Several years ago I was coaching kids rugby at a different club to that which I had coached for many years. These kids were shy and offered little feedback to me or the rest of the team. Some of this was largely cultural, but I found it a little unnerving. I just never knew if the kids were engaged with the coaching or the team. I didn’t know if they were learning anything.
I decided that at the end of each training session the kids should line-up, as they did after a game to shake hands with the opposition, to shake hands with us coaches. I also told them that they had to look us in the eye. We would thank them for coming to training and they would thank us for coming along to coach them.We had a great year, these shy and withdrawn kids began to feedback and contribute to the team, and the attendance at training did not fall-off all year.
Many of us struggle with the uncomfortable feeling that we get from making eye contact with a stranger. It is particularly difficult for people in low mood and depression. As an introvert, I have struggled with it all of my life and the depression has just exacerbated it for me.
When depressed it’s about the need for solitude, and it’s about shame. As an introvert it’s about the threat of being drawn into small-talk. For some cultures it’s about social standing and respect, and for others it’s about fear.
Like the man in the arena in Roosevelt’s speech, it takes courage to lift your head and look around when you are lying face down in the middle of the arena. You are as low as you can get and it feels uncomfortable but lifting your head and opening your eyes can be incredibly liberating and energising.
When I’m at my lowest I don’t want people to see me and I certainly don’t want to look at them, but when I do have the courage to look them in the eye, all I see is friendliness, empathy, understanding. Keep your head down and you are simply telling the world that they can harm you. You are holding onto your own negative energy.
I got out of bed early this morning and went for a walk. Buoyed by the feeling of the rising sun on my face, I decided that I was going to do something that has always made me feel uncomfortable, I was going to raise my head, look strangers in straight in the eye and greet them. Everyone that I saw, no exceptions, no excuses, even those who had their heads down or were wearing headphones. They all smiled back and said ‘good morning’.
I really felt so good and filled with positive energy by the time I got back home. Its a beautiful world, filled with so many beautiful people, most of whom we have and never will meet. We have just got to be willing to get uncomfortable and look them in the eye.
Practice this in your good times and you will even be able to do it when you are low. Make it a habit.
Raise your head to release the negative energy that you are holding inside of you. Look people in the eye and greet them to drink in their positiveness and even share some of your own with others who need it.