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Lowering Your Standards...

This used to be how I got through life. I have always had these amazing expectations, of myself and others. And so I have been habitually disappointed. I seemed to have time to think about shit that no one else seemed to even notice. This has been an asset and a defect over the years.


By the time I reached 20, I remember making a conscious decision to just lower my standards. Now full blown alcoholism helped this a great deal, for sure. But I still remember making a definitive decision to lower my standards and expectations for myself and everyone else.


Now this didn’t work. I still had the standards and expectations. I was just trying to not be so disappointed by the constant let down I felt. It didn’t work but I persisted to try.


What resulted was never that my actual standards or expectations were lowered, no, I just did a good job of kidding myself, deluding myself into engaging with people who were constantly going to let me down and now with the idea that it should be acceptable because I had lowered my standards after all.


I am shocked and amazed by how often I have thought myself into a corner. Most especially since I think I am a pretty intelligent person. But I have learned, the hard way, that emotion will rule intellect every single time.


What I was really trying to do was feel better in my relationships. I didn’t ever stop to think about who I was trying to have relationships with...no, I kept trying to have relationships with people who were never, ever going to meet my standards or expectations. But God did I try. And I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that it didn’t even occur to me to change who I was trying to relate to...but instead change my standards, expectations and needs to fit what the person before me was capable of giving. What a dumb thing to do...but it was the only solution I had, for decades.


About two years ago, I was given the opportunity to re-evaluate this whole standard lowering thing. It came in the form of a romantic relationship that I had been trying to engage in unsuccessfully for five years. He was never capable of meeting my standards, needs or expectations but I kept trying. And I lowered a lot. And what I learned was that my suffering was proportional to my willingness to lower my standards. The more I lowered them, the more I suffered.


My sponsor witnessed this behavior and attempted to talk to me about this, for several years. But I was committed to my standard lowering campaign. Which was also a campaign of long suffering. My poor sponsor tried to tell me but I just couldn’t hear her. I was that committed to my path.


But then one fateful morning at like 3 am I woke up and I was a mess. I felt like I was going to vomit. I felt like I was cracking, breaking down. And I called her because she is frequently up at 3 am like me. And I am forever grateful that she was there to catch me that day. She was able to put my mental breakdown into perspective and she was able to reach me about this whole standard lowering campaign.


Now I wish that I would have been able to do something drastic immediately. No, that would take another two years for those type of results to occur. But I did begin to think new thoughts about old ideas. And while it may seem like two years is way too long, to be honest, I am grateful that I got the message at all.

Here is what I know today. Expectations are premeditated resentments. For sure. But standards, those are something that are hard wired into me and if they are not being met, lowering them is not something that is ever going to work because I am really incapable of lowering the standards I have. They are almost pre-set in me and they are not things that I can willy-nilly recalibrate. So lowering them is only going to do what it always did - make me miserable and in turn, make everyone else unhappy also.


Today I have expectations of others and I am still constantly disappointed. And I know exactly what to do with that whole scenario. I need to get back over on my side of the street and own that which is mine. And let the other person be. But standards, those are something else completely and they are not moveable. And if someone isn’t living up to them, then I need to take a few steps back and give myself some time and space to see why this particular person is in my life at all.

God I wish I would have known this sooner. So much misery could have been avoided. But I have learned that misery is a great teacher. And I have also learned that if I am miserable it is almost always because I am engaging in conduct that violates my own book of law, my own code. Not the other way around. When I am living congruent with my own core beliefs and ideas, what you do, think, say and believe affects me so little. But when I am not, what you do, think and say means everything.


My life long struggle with lowering standards has taught me a very valuable lesson: if I am lowering my standards, I am off course. And the only way to right it, is to adhere to my code, my book of law and allow you to just meander on down the road without me.




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