Rule #5 on Being Lovely: Don’t play hard to get. Be hard to get. Have standards—real, good ones—and stick to them. Bend them for nobody.

Rule #5 on Being Lovely: Don’t play hard to get. Be hard to get. Have standards—real, good ones—and stick to them. Bend them for nobody.

Molly-Ten-Years-Ago loved this rule.  Molly-Today loves this rule.  Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years wanted to live by this rule…but of course, that’s not how this story goes.

Mostly because she didn’t understand Rule #5.  As I’ve said before, Molly-Ten-Years-Ago was a strict lady, but she didn’t always know her target and what lies beyond.  Truthfully, I only recently began to understand what the rule means and how to institute it now.

Arguably, the hardest part about having legitimate standards, that Young Molly never could have warned her future selves about, is that you cannot help the acute disappointment you endure when someone walks away because of them.

Did I overestimate my own worth?

Am I not good enough for my own standards?

Did this person not believe my value was worth the rules I set in place?

The next hardest part is that you want to bend your rules to convince the person who walked away that you are in fact worthy of said rules.  I have done this so many times, in order to give someone the time and space to see what I knew to be true about my own worth.

But therein lies the danger!  This is the trick that has taken me years to catch on to!

When we allow someone into our lives who does not meet our standards, we have actually taught this person that they can have unfettered access to our peace.  Even though they may not want it.

And, regrettably, they absolutely will treat us as such.

Which brings us to Rule #5.  It has been incredibly tempting for me to write this as a what-to-look-for-in-others type of post.  And once again, that causes me to endure days of writer’s block…which probably means that it is not in fact what my heart feels called to discuss.

What my heart does feel called to discuss is somewhat counterintuitive, at first glance, which is what took me so long to figure out!  Rule #5 is so lovely because at its core is the truth that having standards actually allows you to accept others as they are.

How can that be, Molly?  It feels mean (dare I say, un-lovely?) to say that someone doesn’t meet my standards.  Isn’t that a cruel way to interact with others?

To which I will say: No, my friend.

First, I want to say the reason we might feel mean instituting our own standards, is because we know how hard it was for us to meet them ourselves!  That being said, ideally, the standards you create are standards to which you hold yourself (read: they are humanly possible).

Next, I’d like for us to look at it this way: when I bring someone into my life who, at present, does not clear the bar I have set for myself, what I am actually doing is deciding for them that they will change later, while enabling the behaviors they exhibit which do not meet my standards.

This is another way we do a disservice to ourselves and to the other person in the scenario.  Just like with Rule #4, we have chosen to make the decision for the other party.

What decision is that, Molly?

Well, I am so glad you asked.

The decision the new party must make is whether or not they are willing to accept the terms and conditions of a relationship (romantic or platonic) with you.  And when you ingratiate someone into your life who very clearly does not meet your standards, you have made the decision for them, that they must change what they might actually not be willing to change.

When it comes to allowing others into our lives, we get to assess what they bring to the table (and they should be doing the same of us!).

A great set of basic standards might look something like this:

  • Must have a job, contribute to their place of living, and be able to support themselves
  • Demonstrates integrity
  • No criminal record or drug use
  • Emotionally, physically, and financially responsible
  • Introspective
  • Knows how to mitigate conflict
  • Wants to improve themselves to be their best
  • Is conscious of and working through their issues

Notice that each of these points depicts a person who will not only build themselves up, but is on a trajectory that could grow upward with yours, instead of detracting from your momentum.

Notice also that each point on this list does NOT dictate to someone’s appearances, personal preferences, viewpoints, religious beliefs, passions, et cetera, et cetera.  If these are items that you feel inclined to add, you may do so, in a compassionate manner.

As we come to know ourselves, and who we want to be, and how we want to be, Rule #5 becomes crucial.  Our growth and development does not occur in a vacuum.  We do not exist in a world devoid of the human condition.

And remaining true to the changes we want to see in ourselves can become challenging in the face of those we choose to spend time with, especially when they do not wish to meet these basic requirements.

So we must be selective and careful about who we choose to engage.  Romantically.  And platonically.

Because the people we surround ourselves with ultimately become representatives for us.  Our friends and significants teach the world how to view us as individuals.

Even more importantly, our chosen circle shows others how they are permitted to treat us.  Or behave around us.

Our standards beget our treatment.

Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years allowed people into her life that affected her more than she wanted to see.  Because Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years didn’t like to disappoint others by walking away or guarding her self.

She spent a lot of time with a variety of people.  Some good; many not-so-good.

She grew close with the people who have built her up.  She spent too much time with others that tore her down.  And she entertained some who exhausted her spirit entirely.

And what’s important to note is that each of these people is entitled to their own path, their own decisions, and their own behaviors.  Without pressure from me to exist in a particular manner.

But so was I.

And the meaning of this rule is that I am also entitled to hold people as close to, or as far from, me as I deem fit.  And doing so is not a cruelty, rather an acceptance of what may or may not come.

Because not everyone deserves the same access to you, your heart, and-or your time.  And those who choose to walk away from you in the face of your standards, are showing you that they would indeed take you for granted, either as a friend or a partner.

We’ll talk about boundaries in my next post.  But there is a quote I love about boundaries, that applies here, as well:

“The only people who get upset about you setting boundaries are the ones who were benefiting from you having none.”

Your standards should not feel like a standoff, where the person who caves first has to cater to the other’s whims.  They are your guards.  And they help you to discern when someone does or does not make the cut to certain levels of your life.

Your standards should be systems that you set in place to help you achieve your goals.  And anyone who stands in the way of your doing so (whether by the way they treat you, their lifestyle, their habits, or their intentions) should not enjoy the privilege of You.

From now on, I will only allow someone into my world that can match my enthusiasm and zeal for life.  Because this rule is about being so focused on meeting your standards and achieving your goals that you simply cannot undersell yourself.

This rule is about standing firm in your worth, and believing in the quality, not the quantity, of individuals who will choose to meet your expectations.

This rule is about knowing how hard it is to meet your standards, because you endured the challenge of them yourself!

This rule is about accepting that some individuals may want access to your life, but will not be granted such access until they make the choice to shape up.

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So, let’s wrap this up:

What are systems you have set in place to help you live your best life?

How do these systems translate to the standards you hold yourself to?

When have you allowed someone into your life that may not have honored your standards?

How do you help the people in your life to honor their own standards?

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