High Maintenance: An Unlikely Goal

"High Maintenance" brings up some some interesting images...

I’m not talking about insisting upon caviar and peeled grapes, or looking and acting “polished” every day. That’s not necessarily a bad thing - it’s just not what I’m talking about here. Until this month, I’ve equated being high maintenance with snobbery, being demanding, and worst of all, being inconsiderate.

Being inconsiderate is the worst.

I listened to a Naptime Empires podcast with Nikki Elledge Brown and Rachael Cook and Nikki referred to Rachael as "high maintenance" but not as an insult. I noticed my reactions as they talked about being supported, knowing what you need to do a good job and have a good life. Guys, it was a paradigm shift for me. It was a weird internal rule that being high maintenance is akin to selling out.

I’m going to put it out there than many of us could stand to be more high maintenance. I’m not talking to you entitled folk; you guys keep doing your good work around that. I think it’ll help us not only as people, but as business owners. Here’s how…

There's a difference between high maintenance and asking for what you need.

The ways in which I feel high maintenance are really just making my needs known. For context, here are things I’ve felt bad about in the past: arriving at parties late, rescheduling someone because I’m sick, saying “I need a parenting break today,” asking my team to do things that are part of their job description, letting the dinner party host know I’m allergic to soy. I’m basically apologizing for being human by feeling bad about these things. I’m guessing there are some ways you’re doing this to yourself too. It may be in business, it may be in life. Most of my business stuff is unapologetic but sometimes I can get caught up in not wanting to make waves, or be branded as "high maintenance" just for needing time to be human.

Now, watch this reframe: if high maintenance is okay, and I know stating my needs is okay, I can own being high maintenance without feeling like an asshole. I can grow into it a little bit.

So how does this look in your practice? It means taking care of yourself first. It means setting and maintaining those boundaries that you might feel like you don’t have a right to set. It means having the hard conversations about money or schedule preference or whatever that you might be avoiding.

Part of the reason most of us started practices was to have more of what we want in the world while making a difference in the lives of clients. Being a little “high maintenance” provides that: you hold them to what they say they’ll do (pay for no shows), you only work the hours you want to work, you don’t drive yourself crazy doing their work for them, you don’t offer to slide your fee outside of the slots you said you would AND you bring tons of compassion to the process.

So, rather than the spoiled, inconsiderate version of “high maintenance” that we may think of when we hear those words, I’d love for you to try out the boundaried, brave version with me. Let me know in the comments what you plan to do to be more high maintenance.


Allison Puryear is an LCSW with a nearly diagnosable obsession with business development. She has started practices in three different states and wants you to know that building a private practice is shockingly doable when you have a plan and support. You can download a free private practice checklist to make sure you have your ducks in a row, get weekly private practice tips, listen to the podcast, hop into the free Facebook Group, and get help from Allison and a small group of new, close friends in Abundance Practice-Building Group. Allison is all about helping you gaining the confidence and tools you need to succeed.



1 comment

Allison Puryear

I'd recommend drafting an addendum/separate document that states your fees for this, running it by an attorney to make sure it's legit, and having all of your current clients sign it. I would then include it in your informed consent for any future clients.
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