone tells you to lower your expectations about life. Something is going on and it is a signal to look deeper.
Why, you may ask yourself, would lowering your standards (in any situation!) be of importance to someone else?
There are three things that may be happening:
1) Something is going on in their world. On the most superficial level the critical person may simply be interested in expediting a result. Your attention to a detail they are not interested in delays the outcome they want. Expediting an outcome is, unfortunately, at the center of issues we hear about in the news, often related to disasters caused by lax or corrupt oversight.
And on a personal level it’s the same thing (He just wants to put the clothes in the closet. You want them folded and hung in a certain way). He doesn’t want to get involved with the things that you are concerned about…. but if he is compelled to express his impatience with hurtful words and tone, there is definitely a problem.
2) Beneath the superficial level are elements and issues being played out that are related to control and power. These elements will always be wrapped up in fear, trauma, and insecurity. Your high standards are perceived as a threat in some way. You have pushed a button! You’ve found a Hot Topic and you are going to have to deal with it!
3) The final possibility is a departure from the first two because it is more about you than it is the person questioning your standards.
Everyone has a perfectionist streak and it is important to know what yours looks and sounds like. Is it creating a problem for you? Find out by taking a measure of things…
… is your high standard just an excuse for procrastination and staying stuck?
If this seems like it could be true, your task is to give way, cease over-thinking the situation at hand, and take a significant action that will move things along.
* * * *
In a moment we’ll get into how to work things through when you find yourself hurt or offended by words that diminish you.
First, though, we want to highlight the fact that having a “high standard”, “expecting too much” or “wanting too much”, is the expression of an Essential Value (E-Value) that is vitally important to your fulfillment.
Your E-Values clashing with an agenda belonging to another person is, sooner or later, going to touch most of your relationships. The clash occurs when you take a stand for something that is honest and true for you – and that’s really important – but that thing is just not as highly prioritized by the other person.
When that dynamic is not recognized it is hurtful when the standards by which you live your life are put down.
The closer he or she is to you the more it hurts.
It feels like they are failing to appreciate what you want….
…. They are failing to appreciate your Values and what is important to you.
…. They are challenging your integrity…. not seeing you for who you are.
No wonder you get pissed off (or confused) when you’re told, “You want too much!”
* * * *
Here are our thoughts about what to do in three common contexts where you might get that aggravating challenge to your E-Values:
If it comes from a friend or family:
Understand that lowering your standards would make them more comfortable and you less comfortable. Your cost to their comfort compromises your fulfillment, your Self-Trust, and the possibility of resolving anything that is “incomplete” with that person. Make your choices with this in mind.
If it comes from your employer:
Be conscious of context. If the person holding you to a lower standard is your employer, factor and weigh-in the virtues of keeping your job! In a hierarchy based on rank or seniority, know your position and play accordingly. Work to your standards as much as you can but don’t expect anything to change or meet your expectations (especially if it’s about how things function above you in the hierarchy). If you do choose to challenge how things are done and to take a stand for something greater, be prepared to be marginalized and consciously strategize your next moves (hire a coach!)
If it comes from a spouse or significant other:
Understand that there is something in you that your partner has not fully accepted. Avoid arguing or fighting about what the standard “should” be. A better resolution is to have a conversation about the E-Values (with the help of a coach, therapist, or other impartial third party, if necessary) that drive the standard you are holding. For example,
- What is it about the standard that raises your energy?
- When and where do you think you adopted this standard?
- What’s important about it that makes you hold it so dear?
- Ask your partner to share one of his or her high standards (E-Values) that you may not recognize in them.
We encourage you to use these questions, or similar ones, in all of the above contexts.
One conclusion to this challenge is that it — like all challenges — is an opportunity. Even though it can make you so darn upset it is a chance to awaken your E-Values at a deeper level.
When you know yourself better, others can know you better, too.
Protect your Standards! Let them Live!