Posted by: Judy | September 24, 2015

Schema 17…

17. UNRELENTING STANDARDS / HYPERCRITICALNESS – The underlying belief that one must strive to meet very high internalized standards of behavior and performance, usually to avoid criticism. Typically results in feelings of pressure or difficulty slowing down; and in hypercriticalness toward oneself and others. Unrelenting standards typically present as: (a) perfectionism, inordinate attention to detail, or an underestimate of how good one’s own performance is relative to the norm; (b) rigid rules and “shoulds” in many areas of life, including unrealistically high moral, ethical, cultural, or religious precepts; or (c) preoccupation with time and efficiency, so that more can be accomplished. Yes, to avoid being wrong because being wrong was punished.

Again, these schemas were developed because they worked, sort of, as much as anything works when dealing with someone who is insanely unreasonable. I’m tired of being criticized for doing what was necessary to survive in a situation that could have killed me on more than one occasion. Grumbling done. Time to look at what I’ve done as regards healing.

The “underlying belief” was painfully taught. The only hope of avoiding criticism and punishment was to exceed expectations… okay, the whole thing was a lie. No matter how perfectly one accomplished what was required, the criticism came away. It amazed me at some of the “faults” that could be found. More times than not, it wasn’t even a fault. It was a different preference, usually a preference that was changed simply so I could not be right. Insane.

Slowing down was not an option. Slowing down ensured more work was added, along with being punished for “dawdling.”

Hypercritical? What would anyone expect? The criticism was coming, no matter what. I’m sorry, but yes it bled out onto others. However, considering how I was hemorrhaging, so to speak, it honestly wasn’t personal. If others had stayed out of the way, they wouldn’t have run into the tsunami I was living in.

Perfectionism: It had to be perfect. Everything had to be perfect. The terror of being wrong was astronomical. Belittling, screaming… raging… the abuser had all the power. Perfection was expected. “Do it, again, and see if you can do it right, this time.” Even though I’d already done it right, the first time. If I could simply do it not only right but right in ways no one else thought of, then there would be nothing to criticize. Yes, it’s that insane. “Dot every i and cross every t. Don’t forget anything.” And instructions would be changed mid task. If you didn’t catch a new detail, you were punished.

Rigid Rules: My life was all about obeying the rules. If I obeyed, then I was less likely to be in trouble. The control was about making so many rules I couldn’t wiggle one way or another without stepping wrong. Rules constantly changed. Punished for breaking a stupid little rule, like being home late by a minute, and ignored for major violations like obvious lies. (I didn’t recognize how rampant lies were, yet.) Rigid Rules are part of the Perfectionism. Rigid Rules ensured one achieved Perfection.

Preoccupation with time and efficiency: “Do it again, and this time do it faster. You’re wasting time.” Also, part of the Perfectionism. A truly perfect person was efficient in every way. A truly perfect person is able to accomplish more than “those” people. People who are not as good, as smart, as hard working…

All absolutely, totally and completely, certifiably insane.

How to stop the insanity?

Yep, here it is again: Practice, practice, practice.

Interestingly enough, the hypercritical is the one I have the most trouble with now. However, it’s also understandable. Let’s face it: This is the negative tape in my head.

I’ve discussed in other posts my efforts and failures to end the tape. It helped to accept it as part of me. It also helped to unleash my sarcasm. “Is that the best you can do?” It’s part of the N, so it doesn’t appreciate humor and hates being laughed at. On rough days, it still comes back. “I belong to God” helped, too. I’ve shifted to “Give the battle to God,” and this seems to be working better than anything else. Sometimes, I simply need sleep or a good meal.

Perfectionism: FlyLady was great for working through this. “Jump in where you are. You are not behind.” She doesn’t like the concept of striving to be perfect. I didn’t like the extreme prejudice toward perfection. I’ve never killed anyone; I’m perfect at that. See, it isn’t a bad thing. I’m learning to reframe the concept. In Greek, perfection is about being complete, finished. I have 11 perfect books; they’re complete, finished. I confess they still have a typo or two, but that isn’t the point.

Rigid Rules: When dealing with an addiction or temptation or something along those lines, rigid rules are helpful. However, in general, my counselor helped me with this one. “Stop should-ing on yourself.”

Preoccupation with time and efficiency: This one is a struggle. Writing is teaching me to change, of necessity. I think I can accomplish more than I can when I’m in the planning stages of writing a book. I’m learning I spend a great deal more time thinking about the book than I allow. I “beat” myself for not writing a certain number of words every day. However, when I allow myself to think, the writing comes much more easily. It’s almost like I write the book in my head before it ever appears on the page. I don’t give myself enough time off between books, because I need to keep writing. I’m working on learning how to take breaks.

Practice, practice, practice.


  1. My mother would often declare that she was perfect. Without any humor because I think she truly believed it or really wished to believe it. When I was young, I found it to be a disturbing statement and had no way of realizing it wasn’t true. I just knew I was not perfect by any long shot.

    When I read the word “shoulds” in part b of the first paragraph, it made me think of a joke my therapist used to tell me about being careful about “should-ing” all over yourself. He was a little hokey, but I liked him for it.

    • Wow… our mom’s really are a lot alike. Mine would say, “Of course I’m right. I’m always right.” I thought she was kidding. I mean, she would laugh like it was a joke. And yet, I wonder now as I listen to her lie in order to win, even if it means contradicting herself. I knew I couldn’t be perfect because I was never right.

      I wonder if counselors learn that in class. 🙂 I’m so grateful for all my counselors.

  2. Oh boy. So much to say I think I’m going to leave it at that.

    • God bless.

  3. Thanks, Judy!

    • You’re welcome, Cynthia. 🙂

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