Watching and imitating what others around you do can be a kick-start to self-improvement and motivation. However, when that becomes the cause of permanent comparisons, it becomes torture. Someone with Procrustean syndrome lives their life this way.
Procrustean syndrome borrows its name from a Greek story. Procrustes was an innkeeper who received travelers in his house and cut off their upper or lower limbs if they protruded from the bed. This already gives us a clue as to what the center is: it bothers what stands out, what attracts attention.
This syndrome can have multiple origins. For example, during our upbringing, if we were deprived of affection and closeness, while our sibling was the protagonist of the scene. The groundwork can be laid for thinking that there is not enough to go around. Therefore, others become potential competitors.
Characteristics of a person with Procrustean syndrome
It is worth clarifying that all people may feel envious or jealous of others at some point in life. What characterizes the Procrustean syndrome is that it is a generalized situation, which appears constantly, and even with respect to multiple people.
Also, some of the characteristics that we can identify about this syndrome are the following:
- They tend to be naysayers, with the easy “no”. A co-worker may have presented a great solution to address an issue, yet you reply that the idea doesn’t seem as appropriate or that it’s not novel. In other words, they use any excuse to discredit it.
- Many times, they originate conflicts or mistreat. They usually do not communicate assertively and use bad manners. They boycott the initiatives of others.
- They have a low tolerance to frustration. They do not tolerate that other are right or have better ideas.
- They are capable of going against what they think, in order to contradict the person, they see as a threat.
- They have difficulty accepting other people’s opinions. Therefore, it is very difficult for them to work in a group.
- They are very rigid people, with difficulties to adapt to change and who express themselves and live-in terms of their own absolute truths.
Causes and consequences
One of the first reasons why it bothers us that another person excels has to do with low self-esteem. Because of it, we feel under threat.
Insecurity haunts us and we fear being left in the shadows. This spills over into work, relationships, and family.
Ultimately, Procrustean syndrome interferes with interpersonal relationships. We are unable to connect authentically with others. We avoid sharing what happens to us and establish distance.
It also involves an enormous expenditure of energy. We are permanently on alert. Of course, our mental health is affected, as we are filled with bitterness, anger and pessimism.
In work environments, Procrustean syndrome is very harmful. Especially if the person occupies leadership positions. It causes great demotivation in employees.
How to deal with the Procrustean syndrome?
Some of the keys to overcome the Procrustean syndrome are the following:
- Do not take what the other person says personally. Believing that it is all directed at us is a bias. It is good to ask yourself questions such as “is it possible that what he/she said to me is overstated?”. In this way, the goal is to challenge our biases.
- Establish agreements. For example, if in a work environment there are two people who participated in the elaboration of a project, at the moment of presenting it, it is possible to divide the presentation in equal parts. In this way, we avoid those situations that unleash the feeling that someone wants to overshadow us.
- Identify your strengths and learn to rely on others to improve your weaknesses. It is important to recognize that all people have something to contribute in a job, in a team or in a relationship. Therefore, you need to explore what you have to offer in the areas in which you participate. At the same time, you can open up with others to learn how they solve and what they do in situations that are difficult for them.
The more we look out for others, the less we own ourselves
The Procrustean syndrome harms us in a huge way, as we not only maintain a negative and pessimistic attitude towards others, but we also get sidetracked. We forget about ourselves and about working on our strengths and improving our weaknesses. In this way, we remain limited and block our growth.
The only thing we see is how to bring the other person down, how to embarrass him/her.
Thus, we close ourselves to exchange, we turn a deaf ear to everything that comes from the other side. We remain in self-deception, as if we were the only ones with the right answer. Be careful with this! We can make mistakes because of our arrogance.