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It’s often said that beggars can’t be choosers, but that shouldn’t apply to dating and relationships.

Last week I wrote an article about why more women need to date like Rihanna. The reactions largely fell into three camps: “Yaaasss,” “Nah,” and “I Can’t Date Like Rihanna Because I’m Not Like Her.” To be fair, none of us are quite like Rihanna. Of the people who fell into that category, many readers reasoned that because they lacked RiRi’s looks, talent, or money, they simply didn’t have the option to be as savvy in the game of love. Honestly, it was really sad to see how many women seemed to believe that they don’t have options in romance.

How did we get here?

Companionship, that is to say love and feelings of belonging, are central on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It sits just above basic levels of need (like food, water, shelter, and safety). This isn’t to say that it is essential for everyone, but it is pretty important for most people. Just above companionship on that hierarchy is the level of Ego–specifically, the need for self-esteem and prestige among other psychological things. This means that on some level, the way we feel about ourselves is even more important than how others feel about us.

Because those social needs are central, that means some of our ability to meet higher levels of need hinge upon it. Those higher levels are literally built on top of our social needs, which means believing it’s better to settle than be alone ignores the need for self-esteem. But we have a way of blurring the lines there. My personal theory is that many people feel relationships bring them a certain amount of prestige, so they trick themselves into believing that meeting one need also satisfies another. How many times have you heard someone use their relationship status as a sign of superiority? Some women use the line “at least I have a man” like they’re laying down the Big Joker in Spades.

Let these women be a cautionary tale because these are the same women who are all over social media, complaining about the man they have. He’s out here in these streets being profoundly embarrassing and acting like he is God’s gift because his girl did not love herself enough to set up a few simple requirements that could have weeded him out early in the process. See what happens when you think standards are a privilege? You end up with a boobie prize. Don’t let that be you. Set. Some. Standards.

That feeling of superiority is an artificial way to satisfy the need for self-esteem. That’s where folks get in trouble. Settling, in a way, forces us to give more priority to fostering a relationship with others rather than one with ourselves. Here’s the real kicker: Your relationships are only going to be good (or at least better) once you have a solid relationship with yourself and an understanding of who you are. Once you meet the need for self-esteem in a meaningful and authentic way, you’re a lot less willing to accept bare minimums.

Even women with money and fame don’t exercise their right to set better standards. Right now, Khloe Kardashian is trying to defend her relationship with a man who cheated on her several times while she was pregnant with his baby. This is not the first time that Khloe has been attached to a man that is ultimately not interested in commitment. She could have seen this coming since she did hook up with Tristan while his last girl was in her third trimester. I can’t speak to what her personal standards are for men, but it might be time for her to retool them. Meanwhile, Tiny has repeatedly been embarrassed by her husband’s serial cheating. It’s not like this is something that started after the wedding, either. T.I.’s almost got a habit of stepping out on his wife despite the fact that she’s been willing to catch charges behind him. Where’s their standard–their requirement–that their men be faithful?

Setting standards for yourself is almost a natural byproduct of Maslow’s hierarchy and you don’t have to be rich, famous, or beautiful in order to do that. That means you have a right to be picky about your partner. Think about what kind of people you want to be around. Think about the kinds of relationships you want to have. Do not settle for someone that is not at least meeting your minimum requirements. You owe that much to yourself.

Whether you’re with them for a moment or for a lifetime, you don’t have to be with just anyone just to say you have someone. What is the value in an unsatisfying romance that’s only for show? Believing that having standards is a right reserved only for the good-looking, rich, or powerful is like saying that the expectation of having fulfilling relationships is a privilege that only a few can afford. But the real cost of having standards is self-esteem. You have to know your worth as a person and be selective with your time.

Admittedly, having standards sometimes means that you may have to be single for a while. Don’t be afraid of that. Be single for as long as it takes to believe in the core of your spirit that you deserve someone who meets the standards you set for yourself. It’s not easy, but being single is a hell of a lot easier than being with the wrong person. During one of our deep discussions, my fiance once said that settling eats at you. It takes something from you. Although you recognize that something is off, you can’t identify what it is at first. Once you do recognize what is missing, you almost don’t know how to get it back. The best way to avoid falling into this trap is to set some standards for yourself. Don’t you think you’re worth that?

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