In a new series of short articles we will be presenting stories to help with identifying and understanding life patterns which may be relevant to you or others that you know. For more information about this schema, read our page about the Unrelenting Standards schema.
Maria feels exhausted, she worked 12 hour days all week to meet a deadline for her manager and still feels that nothing she achieves is ever good enough despite her manager’s positive feedback. She has her thoughts on next week’s project before acknowledging her achievements this week. Maria plans to strive harder and work longer hours next week to feel satisfied with her work and to feel accepted in the workplace. Unfortunately Maria feels this way week after week and the goal posts keep changing.
When Maria gets home at 10pm, her husband asks her if she remembered that she promised her daughter Rose that she would be home to read a story before bed. Maria feels annoyed and also feels a huge sense of pressure, disappointment and shame about herself. She feels like she is also not a good enough mother and she cannot achieve anything, she feels that of course her husband must feel this way about her too.
Maria’s husband invites her to speak about this as she is quiet with her thoughts, she declines saying that she will work through the night to get a head start on next week’s work to become more self-disciplined at home. Her husband feels Maria never has time for their relationship anymore and he misses spending time with her.
This might be the life pattern (or schema) in schema therapy known as Unrelenting Standards.
Through the process of working with the Secure Nest Self-Education Program Maria becomes aware that in childhood she learnt to submit to the expectations of her parents through striving for perfection and working hard, in the hope that this will lead to approval or acceptance. This was a survival strategy that was necessary at that time. However, she would like to feel accepted for who she is, spend time with her husband and have fun with her family without feeling like she is wasting time, or like she can relax only after she has completed all of her work, which never happens.
Maria becomes aware that she has developed a kind of tunnel vision, which causes her to only see things that confirm the theme that she is never good enough. Increased awareness of this life pattern allows Maria to identify when it is triggered. She starts listening to an audio recording on Secure Nest which encourages her to anchor herself in the present moment (with her breathing) whenever she experiences these thoughts of not being good enough. Being able to identify these moments, through her thoughts and the feelings in her body, are the first steps in the process of change.
The Secure Nest Team