I thought the more eye contact made with people in passing, the better. And there was something wrong with me for hating it. So I pushed through my eye contact anxiety, looking people in the eye when I really didn’t want to. Strangers on the street, shoppers in the grocery store, coworkers in the hall.
It was the friendly thing to do. The normal thing to do. The right thing to do.
So when their eyes didn’t meet mine, I got offended. Why didn’t they notice me? Worse, why were they avoiding me? What wrong vibe was I giving off?
But then when their eyes did meet mine, I got uncomfortable. Should I pair it with hello? What about a smile? When was it okay to look away?
Forget it, I thought, and so began a period of eye contact avoidance. Only to be followed by feelings of guilt and isolation.
Forget it, I thought, and returned to my previous ways, seeking eye contact I didn’t want but thought appropriate.
Until that proved to be too much. Appropriate or not, making eye contact with people in passing was more than I could take.
And so on, the cycle repeating over the long, anxiety-inducing course of my lifetime.
Until six months ago.