What are Unrelenting Standards?

Unrelenting standards affect everyone emotionally. We can feel high internal standards and feel constantly stressed to meet them. We can think we are not good or perfect enough. Coming into a new year, we set ourselves high standards and can lose moments of fun, joy, and satisfaction trying to achieve them. This blog explains where we develop these unrelenting standards and how to let go.

New Year’s resolutions help us set goals and motivate us. But, the pressure of the new year can bring new high internal standards. As we rarely achieve the perfection we want, we can feel angry, annoyed, or irritable.

Firstly, are you a perfectionist with unrelenting standards?

If you agree with 5 of these statements, it is likely you have something known to psychology as unrelenting standards schema.

  1. You feel stress and pressure most of the time.
  2. You want to achieve high standards in all tasks.
  3. It is easy to become irritated and annoyed.
  4. I am wound up most of the time.
  5. More can always be done.
  6. I drink more than I should because I can’t switch off.
  7. My relationships suffer because I work and push myself hard.
  8. I rarely switch off and relax.
  9. I must feel I am the best in any performance.
  10. No matter what I do I feel there isn’t enough time.



Unrelenting standards can be 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”.

These unrelenting standards typically present in three forms. Firstly, and primarily, these standards present as perfectionism. This results in being unable to identify how good one’s own performance is relation to the norm and an excessive attention to detail. Secondly, strict rules and “shoulds” present themselves in areas of life such as moral, cultural, ethical or religious. Lastly, an obsession with time and efficiency to accomplish more.



These standards develop firstly in children where families value the individual by how well they achieved or performed in areas. Due to this, these individuals had little importance placed on making connections or having fun. There was emphasis on performing to a high standard.

Additionally, unrelenting standards can also develop in families where criticism was common and little praise was received. Children can feel like they never did good enough and could always have done better or achieved more.

If you can relate to this, you could have received love and attention when you exceeded or you received criticism and were rarely praised for things you achieved.



Most commonly this schema is seen among career-drive individuals that succeeded and are unsatisfied in the result. They are commonly stressed as there is never enough time to do everything. The impact of these standards can lead to exhaustion, difficulty having fun and burning out.

This constant stress can result in health issues. Constant adrenaline can take a toll on our cardiac system putting us at risk of heart issues and cardiac arrest. If we have stress hormones constantly affecting our bodies, no amount of healthy lifestyle can protect us.

Unrelenting standards can impact connection and intimacy in a relationship. A partner can be rarely present – either physically and/or emotionally. These standards can firstly lead to alcohol dependency and workaholism as a person cannot switch off without substance assistance. Lastly, people with this schema can be hypercritical of their partner and cause issues in the relationship.



When we feel the urge to obsess, we need to take a step back from the goal of perfection. We need to stop and enjoy our successes, relax, and enjoy life. Easier said than done? Stop pushing to get ahead and use these steps to put things in perspective:

  1. Celebrate and enjoy your successes – Firstly, check in on your accomplishments. Once you have realised what you have achieved, stop, and celebrate. Reflect on how far you have come. Pat yourself on the back, be grateful and reward your efforts.
  2. Look at how far you have come – Use a journal and continuously reflect on your achievements and feelings from the past few months. This can help holding yourself accountable and realising what you have accomplished.
  3. Ease the critical self-talk – Instead of being cruel, try to accept and kind self-talk. If you make a mistake, follow it with ‘I am human’, ‘I can make mistakes’ and ‘I tried my best’. Though we would like to dwell and be cruel to ourselves, we can choose to be kinder.
  4. Meditate – Tune into your mind and body. Reflect, be quiet and listen in to your successes.
  5. Take breaks – Lastly, taking breaks can be hard but trying to schedule free weekends and times during the day can restore our energy and create balance.



If you think you may be experiencing unrelenting standards, please seek support. If you are struggling with managing your standards, you can always reach out to our therapists. To consult with a CBT Professionals psychologist, please download our referral form here and take it with you to your GP appointment.

Disclaimer: Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only and is not intended to replace advise from your doctor or registered health professional. Readers are urged to consult their registered practitioner for diagnosis and treatment for their medical concerns.



Askew, C. (2019). Unrelenting Standards. Schema Therapy Onlinehttps://www.schematherapyonline.com/unrelenting-standards/

Dartnell, D., & Treadwell, T., Travaglini, L., Staats, M., Devinney, K. (2016). Group Therapy Workbook: Integrating Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Psychodramatic Theory and Practice. Outskirts Press.

Leave a Reply



Fortune Place
Shop 1, 2 Fortune Street
Coomera QLD 4209

(07) 5551 0251


Prana Centre
Suite 3, 832 Southport-Nerang Road
Nerang QLD 4211

(07) 5668 3490


Mt Gravatt Medical Precinct
SE 105, 1808 Logan Rd
Upper Mount Gravatt QLD 4122

(07) 3102 1366