The James Dean Factor: How to Balance Sensitivity and Confidence
There’s a difference between a strong man who’s able to empathize with others and appreciate the beauty in life/nature/an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo and one who cries when he loses a game of foosball. There’s nothing wrong with being sensitive to the world and the needs of others. It doesn’t say anything about your manhood to be attentive to a woman’s needs and/or get teary-eyed at the destruction of the Death Star in “Star Wars.” On the other hand, there is a thing as being too sensitive.
How do you respond to criticism? If someone – be it a woman, friend, coworker or family member – gives you a ribbing, do you cower in the corner? Do you get defensive and respond with intense anger? Or do you just get flippant and pretend you don’t care? The ability to face criticism/adversity etc. without crying or exploding in rage says a lot about your level of confidence. If you’re sure of yourself and your decisions, you’re much less likely to respond to criticism as a real threat. If you’re confident in your abilities, you won’t take one bad grade, one nasty comment from a coworker or one “serious” talk with your girlfriend as the end of the world. You’ll listen, keep your chin up and have your say without getting violent or resorting to thumb-sucking.
It’s possible to be sensitive and self-assured. Look at James Dean. Whether you’ve seen his movies or (like most people) just know him from dorm room posters and commemorative plates, you know that James Dean exudes both sensitivity and self-confidence. In the classic film “Rebel Without a Cause,” Dean both gets in a knife fight and questions the meaning of life. He radiates confidence and attitude, but does so without looking like a macho idiot.
Sensitivity itself is not a bad thing. It’s part of what makes us human. Unless your goal is to be a mindless sociopath, you’ve got to maintain some level of sensitivity to the world around you. If you can somehow find a balance between sensitivity and confidence, you’ll be much better prepared to tackle future problems. Say your girlfriend just sat down with you for a talk and told you she’s thinking about taking a “break.” You can be both sensitive and confident without being too much of either by listening to what she has to say and responding without getting too emotional. If you’re able to have your say without balling or punching a hole in the wall, you’ll have found the sweet spot where confidence and sensitivity meet and give each other a high five.
Consider Mr. Dean the next time you’re being overly sensitive. You can walk the line between sensitivity and confidence and do so with swagger and poise. Should you find yourself freaking out over a bad day at work or rejection from a woman, take it in stride.
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About John Brhel John Brhel is a freelance writer from upstate New York that enjoys picking apart life's idiosyncrasies and listening to Huey Lewis & the News.