The case for high standards

One of the issues I come across most often in my coaching practice is settling. That is, dating someone who isn’t quite “good enough” but who you date because you don’t think you can do any better. I see this most often with men, but women do it too. Here’s why it’s a bad idea, and why you deserve your perfect match.

You have probably heard of people being rated by numbers. A gorgeous model is a 10, and a bottom-of-the-barrel ugly is a 1. But the thing to remember is that these numbers are subjective. Your 6 is someone else’s 10, and your 10 is someone else’s 6.

The same is true of your number. One person might see you as a 4 and someone else might see you as a 9 or 10. You owe it to yourself to avoid dating the people who diminish your value, and to only give your heart to the people who admire and cherish you.

Few of us grow up believing that we need to have low standards. Something happens in our adolescence or early adulthood that wounds our egos and diminishes our self-confidence. We experience some form of rejection, and don’t want to get hurt again. It feels safer to date someone beneath us, someone who will be grateful to date us. But there’s a problem with this logic. Just because we perceive our partners as being lower status does not mean that they see themselves that way. A “low-status” mate is not more likely to stick around than a high-status partner.

Here’s why.

If you treat your partner like a 6, he or she will have very little incentive to stay. (If your partner does, it’s a sign of low self-esteem, and that’s not good, either.) When you’re kicked to the curb, you tell yourself, “I can’t even keep a 6, I better lower my standards to a 4.”


That’s false logic. You would be much better off shooting for an 8, 9, or 10 next time, because you will treat this new prospect with love, respect, and admiration, and that will hold interest.

Now, let’s clarify what it means to be a 10. Before you go prancing off into La La Land and chasing A-list movie stars, let’s make sure that your “high standard” is your deepest, most real desire. Are a fit waistline, firm skin, and an expensive car the traits that elevate someone in your book? Are they the qualities that will bring you meaningful, profound, satisfaction for 50 years to come? Probably not. So, let’s take a moment to figure out what a 10 really looks like for you.

Start by identifying the qualities that you really want and that you honestly value. Create a list of 10 to 20 items that absolutely make you swoon, the ones that you wouldn’t want to live without. This list will be different for everyone. Most likely, your list will include qualities such as intelligence, emotional stability, honesty and loyalty. It might even include physical characteristics such as body type or hair color. Are creativity, athleticism, sense of humor and spiritual/religious beliefs on your list? What about lifestyle, status, and education? Determine the most important qualities that you look for in a mate and write them down.

Now, you have a succinct list of the qualities that you want. If you did it right, it’s not a superficial list of features that turn you on. Rather, it’s a genuine list of characteristics that make a person compatible with you, a really good fit. If you meet someone who is “okay”, but who doesn’t quite meet your standards, don’t get involved. Really. You don’t have to settle. You know that expression, “There are plenty of fish in the sea?” Well, it’s actually true. Throw your “okay” fish back in the water, and keep rowing until a superstar swims your way.

Love is a serious business. It’s fun and silly and romantic. But it’s also serious, especially when you are thinking about creating a life with someone. You want to make sure that your better half lives up to the title. Settling leads to disappointment and regret. Hold out for that astonishing person who will make your heart pitter-patter, who will understand how you feel through thick and thin, and who will be your best friend. That person is out there and they are looking for you. If you have the skills to play the game, and the good judgment to sort out the mediocre from the golden, you can win yourself a 9 or 10.