Do you ever have trouble making eye contact?
Humans are social animals. We have a want and need to be with others. And when that sense of connection is lacking or missing because of social anxiety, we feel bad. Social anxiety can make it very hard to feel that natural sense of belonging we were born with.
But don’t despair. Today we’re going to talk about how to take that first step to get you out of your social anxiety shell. I promise if you do this, it will really help you be more natural and relaxed around others.
I saw this posted on Facebook last weekend:
The young man feels awkward at a party he was at. So what does he do to help manage his discomfort? He focuses in on his phone and feels terrible about it afterwards.
In order to feel better, you have to focus outwards
Whether he realizes it or not, he is using his phone as a safety behavior (also known as an avoidance behavior). As he looks into the phone, he sends a message to those around him that he is otherwise engaged, and not available for socializing.
This keeps him “safe” or “off the hook” in the short term, but does nothing to help him going forward.
What I have learned over the years is that you have to practice initiating positive social contact. And one of the easiest and most natural ways to do this is to make eye contact.
This may sound small, but any socially anxious person will tell you it’s not. When you are socially anxious, you have a tendency to focus inwards on what you are thinking and how crappy you are feeling.
Part of the stories we tell ourselves is that others are watching and judging us. And one of the ways we unconsciously keep the anxiety going is that we stay focused inwards and we don’t look at others. For me I used to actually avoid making eye contact.
This reinforces that looking at others is unsafe, and the avoidance behavir will then continue.
It is much healthier and kinder (to yourself and to the world around you) to start making eye contact. If you haven’t done it in awhile you can Start by Doing it Afraid. Look at someone as you pass them by. Give a little smile.
Last fall I had a setback where I became very afraid to fly. I did a lot of work to help myself and the flight to Aruba was an overwhelming success. However, once I made it safely to my destination, I was scared the fear would come back on the return trip.
Because of this lingering doubt, I wanted to prove to myself that this is a friendly universe. Including all the people in it!
So while I was on my vacation I conducted a little experiment: Every morning as I walked along the beach, I made eye contact with and said hello to every stranger I passed.
It was such a wonderful exercise. Almost without exception, everyone with whom I made eye contact with and said hello or good morning to either smiled or smiled and said good morning back.
If I had to give percentages it would have been a 95% smile back rate.
I could never make this up. 🙂
Now of course I am sure everyone is a little happier on a Caribbean vacation, so I definitely took that into consideration.
But I have been deliberately putting myself out there, making eye contact and smiling as a daily practice.
TIP> Because when you make something good into a daily practice, it eventually becomes ingrained in you as a habit. <TIP!
I try to do it every day at work. ESPECIALLY on days that I don’t feel great emotionally. There is nothing that can pick me up better than to connect with my fellow man.
If you haven’t made eye contact in awhile, you may be a little nervous about how to do it. And you might notice that it doesn’t feel natural at first.
**But remember, making eye contact and smiling is the most natural thing in the world. We did this all the time when we were little! The only thing unnatural is we trained ourselves to stop doing it because of anxiety!**
The best thing you can do about this then, is to prepare yourself before you actually start. Before you leave your house, you can do some quick neuro-activation to help you become more relaxed and confident.
Or you could do a few minutes of EFT (also called Tapping). Here is a great video you can use to help with this:
Once you have taken some of that emotional charge out of the prospect of making eye contact, you’re ready to go out there and start.
Check in and make sure you’re breathing nice and regularly and not holding your breath.
Making eye contact- greeting someone with a smile- is a small kindness. Extending kindness out brings it back to you. So once you start doing this, you can’t help but feel uplifted and happier.
Remember, once you start looking outwards a little it becomes much easier. When you expand your awareness in this way, it helps knock the wind out of the sails of social anxiety.
How are you with making eye contact? Has social anxiety made it difficult or impossible for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Leave a comment and let’s chat!
I wish you peace,
PS. If you loved this post, please Like and Share it on social media. Thank you!
Here are some popular articles from Panic Free Me that may help you today:
And here are some helpful resources I have put together for you: