I was doing my meditation yesterday and the little voice in my earbuds was talking about how hard we are on ourselves and how we should be kinder to our own minds.
So, I decided to conduct an experiment. Every time I would catch my mind using itself as a punching bag I would put a smile on my face and see what that did to my mental state since I’ve heard you can kind of trick yourself into being in a better mood by smiling. I did some research on the google machine about this. So, obviously, I’m an expert on this subject.
First off, it’s virtually impossible to be upset when you have a real genuine smile on your face and who doesn’t want to be in a perpetual good mood?
Secondly, I decided to take my little experiment a step further. I decided to smile at everyone I passed and make actual eye contact with anyone willing and say hello. I wanted to see what it did to my human brain when I smiled at other humans.
Then things got interesting…I was positive that everyone else was going to look so rude and non-communicative and self-obsessed. I was so excited to write to you about what an open and loving person I am, always smiling at people and making the world a better place a little bit of eye contact at a time. Unfortunately, I get to tell you another kind of story.
I was smiling proudly at the floor as I walked into the gym and I felt great. I was smiling at myself in the little TV as I walked up the treadmill’s perpetual hill. I just kept smiling. Then I remembered that not only was I supposed to smile to improve my own state of mind, but I also wanted to smile at the people around me. I tried. Really, I did, but oh my gosh it was so freaking hard to make eye contact with anyone!! What if that guy over there thinks I’m flirting with him? What if this girl thinks I’m a freak because I’m smiling at her? I started to panic. As soon as I went to make eye contact with anyone I’d end up smiling at my feet again. I just couldn’t (or really wouldn’t) do it. It was so stupid hard. I felt judged just for trying to be friendly and I didn’t even give anyone the chance to judge me! It was the strangest feeling.
I grew up in a generation where, by the time we were in high school, we were more focused on the shiny box in our hands than we were on hanging out with our friends. We’d sit next to each other, all on our phones. Alone, together. We don’t interact with people in real life the same way we did when we were little. The sweet, simple time when we’d walk up to some random kid on the playground and say, “Hey, wanna play with me?” We don’t know how to say hi or hold doors or pick up something someone has dropped without feeling uncomfortable. Eye contact has literally become painful. We’ve lost the ability to make human connections and share experiences with people without feeling uncomfortable.
On Saturday night, Domi and I were out on date night when a girl I went to high school with walked by me. I didn’t stay in touch with anyone from high school unless they were one of my teachers. When I graduated from high school I made a point of not looking back. But the girl definitely would have known who I was if I had said something. I turned to Domi, “oh my gosh she’s so rude she didn’t even say hi!” He looked at me over his glasses, “well, did you say hi to her?” Annoyingly level-headed, rational person over here…
“Well, no, but she was one of the cool kids, I wasn’t, why should I have to say hi to her?” Domi chuckled and I detected a slight eye roll and we moved on. But I was desperate to capture another glimpse of her as we left the restaurant, I wanted to know what she was doing now, but I couldn’t bring myself to go over to her and say hello. A whole one-syllable word and I couldn’t get it out. I just stared from the doorway trying to make eye contact until Domi elbowed me in the back and whispered, “Baby, it was cute, now it’s just creepy, let’s go.” So, we left. I wasn’t going to go up to her. Who was I kidding anyway? But then I got to thinking…Why was it so hard to walk up to her? Why couldn’t I have just said, “Hey, do you remember me? We went on that trip to Canada together in 10th grade.” But I couldn’t because I was so afraid of what? Rejection? Yeah, probably. We don’t take risks anymore and since when did walking up to someone to say hello become a risk?
We are so glued to our phones and peoples’ lives online it becomes next to impossible to interact even when an opportunity to reminisce in-person arises. We keep our heads down. We keep to ourselves. We silently create lives for everyone around us without ever even saying hi. We live in our safe, protective bubbles where we prefer to look at our feet because they feel safer than looking into someone’s eyes because looking into someone’s eyes feels vulnerable. But we forget that the reward for vulnerability is feeling closer to people, not feeling ashamed. (Thank you, Brene Brown.)
If I smile at someone, just smile, what really is going to happen to me that is so terrifying? Someone points at me and goes, “that girl, she’s weird.” I’m telling you, I’ve heard worse things about myself in my life from people I’m much closer to, so some random person? Go ahead! Think I’m weird!
I’m going to try my smile experiment again today. See if I get any better at it. Practice it some more and make eye contact some more and ask one random person how their day is going. I can do it. (I really think I can…and if I believe I can, I will.) I am certainly not shy…I can make this happen. Here’s to gen-u-ine human interaction people.
Happy Tuesday friends. Let’s actually interact today. Xoox