Unreasonable standards. This is something I know all to well. I’m going to share something in this post that I haven’t yet shared with you all, but I think I’m finally ready to take the plunge. I’ve been living up to others standards for my entire life. And it all started on one fateful night in Vermont, 33 years ago.
Memories of the Past
When I was eight years-old, I watched a close family member die slowly from skin cancer. This was due to the chemicals she was using for her screen printing business. It was difficult to watch. I remember the seizures she would have and my caregiver holding a metal spoon in her mouth to stop her from swallowing her tongue. Her jagged teeth were evidence of these actions, which left such a vivid imprint on my younger self’s memory.
While she was dying, my family made regular trips to Vermont to be with her and her family. It was during these trips, where something that would shape the rest of my life, had happened. And it was based around somebody placing an unreasonable standard on the shoulders of an eight year-old me.
During these visits to my family members home, we would spend many nights in Vermont’s beautiful verdant greener. It was during these nights that another care taker would visit me in the early morning hours.
I would be sound asleep, when suddenly I felt water being poured on me from the outside of my sheets. I opened my eyes to find my caregiver pouring water on my groin. They then pulled me from bed with fervent anger and a flurry of confusion and wet sheets. They then scolded me for “wetting the bed”, towering over me in the dark and using whispered, harsh, cold and cutting tones. About what, I’m not sure of, because to this day I still don’t remember what they said to me. But I know that it had something to do with how to be a man.
Terrifyingly Unreasonable Expectations & Confusion
I’m not sure the amount of times my caregiver visited me in the night, but it was always confusing, terrifying and left me feeling so alone and so confused. Confused about what it meant to be part of a family. Something I’m still coming to terms with.
To make things even more confusing, one night he pulled me to tell me I had done a good a job because we felt like a family while making dinner. Another time he pulled me, as I said above, he poured water on my groin and told me I had wet the bed. I didn’t have the names for the feelings I was experiencing at the time. But it was intense, terrifying and beyond confusing. I can remember looking in the mirror while I was in the bathroom, cleaning up from having water poured on me, not knowing what was happening, what has happened and what to do about it.
Later, when I told my main caregiver what had happened, they turned their back on me. Leaving eight year-old me alone on the landing. With no where to go but back to the hands of those who would continue to abuse me. This, with the other trauma I was experiencing at the time, lead to a lot of confusion around what it means to have reasonable expectations or standards.
High Standards, Whose Life are We Living
I’ve been living under my family’s unreasonable standards for my entire life. I’ve only recently begun to take a deeper look at where that feeling is rooted. Also about what I’m believing about myself and my belonging. It’s left me with a lot of uneasy questions. Mostly about how I had been living my life and whose life was I actually living?
As it turns out, I spent most of my life living up to what I thought was expected of me. And what I thought was expected of me was to live life like Jim Morrison. This was the lifestyle my caregivers had adopted and one I had carried the torch and ran with. Lana Del Rey has a song that has struck a chord with me for this reason. In the song, “Gods and Monsters” there’s a line that says, “Living like Jim Morrison”. This was mine and my family’s mantra. And one of the reasons I began blogging.
This blog has become a place for me to reparent myself. To learn to live a life that is healthful and to set to my own, read, REASONABLE standards. So what does it look like when you’re living under somebody else’s unreasonable standards? Let me share with you my experience of what I was going through and how it shaped the ways I saw myself, others and my relationships.
Missing the Mark, Signs You’re Trying to Fit into Someone Else’s Unreasonable Standards
For me in relationship, fear and anxiety were the most prevalent feelings. I was almost always in a state of fear or anxiousness and it was mostly due to not knowing how to be or behave around others. I wanted to fit in, in order to feel loved and accepted. So I drank, not realizing I was numbing not only the fear, but my other emotions. I also kept to myself to avoid the possibility of being rejected again.
Later on, the feelings of fear would translate to me feeling uncomfortable with who I was. This was due to how I had been raised to believe I wasn’t enough. First by my abuse, but then by my abusers. I received so many spoken and unspoken messages about how people should and shouldn’t be, while receiving an inordinate amount of criticism by my family, that all I knew for sure was that I wasn’t adding up to their expectations. And with no direction, I just floated along. Absorbing these criticisms. Never feeling like I could be accepted for who I was.
This was where I needed to make a decision. To reject the standards others were putting on me. This wasn’t an easy task. One I’m still working on. And I would need support from others along the way.
Finding Your Own Standards
I started with the basics. By finding out what I liked. What are the things and activities and who are the people I enjoy being around. I needed to find out what my resources were, so I could better understand how to sooth and relate to myself. Then from this place of strength, I could find out what type of person I want to be. What are my values, my strengths? How do I want to be in the world? These are the new standards I want to set for myself. By finding out who I am as a person.
This is where my values began to take shape. And when I found out what my values were, who I am began to take shape. Some of my core values now are, kindness, gratitude, being gentle, hard work and being helpful to others. These are a few of the facets of what makes me who I am. And in turn gives me a standard to rise to.
