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Unrelenting Standards Schema

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

Individuals who experience excessive vigilance, restrictions, inhibition or achievement pressures may develop one or more of these four schemas: negativity/pessimism, unrelenting standards, emotional inhibition, and self-punitiveness.

We may all occasionally feel anxious about achieving success in our careers, families and otherwise. If you have developed the unrelenting standards schema, you may experience a pervasive belief that you need to achieve more and more; whatever you do is not good enough and you must continue to strive to meet high internalized standards to feel worthwhile or reduce anxiety. This schema is often associated with perfectionism, failing to take time to celebrate successes, rigid rules, unrealistically high expectations, a sense of wasting time or being inefficient, and not being sure when enough has been achieved.

When activated, this schema may understandably trigger anxiety and frustration with self and others for not meeting standards or achievements, or, to the other extreme, giving up and self-loathing. The true need behind this schema is to feel loved and accepted for who we are rather than conditional on our achievements.

Here are some questions to think about if you are considering whether the unrelenting standards schema resonates with you:

Do you feel anxious about achieving more in life?

Do you feel you need to be the best at what you do and give 100% at everything?

Do you feel whatever you do is not quite good enough?

Do you frequently feel anxious that you are wasting time?

Do you feel guilty when you sit down and rest because there are things you could be doing to be productive?

Do you have a to-do list that seems impossible to ever finish?

Do you feel a constant pressure to achieve?

Do you find yourself being very critical of yourself, even for small mistakes?

Do you set yourself very high standards?

Do you get frustrated with others if they do not meet your standards?

Have you ever shown tendencies toward perfectionism or working yourself so hard you get fatigued or ill?

Do you sometimes feel like giving up because you cannot meet your standards or achievements?

Do you rarely stop to celebrate your achievements, but rather feel relief that you have accomplished them?

If you generally answer no to most these questions, you are unlikely to have developed the unrelenting standards schema. If you think the unrelenting standards schema applies to you, start observing how it manifests in your daily life. Recognition is key to changing patterns that stop you from achieving your goals.

To find out more about your own personal schemas, book a consultation with psychologist Dr. Esslin Terrighena, please contact (852) 2521 4668 or

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