Why high standards should be holy and not haughty

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in circle with six rather spectacular women. We’d come together on a frigid January weekend with the aim of breathing some life into our biggest dreams and deepest desires by doing some soul stretching work together over the course of a couple of days.

As we communed in a cozy candle-lit space tucked away from the world, our conversations gradually and naturally grew bolder and braver as the hours went on. Sheltered from the demands of the day-to-day and untethered from the stifling limitations that so many of us routinely contend with, we decidedly dared our way into the depths of what lies beneath.

And we very simply had to go there. Because after years of being intensely influenced by the media, the magazines, the patriarchy, the parents, and the friends, getting to the core of what we truly long for in our lives and work sometimes requires some rather relentless unraveling.

The reality is that over time our passions, preferences, and predilections can become so firmly entrenched in the expectations of others that a good amount of ruthless excavation often needs to occur to in order to bring them back into the light.  

Since our gathering, one of those digging expeditions in particular has continued to steadily saunter through my thoughts, begging for some deeper attention. And it was around a conversation we dove into around the topic of “high standards.”  


To begin with, I very happily admit that I take great pleasure in some of the finer things in life – good wine, high-end handbags, luxurious vacations, exquisite bouquets, and 5-star restaurants. But I just as equally (if not more so!) find enduring delight in truck stop breakfasts, dandelions picked by my daughter, a killer discount, and out-of-key sing-alongs around a roaring fire.

Simply put, I totally dig decadence, but I also bow down to sacred simplicity.  

Over the last few years, it’s not a big secret that I’ve become progressively unapologetic about liking what I like, wanting what I want, and also asking for those things on a more regular basis. However, my ever-increasing refusal to settle is not at all a matter of living in defiance of anything or anyone, but rather of living in greater alignment and deepening devotion to the truth of who I am. And this is all about staying holy, not being haughty.

As Robert Louis Stevenson puts it, “To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to keep your soul alive.”

And given that most of us are generally pretty interested and invested in keeping our souls alive and kicking, this seems like super solid advice.

High standards shouldn’t have anything to do with being high-maintenance, nor should they be a function of arrogance or entitlement. If we’re going about it in the right way, having high standards is very simply a matter of being completely conscious of what’s sacred and meaningful to us and then subsequently going about the hard work to generate the experiences and relationships we most want to have in our lives.

When it comes down to it, our most important needs, wishes, and wants should be rooted in our intrinsic worthiness and serve as divine expressions of who we are. As such, there are bound to be times when clashes are going to occur in the face of another’s intrinsic-ly worthy self.

However, when we work to make reverence and reciprocity the mainstays of our relationships and if we’re continuously cultivating our capacity to choose compassion over condescension, it’s always entirely possible to find compromise without caving.

Being soulfully selective is a far cry from being superficial, superior, or insufferably snooty.

There’s a vast difference between heart-centered discernment and self-centered demanding.

At the end of the day, the aim should always be enlightened insistence, not obnoxious expectation.