Now that we recognize the Procrustean bed for what it really is, what can we do about it? If we’re honest with ourselves, there are some organizations, groups, and even relationships where adherence to arbitrary standards may actually be expected in order to belong. Here are some factors to consider:
- Do those arbitrary standards naturally align with our strengths and values? –If yes, that can work.
- Can we positively change those arbitrary standards and want to try? –If so, that’s great!
On the other hand, if the answer is, “No,” to both these “Ifs,” then maybe it’s time to wake up and pull ourselves out of the Procrustean bed. What will it take for us to stop the self-torture of trying to make ourselves fit?
Tap Your Inner Goldilocks
I would like to offer a page from a different bed-related fable: Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Goldilocks had the right idea where beds were concerned. –Even if her judgement concerning bears was a bit questionable. Rather than making herself fit arbitrarily into a bed, Goldilocks judged each bed on how well it fit her needs to find the perfect fit. One bed was too hard. The next bed was too soft. That was fine. She just kept looking. Goldilocks was clear about her criteria for what “just right” looked like, and we can be too.
That being said, “just right” is not the same as a “perfect fit.” Nothing is a perfect fit, and searching for perfection is another form of self-torture. So, rather than considering our decisions in terms of Yes/No absolutes, we can prioritize our criteria by what’s most important to us:
- Must haves
- Want to have if possible
- Not crucial, but definitely a great cherry on top
Our strengths, values, and goals are an excellent guide to help us get clear on what we really need and want in our lives. With this clarity we’ll be in a better position to identify the trade-offs we’re willing to make to find our “just right” fit. For example, Goldilocks might be willing to accept a slightly softer-than-ideal bed if it comes with a stunning view of the forest and ample security against indignant bears. In the same way, we might be willing to take a job that pays less money, but provides opportunities to learn and grow in ways that help us invest in our future.
They Lived Empowered Ever After
Ultimately, Goldilocks made choosing look easy. For those of us not living in a fairy tale, it can be difficult to recognize when we’re in a misfit bed of our own making. It can also take real courage to get out of that bed and step more fully into our authentic selves. Nevertheless, the moral of this story is an empowering truth: Once we recognize our role in creating our own reality, it is precisely because we have made the bed that we can choose not to lie in it.
Each of us can take a quick pulse in our own lives to see if/where we might be forcing ourselves into a not-right fit, and where instead we may want to choose something more in line with who we truly are and want we really want:
- Where in my life am I making myself small or stretching myself too thin to conform to what I think is expected? What is the impact?
- What does my “just right” experience look like in this situation, and what’s important to me about that?
- What’s one thing I can do today to step more fully into my whole, authentic self?