There once lived a tailor name Zumbach who had a reputation for making the finest of clothing. He used only the best fabrics and he was especially known for his impeccable suits. One day a man named Sam walked into his shop and plopped down a large bundle of money in front of the famous tailor.
"I've always wanted to own one of your suits and I've been saving up for years. Is this enough money for you to make me a suit?" After carefully counting the money in front of him, Zumbach replied, "Yes, I could make you a suit." "Wonderful!" said Sam, clapping his hands and smiling with delight. "First," said Zumbach, "I need to take your measurements." The nimble tailor took out his tape measure and proceeded to take Sam's measurements, carefully recording every detail in a small notebook. Then together they picked out an elegant cloth from Zumbach's fine selection.
"Come back in two weeks," Zumbach said, "and the suit will be ready for you." When the promised day came, Sam could barely contain his enthusiasm. He showed up at the tailor's shop before it even opened. "Is my suit ready?" Sam asked Zumbach when he finally arrived. "Yes, of course." said the tailor, "Come in. Here it is. Try it on."
"It looks beautiful!" said Sam as he stepped into the suit. There was however, one problem. The suit didn't fit. One leg was four inches shorter than the other, the sleeves were also of different length and the shoulders were too small. Sam was disappointed and angry. "Zumbach, what have you done to my beautiful suit? You've ruined it!"
"Nonsense" said Zumbach. "There's nothing wrong with the suit. You're just not wearing it properly." "Not wearing it properly?" asked Sam incredulously. "What are you talking about?"
"Here," said Zumbach, "let me show you. Just bend your left knee a little more. Yes! That's good. Now pull your right arm up two inches and bend your elbow. Perfect! Now one more thing; raise your shoulders up so that they're almost touching your ears. Just like that! Beautiful! You see? The suit fits you perfectly! Look in the mirror. You look like a million bucks!"
Sam took a look. He had to admit that the suit did seem to fit better now that he was wearing it properly although somehow it still didn’t feel quite right. He paid Zumbach for the suit, shook his hand, and left the shop to catch a bus back to his apartment. As he stepped on the bus, the driver smiled at him and said, "That must be a Zumbach suit that you're wearing." "Yes," said Sam, smiling with pride. "How did you know?' "Because," said the driver, "only the gifted Zumbach could make a suit for a man whose body is as crippled and misshapen as yours."
Beware of twisting yourself to gain approval.
Many of us, like Sam, spend our lives twisting ourselves into postures that are unnatural in the hopes of avoiding conflict and gaining approval. While some degree of accommodation is necessary in relationships, a steady diet of it will eventually lead to a diminishment of self-worth. As our self-respect erodes, we require more external validation and to be even more willing to compromise our own truth in order to gain the love that we are becoming increasingly unable to give ourselves.
Like any other compulsive behavior pattern, the more we indulge this process, the more locked in we become. We find ourselves in a closed loop that eventually strangles the life out of our relationships. We are so busy focusing on what we think that others expect of us that we fail to recognize what we desire for ourselves.
Knowing the truth of our experience.
We are the only ones who can accurately identify what we truly need. If we give that authority over to others, we will inevitably be disappointed because no matter how much they care about us, no one else can ever know the truth of our inner experience.
It is every couple’s challenge to hang on to themselves while they are making adaptations to fit in with their partner’s style, values, and needs. It’s a real stretch for the one who is good at getting their own needs met, to let go periodically to learn to be more accommodating with others.
And it can be every bit as difficult for those of us who find it easy to sacrifice ourselves in order to fit with others to recognize our own needs and to honor them. Embodying a life of integrity is not for the faint of heart. It does have its rewards, and they are many, as anyone who has taken on this commitment will attest. Once you get on the path of egalitarian partnership, there's no going back!
Linda Bloom L.C.S.W. has served as psychotherapist and seminar leader practicing relationship counseling almost forty years. Check out her OMTimes Bio.
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