I remember thinking that I don’t care what anybody thinks, after I’d had a chance to calmly think through what happened. They’re my eyes and they are where I put them. If anyone doesn’t like where I direct them, they can move out of their line of vision. It was the thought that would obliterate a part of who I’d been to make me someone I don’t recognize fully, yet – a confident man.
It started while cashing out at a local establishment last summer and wound up being the most embarrassing moment of my adult life. Up till that moment I’d been focusing on walking with my shoulders squared and head up. But, like most anxious/shy people, my eyes didn’t always follow my new rules. They tended to drift downward or sweep at some ill-opportuned times, which creates some of those moments no one wants to have. This particular day though, there was an older lady’s boobs in my face when I came to my senses. I didn’t have a defense if she called me out on it. Thankfully, all she did was let me know my total in a way that told me to take my effin’ eyes off her business, and she was kind enough not to blacken them for me. Lord only knows I left that place thankful, fearful, and sure I wouldn’t have known what to say if she’d cussed me out because my eyes were in business they didn’t belong in.
Fast forward to a month ago. I actually told a clerk in my new church that I was sort of shy and anxious, socially, while staring her straight in her eyes, not knowing that I was lying my behind off about being shy or anxious. I’d find out a week later when I was called in for an interview for a marketing position in the Hartford area. No, didn’t get the job. I’d rushed out, late to work the morning and forgot to bring extra clothes, tie, essentials. But, I wound up going to the interview and watched the interviewer squirming in her chair the way I used to when people were looking toward the region where my eyes are on my face. No, not audibly. She just had the wavering, sweeping eyes because I was sitting square, shoulders back, neck straight and eyes focused on hers. I felt calm and relaxed. I explained what I wanted from the job her company was offering, if I got the job. I even knew the one word answer I gave to where I saw myself in five years ended my chances of getting the job. “Executive” was the word that blasted out after she asked about my five year outlook, while hovering my chin above steepled fingers, daring her to scoff. I saw her eyes widen and knew right away that there was no way in hell she was interviewing someone without a tie, looking to pass her current position on the ladder.
But, I also knew something else; I didn’t feel a shred of anxiety or regret during or after the interview and I gave her hand a confident and professional shake as I strode out of that office, shoulders up, a slight grin, and an attitude that if she didn’t call I’d pick up something better soon. No lie, those thoughts were there and so was the loose feeling in the swing of my arms and the easy sweep of my legs.
But I did wonder how I’d explain to these new people I’m getting acquainted with at my new Church that I wasn’t as shy or anxious as I’d mentioned the week before. Something inside me said “let them figure it out”, but something else told me they already did, which almost sent my anxiety in overdrive until I said, that wasn’t my problem either. I didn’t lie to them. I just didn’t know how much I’d changed in a year, after that one thought.
“They were my eyes – they were where I put them and whoever didn’t like it could move out of their line of sight.”
I’ll admit that what happened over the coarse of a year until now, I don’t know. Maybe God decided it was time I moved on from anxiety. Maybe I just decided I didn’t want to stare at anybody’s boobs again. I just know those words altered my confidence and made me a whole new person within the span of a year. I’m getting to know myself again, and I realized as of Sunday that, in a crowd I can stand and stare into it and it doesn’t matter how many people are staring back. I can meet their eyes. I was at a party with almost not a shred of angst. I’m still reclusive though, I ran home to be alone once the party was over, and please, don’t ask me about conversation – that word is foreign to me. I still talk in bulk and run dry quick when it comes to conversation. Lots and lots of awkward silence in between. But, at least I can stare at folk without blinking, but maybe one of you kind folks have a secret to conversation that will have me all peoply and junk.
But, looking back and understanding what I can about my new confidence, I realize that it was those words and the determination that came with them that changed me. I no longer avoid making eye contact or try to make eye contact, while walking around, nor do I shy away from eyes that I find staring at me, good ways or bad. Mos times I simply smile and keep walking if I make eye contact with random people and it feels ok. When I’m speaking to others, my eyes are on theirs and my voice doesn’t sound like it’s straining to not be heard. No more staring where I shouldn’t.
I would love to know your results if you try it or some of those conversational helpers.
Blessings till next time.