Hell is others!
This line written by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre is well known to French students preparing their Baccalaureate.
I didn’t learn it at school but in the corporate world, a political arena where each man strives to secure his place.
Sartre’s message is in fact, not about others but about self; hell is not a place with torturers & executioners but rather my fear of “all those eyes intent on me”, the others, judging & summing me up … Do they like me, do they accept me, am I good enough, will they invite me into their club or will I be excluded?
This existential fear plagues us, it can stop us in our stride, paralyze us, control our days and invade our nights.
We all want to be free but how can we claim freedom if we are unable to free ourselves from the eyes of others?
Where does this deep-rooted fear come from?
However rich or famous we are, whatever our job or social status, in the immensity of the universe, we are a mere speck of dust! A hungry bear would eat us in less than 5 seconds, trapped in fire we would burn in the flames, and walking down the wrong street, we could by shot by a terrorist!
Our ancestors were well aware of their vulnerability. To ensure their survival, they grouped together. But where is my place within the tribe? How do I fit into the collective project? What is my unique contribution, my added value? How can I differentiate myself from the others? How can I be myself?
Fear is man’s biggest inhibitor. Free of fear, we move with direction & confidence. As soon as fear kicks in, we pull on the hand break and screech to a halt.
This is normal, healthy human behavior, we are wired to secure our safety & survival. What is not so normal or healthy is to confuse real & perceived danger… What is the real risk? To free ourselves from our fears, we must raise our awareness levels… What is going on here, what am I feeling and what is triggering my feelings? Emotional Intelligence must allow us to manage our flow of emotions and cognitive intelligence to rationalize and evaluate incoming data. Unlike other animals, our « neo-cortex » is highly developed. It can gather & sort complex information, analyse & check, make “intelligent” decisions…. On one condition, as evolved « homo sapiens », we must keep our heads clear and not let ourselves become submerged in a flood of destructive emotions.
So, what is more dangerous, the eyes of others or my loss of freedom ?
What if I dared to say what I think, what I see, what I feel? What if I were able to calm my fear of not being good enough and to replace it with self-acceptance and self confidence? “I am who I am, with my strengths & my weaknesses, those I had yesterday and those I will have tomorrow, those that make me a unique human being, real, sincere & authentic …
The scene would be totally different, let’s step up on the balcony & look down … instead of a crowd of people, hiding behind masks, centered on themselves, we would see the same people, without masks, liberated of their fears, openly engaging with others.
So, let’s step out of hell, let’s not, like Charlie Chaplin, wait until our 70th birthday, to free ourselves of our existential fears … let’s start accepting & loving ourselves just as we are.
Corinne Martin, Founder of Performance Consultants France