A major stumbling block for me was, I had to learn how to accept help. Not only from others, but also from things like medication. Or even a morning cup of tea. This was a tough lesson to learn because I wasn’t willing to accept help from anyone or anything. I was arrogant in that I felt as though I could do it all on my own and do it perfectly. But this was what was modeled for me. However, this lead to an amazing amount of stress and anxiety. Without the aid of others and things, we’d be incapable of accomplishing much in our day to days. So let’s take a look at some of the resources I’ve come to rely on and how they’ve helped to make me a stronger version of myself.
In the following paragraphs, I’ll be listing a few resources that have helped me along the way. To take care of my body, but also to work towards achieving my goals. So if you’ve been looking for ways to attune to your emotional/spiritual self and your physical body, maybe after you’ve stretched yourself too thin or are in need of a rest, here are a few ideas that have worked for me.
Teas are a big one for me. As I’ve said previously on this blog, I used to drink up to 5-7 lattes a day. And as many beers at night. I was avoiding coming home to my feelings, my emotions and my body. After all the abuse I’ve endured it’s no wonder.
So lately I’ve been in the habit of drinking green tea in the mornings and something that is stress relieving at night. This way I still get a little help in the mornings when I need the extra boost. And also the tension eased when the day is through. What’s nice about tea is, I’m not going overboard. Too far in one direction or the other. Either by speeding past my day or in trying to numb myself at the end of the day. I usually have jasmine green in the morning and Yogi Tea, stress support in the evenings when I’ve had a long day.
Friends and Family
This may seem like a no brainer, but if you’re not used to asking for help, it can be difficult to see friends and family as support. People to listen to you when you need an ear. Or just a hug if you’re feeling lonely. This can be especially tricky if you’re on the outs with a family member. A situation I know all too well. This is why it’s especially important to stay in touch. Letting those you are closest with know you are around and available, is so important for your mental health and well being. And also for creating a sense of trust.
To be there to support you when you are feeling at your worst and you them is an a way to build incredibly strong bonds. Also, it’s nice to get advise and guidance. When you’re feeling like you don’t know which direction to go, or what to do next. And don’t forget, they’re there for the good times too! Also, they know you. You have a shared history of what you’ve been through together. This is why you have such tight bonds in the first place : )
Everything on this list has been important for me, but yoga has been a key element to me getting back in touch with my body. Exercising, and subsequently feeling good about my body, has done a world of good for helping me feel safe in my body. A place I was too scared to go in the past.
Once I saw the progress I was making in my practice, I started feeling more confident in my poses. Also in the discomfort of some of the poses as well. It also helps me to know that the uncomfortable sensations won’t last forever. So yoga has really shown me how to be with some of the dis-ease while in my body. This dis-ease, just like uncomfortable emotions, pass. And I usually feel better on the other side : )
Helping to talk out, what you’re going through or where you’re coming from, with someone who is there to listen without the judgements that we may have received from others who are close to us, is important. Licensed therapists and LSWs are a great resource in helping us to sort through what’s troubling us. And also can give us valuable insights as to how to help us in our situations.
I’ve been seeing my therapist for a while. And they’ve been there for me through some tough times. I can’t express grateful for them I am. But it’s important to find a therapist who is a good fit for you. Each one has a different style and you may not find the one who is right for you in your first session. I think I found the person I’m working with now after visits with two others. There’s also a growing community of online therapists now as well. If this is something that fits into your schedule better. You have options.
Accepting Your Own Pain
This was difficult for me. I had a life’s time worth of pain and loss to accept and tend to. I had been avoiding mine for so long by first speeding past it with caffeine and medications, then by numbing it with more medication and alcohol. What was so difficult about stopping myself from running from the pain was, that I didn’t realize I was doing it. I was self-medicating on instinct. Like a habitual impulse to push away the pain. It’s strange to think about now, but it makes sense that I instinctually didn’t want to feel what was difficult. But the old adage “it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees” explains what was happening. Sometimes you just can’t see your way clear.
Forgiveness & Meditation
This one is also so important. And one I’ve come to terms with only recently. I started with forgiving myself. For pushing myself too hard, but also for following in the footsteps of those who abused or neglected me, by neglecting myself.
Meditation helped me to come to terms with forgiveness. I needed the time and space around the feelings that were too intense to feel at the time, to be able to understand them. Where they were coming from, in that whom did my feelings of abuse or neglect originate from? Myself? Or somebody else? An example of this would be drinking too much coffee. Was it my family member whom I watched drink 5 cups a day and 5 mixed drinks at night that I was upset with for showing me how to numb my emotions? Or was it me who blindly followed in their footsteps?
And the more I meditated, the easier it was to recognize when a feeling would come up. Something I was either speeding past or froze in my youth. The more they came up, the easier it was to first, feel them, but second, to stay with them as they were happening. Like I learned to do in yoga. Meditation was the same sort of practice. I could then accept my difficult emotions for coming up and also ask for forgiveness from myself for avoiding them in the first place. And it wasn’t easy. But the longer I stayed with them, the easier they are to be with.
Brave New Standards : )
Whether you have unreasonably high standards, or no standards at all, whatever your standards may be, don’t give up! You have more strength and wisdom in you than you know. I like to think of relying on help from others as the Buddha’s wisdom of relying on sangha. The group of people closest to you. And that if you ever doubt your true nature, remember that you have Buddha nature. An awakened heart and mind. So let all your feelings, even the difficult ones, just be. Accept them as they are and stay with them. You’ll be stronger in the end. Peace & thanks for reading : )