There is no shortage of mean in the English language: bitch, asshole, shit-for-brains all make the list. Not to mention the PG-13 words that include lazy, arrogant, condescending, stupid, and selfish. However, there is one word that has always seemed to have a negative connotation, but I argue shouldn’t always be on the “bad” list: high maintenance.
And yes, I’m super biased because I’m high maintenance. My life is full of rules and regulations that bring me piece of mind when things get stressful. I live a bit “my way or the highway” (I get that one from my dad) and I require significant amount of attention to feel like a human being. I have to admit, writing it out now, being high maintenance sounds like a handful. But does high maintenance have to be a bad thing?
I took a class this year in the psychology of personality, and my professor told us that every personality trait exists along a spectrum. On one end is where the personality trait doesn’t exist, and the other is where the personality trait is the most dominant. So if we were talking about “mean” existing on a spectrum, then on one end you have the kindest person ever who wouldn’t kill a mosquito, and on the other your have a tyrannical human who would kill for fun. Okay…maybe not that extreme, there’s probably other issues going on there, but you get the point? “High maintenance” exists on this spectrum as well. On one end you have the people who are 100% go with the flow, the people who avoid conflict and don’t care much for attention and the other end is a full-blown diva. Where you flip tables when things don’t go your way and require so much attention that you get a TV show for yourself.
My professor also said that every personality trait is healthy in moderation. The example he used is selfishness. Selfishness is thought to be this malicious trait, where selfish people are…well, selfish. But selfishness too exists on this spectrum. And people who are 0% selfish are not well-balanced people, they would practically starve to death to feed others. Not that these people are bad people, but you need to have a dash of selfishness to survive. At the low end of the spectrum, selfishness is kind of like self-preservation.
Let’s move forward a bit, because this post isn’t supposed to be a full regurgitation of my PSYC305 lecture (also, that’s just plagiarism). So, let’s return to high maintenance; it exists on this spectrum from super low maintenance to super high maintenance, and there is a point on that scale, where a healthy, well-balanced person exists.
And I definitely exist on the upper end of that scale, quite a bit south of “diva territory”, but I safely reside in the upper half. Would you like some examples? I have a skin care routine that gets done no matter where I am, I could be drunk, half blind, in the middle of the woods and I would get her done. Why? I grew up with really bad eczema and I am determined to keep it at bay. It seems like missing 1 night wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it’s the principle of the matter and the fear of having a rashy face that keeps me on track.
I developed my high maintenance-ness over time. My social relationships are high maintenance because I have the inability to read social cues and have social anxiety, so keeping in touch with people constantly and often makes me feel grounded. I have rules about social media to make sure everything gets done and I’m keeping myself safe on a public platform. I do make makeup in a particular way because it brings me joy, and I like doing things that make me happy. I clean my room everyday because I’m really messy when I get dressed but I’m more likely to be productive when my workspace is orderly. I’m picky with what I wear because…just read my last post:
getting ready an hour earlier than my friends so I can be on time, even though I’ll probably still be late. I meal prep at the beginning of the week so I know that during the week I have time to get everything done. I try to keep my rules relevant to myself and my life because that’s the thing, they’re mine. It’s not fair for me to make rules that dictate how other people act.
Being high maintenance has also brought a lot of good into my life. Remember earlier when I said I’m very “my way or the highway”? That trait has brought far more good into my life than bad. I want big things out of this life, and I have no intention in not achieving them. Being high maintenance drove me to starting my music career in the middle of my university degree, because I wasn’t willing to wait. It allowed me to work two jobs every summer, because I was determined to save enough money to live the life I wanted during the school year. I believe it’s the reason I was able to write and produce my first album.
There are synonyms for high maintenance, or at least components of high maintenance, that are not as negative. Strong willed, affectionate, detail oriented, regimented. All these things can also be used to describe high maintenance people, but for some reason we’ve tied all these words up in a little package and stapled a tag onto it that says “SHITTY PERSON TO BE AROUND”.
So no, being high maintenance isn’t bad. It’s not always the best thing, but it doesn’t always mean a whiny, complaining person who needs so much attention that it’s exhausting. Just remember what your mom would tell you when you wanted ice cream for dinner: everything in moderation.
From me, with love, to you,
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