Procrustean Syndrome: Hating People Who Stand Out

The Procrustean syndrome prevents us from growing, since we only manage ourselves on the level of criticism, instead of trying to grow together with others. Can it be overcome?
Procrustean Syndrome: Hating People Who Stand Out
Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 18 July, 2022

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: whatever stands out or attracts attention is bothersome.

This syndrome can have multiple origins. For example, during our upbringing, we may have been deprived of affection and praise while our sibling was the protagonist of the scene. The groundwork can be a foundation for thinking that there’s not enough to go around. Therefore, others become potential competitors.

Characteristics of a person with Procrustean syndrome

First of all, it’s 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’s a generalized situation that 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 an easy “no.” A co-worker may have presented a great solution to address an issue, yet they reply that the idea doesn’t seem as appropriate or that it’s not original enough. In other words, they use any excuse to discredit it.
  • Many times, they cause conflicts and mistreat others. They usually don’t communicate assertively and have bad manners. They boycott the initiatives of others.
  • They have a low tolerance for frustration. They can’t tolerate that others may be right or have better ideas.
  • They’re 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’s very difficult for them to work in a group.
  • They are very rigid people with difficulties adapting to change and who express themselves and live in terms of their own absolute truths.
Envidia en la oficina por el síndrome de Procusto.

The causes and consequences of Procrustean syndrome

One of the first reasons why it bothers us that another person excels has to do with low self-esteem. Because of this, we feel under threat.

Insecurity haunts us, and we fear being left in the shadows. This spills over into our work, relationships, and family.

Ultimately, Procrustean syndrome interferes with interpersonal relationships. We’re 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’re 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. This is especially the case if the person occupies leadership positions. It causes great demotivation in employees.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: What is the Glass Ceiling and Why Do We Need to Break It?

How to deal with the Procrustean syndrome?

Some of the keys to overcoming the Procrustean syndrome are the following:

  • Don’t take what the other person says personally. Believing that it’s all directed at us is a bias. It’s 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 agreement. For example, if there are two people who participated in the elaboration of a project if in a work environment, it’s possible to divide the presentation into equal parts when presenting it. 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’s important to recognize that all people have something to contribute to a job, a team, or a relationship. Therefore, you don’t 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.
Trabajo en equipo para vencer el síndrome de Procusto.

Like this article? You may also like to read: The Forer Effect: Do You Believe in Horoscopes or Fortune Tellers?

The more we look at others, the less we own our own behaviors

Procrustean syndrome is very harmful to a person, 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 or how to embarrass him/her. Thus, we close ourselves to meaningful exchanges and turn a deaf ear to everything that comes from other people. In doing so, we also deceive ourselves as if we were the only ones with the right answer.

Be careful with this! We can make easily mistakes because of our arrogance.

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The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.