Unrelenting Standards/Hyper-Criticalness Schema

Look at the sentences below. Do any of these resonate with you? If they do, you might have an Unrelenting Standards Schema:

  • I feel anxious about achieving more in life.
  • I feel that I need to be the best at what I do and give 100% at everything.
  • I feel that whatever I do, it is not quite good enough.
  • I frequently feel anxious that I am wasting time.
  • I feel guilty when I sit down and rest because there are things I could be doing to be productive.


What is the Unrelenting Standards Schema?

The Unrelenting Standards Schema is defined as:

“The underlying belief that one must strive to meet very high internalized standards of behaviour and performance, usually to avoid criticism. Typically results in feelings of pressure or difficulty slowing down; and a hypercritical nature toward oneself and others. Must involve significant impairment in: pleasure, relaxation, health, self-esteem, sense of accomplishment, or satisfying relationships.

Unrelenting standards typically present as one or more of the following:

Perfectionism: inordinate attention to detail, or an underestimate of how good one’s own performance is relative to the norm;

Rigid rules and “shoulds” in many areas of life, including unrealistically high moral, ethical, cultural, or religious precepts;


Preoccupation with time and efficiency, so that more can be accomplished.”

When the Unrelenting Standards Schema is activated, it may trigger anxiety and frustration with self and others for not meeting standards or achievements. Those with this schema have a need to feel loved and accepted for who they are rather than what they have achieved.


Living with the Unrelenting Standards Schema

This schema may affect your life in many ways. Emotionally, it may prevent us from meeting needs such as:

✽ Connection and Intimacy

It's hard to be in a relationship with someone who has Unrelenting Standards because they are rarely present in the moment. They are constantly thinking about what they have done and what they still need to do. This schema may often lead to Workaholism and Alcohol Dependency. Individuals may also make their partners feel as though they are never measuring up.

✽ Relaxation and Spontaneity

Those with this schema may miss out on having fun, feeling joy and contentment. Due to this, they are more susceptible to feelings of emptiness, loneliness and depression in the long term. This schema is very common in people who are very successful in their careers - they have pushed themselves so hard but when they finally achieve success - it doesn't feel satisfying.

The impact of the Unrelenting Standards Schema can be significant, leading to exhaustion, burnout and, difficulty experiencing joy and having fun. Feelings of stress and pressure are common and those with this schema feel that there's never enough time and there's always something to be done.

Due to this constant stress, they are prone to a range of health issues. The constant adrenaline from being revved up all the time takes its toll on their cardiac system putting them at risk from heart disease and cardiac arrest.


Possible Causes

Family background plays a key role in this schema. It tends to develop in families which equate your worth as a person to your achievements alone. Little importance is placed on your mental health, emotions, social life and being able to relax. It also comes from families which tend to focus on providing criticisms rather than praise. This would then lead to an individual feeling as if he/she has not done well enough. This results in them growing up with the feeling that they could have always done better.


How Do We Manage It?

Here are some ways you can better manage an Unrelenting Standards Schema.

✽   Enjoy Your Successes

Pause and reflect about everything you have achieved. Reward yourself.

Instead of looking forward, be present in the moment. Reflect on your journey thus far and be sure to treat yourself. Recognise the hard work, sacrifice and commitment that went into making your goals happen.

✽   Stop The Critical Self-Talk

Remind yourself that you are only human and are allowed to make mistakes.

Instead of dwelling in the past and the what ifs, try to be more accepting of what has happened and move forward. Have pep talks where you tell yourself: “I am human,” “it’s okay to make mistakes,” “no one is perfect” and “I did the best I could at the time”.

✽ Schedule Breaks Into Your Life

Learn to say no and give yourself time to self-care and recharge.

Rather than packing your life with commitments and responsibilities, learn to say no and take breaks. It is important to find a balance and to refrain from overloading.

✽   Read Inspirational Books

There are so many out there. Try 'Reinventing your Life' by Jeffrey Young.

The main message you may receive from this book is that once you are aware of what your schema patterns are, you can take control and change your behaviour. Challenging your schemas is not easy, but the outcome will definitely be worth it.

✽   Make Peace With Your Schemas

Your Unrelenting Standards Schemas is mostly made up of negative self-beliefs. Start recognising your personal patterns and learn what works best for you in defeating these schemas. Additionally, consider seeking professional therapy in Singapore.


Check out what Julia has learnt through her own experience as a perfectionist in the video attached. She shares what she's learnt and implemented to make her life more enjoyable and to feel better about herself.