I let something slip. I thought, “no big deal”, no one will notice. Call it laziness, call it a moment of weakness. No one did really notice…But I did.
It gnawed at me. Something most would consider little that I intentionally let go. Maybe for you, it’s that you didn’t send a follow-up email, you didn’t say anything when your team member forgot to submit their report, you didn’t say thank you as your significant other did something thoughtful for you.
For me, it wasn’t one specific action, but rather giving myself, my whole self in my current career. It was holding my team accountable, and stepping up in the same way I ask them to. It was being present in the moment, and being a thinking visionary beyond that. It was selfishly thinking only of what I want, and losing sight of the world around me.
But I didn’t do anything wrong, right? I didn’t hurt anyone or say something bad or act malicious or deceiving.
It was only my personal integrity.
As a leader within a company, my standards most define me. The things I will always do, what I expect, what others know I expect, how I treat others, things I won’t tolerate, and how I choose to show up each day. As a cornerstone of my values, holding standards and honoring those are a line of integrity I have with myself and others. By letting a brick, a beam, and eventually a pillar to crumble, I shake the foundation that holds everything in place. I weaken the structure of my excellence and those around me.
But what about when I’m the only one who knows? If a tree falls in the woods and no one sees it, did it really fall?
I’ve gotten to know myself pretty damn well so far… I’ve spent more time with me than any other person. Yet, why do I value other people’s opinions of me more than my own? I hold other people accountable, yet why is my relationship with myself one I allow to slide?
Fallen standards are a lot like lies. Little ones seem like no big deal, just sweep them under the rug. Just like anything you get used to, two small ones in a row allow the bigger third one to seem acceptable. The snowball grows. At some point, you wonder how you let yourself get to this place.
As I wrestled with it in one seemingly small part of my professional life, I began to question myself everywhere. I felt out of alignment with myself and my own values. Integrity doesn’t isolate itself to one portion of your life. When the dam develops cracks, leaks begin to spring.
I couldn’t write. I didn’t want to coach. Doubts began to seep. I felt like a fraud. This was bleeding to everything.
In the same way sub-par actions permeate our professional excellence, incongruency with our standards wears heavily on our relationships.
How do couples begin to live in indifference? How do two people who so once madly in love, can now speak to each other with such bite and lack of care?
It, as well, starts in that moment when we allow standards to slip. I didn’t kiss him hello or say I love you on goodbye… Two things I define as important. I didn’t say thank you for taking the garbage out, or for loving me when I felt unlovable, or show appreciation when he sat quiet while I had an inspiration to write something in my journal. Repeated and replayed, these slip-ups breed complacency. They start as laziness, transition to sloppiness, and end in a loss of tenderness and eventually trust. At some point, the little things and small efforts become bigger more obvious neglects until suddenly you examine your relationship and wonder where all the magic went. He used to… Why didn’t she? Contempt breeds.
And the bar lowers.
As I tried to ignore the feeling I had, it began to wear on me. I was letting my team down. I was holding myself back from thriving in other areas. I was in a constant battle with myself. Yes, I know, it’s easier to not allow this to happen in the first place, but it happens.
Sliding doesn’t need to be a lethal mistake. It’s not irreparable. Understand what the slope means and take action to get in front of it early.
Acknowledge it happened.
People notice. Those same people are forgiving of our humanity, and by calling out our own fails, we regain the trust and win respect. It’s not easy to call out our own mistakes, because it feels like weakness. Yet, it’s through our willingness to be open with our challenges and trials that we invite others in closer to us. Our humanity allows them to also make mistakes, recover, and be themselves around us.
Trust that the effort counts.
Often we slip up and feel the need to over-pronounce our efforts back. It’s easy to overdo and dilute our intentions. Trust that your consistency and intention will shine on its own, without a need for spotlight.
I’m not sure why it seems noble to beat ourselves up, but often we jump into this mindset because it seems by berating ourselves we’re better acknowledging our slips. I do this often. Perhaps we feel the need to call it out before others can, and that somehow makes it better.
Forgiveness is a gift to others… It’s also a gift to yourself. Be gentle. You’ve recognized the break, you’ve set yourself to mend it. Let it go and move on.
Finally, pay attention to what this is telling you.
Sit with it and ask yourself the tough questions. Is letting my standards slip telling me to shift paths or that something isn’t right? Or is it a wake-up call to engage and be more present and mindful of things that matter?
Mine served as an action call to check my integrity with myself. It made me re-evaluate how I was interacting with the other areas of my life and make adjustments. It also made me more determined to stay conscious and focused to hold true to the values I hold closely.
I invite you to reflect on your own standards and how they cross-pollinate in your life. Is one area causing strain on another? Do your standards feel inconsistent across your life? Does this make you feel untrue to yourself? Send me a note, I’d love to hear your thoughts.