I’m finally dealing with it. My second to last schema. It;s been haunting me, and I’ve been avoiding it, but tonight I’m going to talk about the Unrelenting Standard/ Hypercriticalness schema. Remember, Unrelenting Standards or Hypercriticalness refers to the belief that whatever you do is not good enough, that you must always strive harder. The motivation for this belief is the desire to meet extremely high internal demands for competence, usually to avoid internal criticism. People with this schema show impairments in important life areas, such as health, pleasure or self esteem. Usually these people’s parent were never satisfied and gave their children love that was conditional on outstanding achievement.
Oh boy does this schema hit a chord with me. Maybe that’s why I’ve struggled so hard to finally write about it and work through the issues surrounding it. I have exceptionally high standards for myself, and hold others to the same, which if they were actually able to meet, then it would mean the second Coming had occurred and we were all finally perfect. I’m so bad that I give myself a nervous breakdown over the state of the house. The laundry overwhelms me to the point of tears. The dishes overwhelm me into hysterics. My living room overwhelms me to where I’m hiding in my room under the covers crying. I can’t start small, and so it is insurmountable. That’s my black and white thinking problem., I can’t even start to find a solution to a problem if I can’t see an end to it at the end of the tunnel. It’s taken months of therapy for me to slowly come to terms with the fact that this is not a black or white area of life. There is grey here. My house doesn’t need to be absolutely spotless, but the cockroaches don’t need to feel at home either..
And of course I’m my own worst critic. I’ve complained that I don’t know enough people. I think if I could get a feel for what other people’s houses looked like, I might be more okay with mine because I could gauge how close to the middle ground mine was. But since I have only Martha Stewart magazines and TV houses to go off of, I constantly think my house is falling entirely too short in how it should look.
I could laugh this off as a horrid quirk of mine, but it extends to other aspects of my life as well that have more far reaching consequences. I have such high expectations for my children, and I don’t know if they’re reasonable (read: healthy) or not. My therapist has really worked with me on trying to see my children as they are, and not as mini adults, but it’s taken a lot of time to even try to see some slight improvement in this area. Let’s take my son for example. He’s 3. And he makes Max from Where the Wild Things Are look positively tame. I’ve been at my wits end more than a time or two because he just doesn’t listen; He’s run out in to a parking lot and roads more than once. He’s gotten lost at the store more frequently than I’d like to admit. He’s been disciplined so many times I’m ashamed to give a number there. I was convinced he’s ADHD because of how wild he is, but I finally broke down and took a Positive Discipline class, which focuses on the Love and Logic curriculum, which other things added in. Between that class and therapy, our relationship has really started to improve. Another thing I do to try and help my relationship with my son is to watch other mums who have sons that are my little boy’s age. I watch what these boys do, how the parents react, and what they let go and what they don’t.
So that’s just one example of where being hypercriticical is probably providing years of income for a therapist some years down the road from now. And then there’s my oldest. She is the most amazing, sweetest, kindest, lovable, responsible, snarkiest, brattiest, empathetic, wondrous 12 year old you will ever meet. I read Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child, and again as a young adult and was very impressed by all that the Ingalls children did and were responsible for. I made the decision that my children were going to have real responsibilities and chores like that because I wanted them to grow up with a sense of pride, accomplishment, and lack of entitlement in their world. So my 12 year old is responsible for tending her younger siblings when need be, and has been responsible for them since she was 10, she is responsible for her own laundry, and she has the garbage and dishes are her two chores she does regularly, with mowing the lawn and other chores added in as needed. I hope I’m doing well by her and not creating a terrible monster who will need years of therapy by the time she’s an adult.
So those are a few examples of how the unrelenting standards schema affects me. If you relate to it, what does it do to you? Do you see any of yourself in this schema? As usual, let me know in the comments!