Getting to know ourselves well: a question of being bold? The sensitive line
Last week, I saw the movie Marguerite, which tells the story of a wealthy woman, a lover of music and the opera, who is convinced of her talent as a singer. Her entire life revolves around music and she aspires to become a great soprano. Marguerite feels like one of the greats. She regularly sings for her circle of friends, convinced of her natural gift, which she goes to great lengths to perfect with dedication and discipline. Nevertheless, the reality is that Marguerite, although nobody wants to tell her the truth, is not a great singer. And not even her own mother, unmoved and tired, will allow her to continue with her fantasy. Still, one day, the opportunity arises for her to sing in the opera before a large audience. Marguerite, fighting off the emotions of excitement and fear, starts her performance but, in just a few minutes, the astounded, amazed audience begins to laugh and sarcastically poke fun at her. She, almost unconscious of what is happening around her, ends up fainting (first defense mechanism, used to flee reality) and is taken to a hospital where she is admitted.
The film takes place at the time of the first gramophones –the twenties– and her specialist doctor decides to record her voice so that she can be made to see reality. Marguerite is flooded with happiness. She has the privilege of being able to hear her own voice. The music harmoniously starts to sound and eventually gives way to her singing. That is when –to her amazement– her voice sounds harsh, toneless, off beat, and lacks rhythm and beauty. The expression on Marguerite’s face changes from happiness to surprise, from surprise to horror, and from horror to death. Marguerite collapses and falls when faced with the evidence of her “reality.”
And that’s what has made me think today about the concept that we know as “the sensitive line.”
Anyone who knows me knows that, in my professional practice, personality evaluation is an indispensable tool to guide people towards change.
Self-awareness is a decisive factor in determining success in the life of the individual. Knowing oneself and accepting oneself are basic requirements for health and wellbeing.
Without a clear consciousness of ourselves, we cannot improve or develop the lifestyles we want in accordance with our true potential. There are many individuals who, out of touch with their true potential, seek multiple alternatives before going through an exhaustive evaluation of themselves. It makes us uneasy to find out that we are not everything we’d like to be and, thus, we deny our ability to grow and improve.
In fact, it is proven that individuals who have greater self-awareness are healthier, perform better in professional and personal contexts, develop leadership skills, and are more productive at work (Whetten and Cameron).
Even so, there still appears to be resistance to the possibility of being evaluated neutrally and objectively. We don’t want our weaknesses to be exposed; things that we fear could put is at a disadvantaged or inferior position. Thus, we run from awareness of ourselves.
In the words of Maslow:
“We tend to be afraid of any knowledge that could cause us to despise ourselves or make us feel inferior, weak, worthless, evil, shameful. We protect ourselves and our ideal image of ourselves through repression and similar defenses, which are, essentially, techniques by which we avoid becoming conscious of unpleasant or dangerous truth.”
However, this resistance is the negotiation of our better half, of our talents, of our finest impulses, of our highest potentials, of our creativity. It’s the fight against our own greatness.
And it is here, when faced with the negotiation of what could imply true awakening –”Who am I?”– where the concept of the “sensitive line” comes in.
This is the point at which we, as individuals, when faced with information about ourselves that could contradict our own self-concept, become defensive.
When we feel threatened, when we face uncomfortable information or uncertainties, we tend to become rigid. We duck down, we protect ourselves, and we avoid risks (Whetten and Cameron).
Self-awareness is the first aptitude of emotional intelligence. When we know ourselves and recognize where we are at today, we know how to identify what is stopping us on our path towards personal satisfaction and a fulfilled life.
The life that we will live tomorrow is built by us with our mind of today. If we reject today with the multiple defense mechanisms that we use to keep from seeing that “today” (things that we can’t admit or accept), our tomorrow may shy further and further away from our true potential and we may live a life that we don’t want –or that we wouldn’t want– to live.
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.”