I feel like my mother is picking at scabs. Or acting how my little cousin when he used to poke sticks at my dog, saying ‘let’s aggravate her!’. The newest thing my mother is poking at me with is the fact I apparently don’t make eye contact when I talk to anyone.

I know when I was really little I used to be bad at making eye contact (in fact I didn’t really talk at all). But I thought I had got better at keeping eye contact and it was now something that I didn’t need to worry about. Or at least it was good enough that I could let it be pretty far down my (long) list of things to worry about. So I don’t know why it is something that my mother has just decided to pick on that now, as it it isn’t a new problem. Maybe it’s just that she’s got bored of telling me to be less floppy/be more happy/be more sparky, which has been her favourites for the past couple of weeks.

She thinks she’s doing me a favour by just ‘letting me know’ that my eye contact’s not too great. She says she’s worried for me (or for herself, that I’m a poor reflection on her?) that people will think I’m just rude. I’m reminded of this nice little piece of embroidery by Lindsey.Joy.

During the past few days I’ve been really trying to make an effort to keep eye contact, supposedly to show my mother that she is wrong, and that am perfectly able to keep eye contact. But to be honest, I’m finding it difficult (read: impossible for more than a nanosecond).

So my problem is actually two fold: firstly, chances are that I’ve been wrong all along thinking that I’ve mastered this skill, and in reality people really have always been finding me rude or aloof. It would be ok if I actively wasn’t trying to make eye contact, but as this seems to be my personality, congratulations to me, I’ve added another thing to my list of why I hate myself! Secondly, despite consciously trying, I realise I don’t actually know how to keep eye contact, so don’t know how to fix myself either! My mother thinks that’s a crazy excuse. But really, I mean, where do you even look at the person?! If I look at their eyes I feel like I’m burrowing into their skull and I hate that feeling when someone does it to me, so I don’t want to be a person who does that to others. But if I look at bits of their face, then I feel like a weirdo and it probably looks weird if my eyes are darting about the place. Not really eye contact anyway. I’ve thought about trying to look in the middle distance so that I’m not having to make focused contact, but I’m sure that my gaze probably looks vacant and weird. And again, not really eye contact either.

The other fundamental problem of eye contact is that I suppose it’s meant to help show you’re genuine. But in reality I’m not feeling genuine at all when I’m thoroughly unhappy pretending to be confident making eye contact. I don’t want people to see how uncomfortably I am trying to keep eye contact, so then I look away…and boom, I’ve messed up again.

If any one has some useful ideas on how to keep eye contact – like what to think or where to look, I’d be grateful if you could let me know!

PS This is the one thing that makes me feel marginally better about myself: A Cartoon about Avoiding Eye-Contact

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