Lessons from Myths, Legends and Fairy TalesMusings

Lessons from Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales: Part 7 Three Billy Goats Gruff

The obvious themes from this story are ones of greed and bullying, and indeed these are great lessons to take away. The story is also about prudence and doing what it take to overcome obstacles in your path. But for now, I want to focus on the troll and the Big Billy Goat Gruff.

In life there will always be outer ‘trolls’ blocking our path, stopping us from the crossing the bridge to greener pastures. There are the social media trolls just waiting to call us out or trolls could be family, teachers or friends who are not as supportive as we like. But I think that oftentimes it is our own inner trolls that hold the most power, the inner critic telling us that we are not good enough, reminding us of our shortcomings and pointing out all the reasons why we may not be successful in getting across that bridge to where we want to be. This inner troll makes you believe that you do not deserve those pastures, or that you do not have what it takes to cross the bridge. Let us for moment think about this troll, blocking our path.

Now enter Big Billy Goat Gruff. He stops midway across the bridge. He squares up to the troll. He stands up for himself. He warns the troll that he will use his strengths against him. He then headbutts the troll right out of the water and out of his life forever, crossing the bridge and joins his brothers in a happily-ever-after land of green pastures.

And so what I take from this story is this: To be able to cross the bridge to the future that we want for ourselves, we need to face our inner trolls, our inner critic. We need to stand up for ourselves, we need to face our fears and our perceptions of inadequacy. To do this, we need to focus on our strengths, not our inadequacies. Psychology has moved away from a deficit-based model toward positive psychology, an approach that uncovers strengths and promotes conditions for people to lead happier and more productive lives. And so should we shift our focus from looking at our deficits to embracing our strengths. By actively identifying and using our strengths, talents and virtues, not only are we able to overcome adversities, but we also more likely to be intrinsically motivated to deal with our world; to flourish.

So bring out your Big Billy Goat Gruff, square up to the troll, befriend him if that works for you, use your strengths to make sure that the troll doesn’t prevent you from crossing the bridge to greener pastures.

Those green pastures are accessible.

You are enough.