When you look in my eyes, you enter my world.
When I look you in the eyes, I enter yours.
Or do I?
… do you?
I’m a people-watcher. Most of the time when I’m bored or spacing off during breaks of doing my work, I’ll watch the people around me, and listen, and observe, and try to pick apart what the world might look like through their eyes in my own head.
But I know that’s not just me-everyone watches, and everyone listens. But what I started thinking about this weekend was- does everyone see, and does everyone hear?
A couple of weekends ago, I posted on my social media about being harassed by a stranger while I was picking up dinner for my sister and I. This wasn’t something that was out of the ordinary for me as a woman in the contemporary United States-every girl or woman gets harassed at some point in her life. But in this particular moment, I got mad. The man who harassed me did this when I was alone, in the dark. I was in the dark while he stared at me like I was a piece of meat as I walked from the store that I was in to my car. He saw that I avoided eye contact with him, and when I snapped and told him to stop staring at me, he must have understood that I was offended.
I was scared and distracted as I drove home. Under the influence of my own mind, I did things that I wouldn’t necessarily have done if I hadn’t been harassed. I stopped at a green light and stayed like that for about 30 seconds, when I realized I was supposed to go. I cut off a car while trying to switch lanes and then watched as the driver tried to “teach me a lesson” by switching lanes, speeding ahead, and cutting me off back. He probably cursed at me in his own car- maybe he called me an idiot, and questioned why I was on the road and who in their right mind was letting me drive their car. He knew, just like I did, that I was being inconsiderate. But he didn’t know why.
Everyday we question why people are rude, unpleasant, inconsiderate and awful, or even why people are kind, thoughtful and sweet. It’s only natural to ask ourselves why people act towards us the way that they do- it’s one question I ask myself all the time, and one that causes me to question my own actions and words. But in the end, we resort to making up our own conclusions.
While I was in Hawai’i on vacation, we hired a tour guide who I thought was very unprofessional and inconsiderate. I like to stay informed about the places that I’m visiting and their significance, so as we explored, and made sure to keep asking her questions. Most of my questions were dismissed with “I’m not sure”, “I don’t really pay attention to that”, and other dissatisfying answers. I really felt like she didn’t want to be there, and I started questioning why she was giving us a tour if she didn’t know anything about where we were. It really put on the damper on my entire experience. My first instinct when I got home was to blast her on TripAdvisor, and give the whole account on why I thought she was a terrible guide and why no one should hire her in the future. But I’m so glad and so lucky that my family convinced me not to do that, and to see that maybe she was having a bad day or going through a rough time. Because if I had written that terrible review, I would have been just like every other person who has judged me on my worst days.
Despite what we like to believe, we really can’t see into each other’s minds, and the reason why is because
no one really sees clearly
we only think that we do
Our own thoughts, our own perceptions actually cloud our judgement. It happens more often than we like to believe, and because of that, our windows to the world are opaque- hardly crystal clear.
And even though its clear that this opacity impacts the way we see other people, it also heavily impacts the way we see ourselves.
One of the parts of my body that I’m most self-conscious about is my eyebrows- it’s weird, I know. But when I was younger, I was always conscious of how close they were to being a uni-brow, and how thick they were and because I kept seeing everyone else with thinner, separated eyebrows, I begged and begged and finally got my mom to let me start doing my eyebrows in high school. I get them done now on a monthly basis, and they have never looked better. But I still start getting conscious about them when I see the thickness growing back underneath and between them, and it makes me feel so weird and awkward and I can’t wait to get them done again. But when I point this out to other people, I always get the same response- “Oh, I didn’t even notice”. Then, I remember that if I hadn’t started to believe that thick eyebrows were weird-looking and uni-brows were gross, I wouldn’t have been so self-conscious of my eyebrows in the first place.
In the end, we are all idealists, and we want the rest of the world to see what we know to be the best version of ourselves. And along this line, the only reason why we criticize and condemn so easily is because we want to see the best version of other people, too. But we forget to recognize that we their version of their “best” might be vastly different from what we have in mind.
We listen, we watch, but we do not see or hear. Not because we don’t want to
because we can’t
even if we try to
We can only see our own minds clearly, and even there, there is controversy.
It makes you question whether people see things clearly at all.
But there is one thing that we all do:
we all feel.
We do it as automatically and naturally as our hearts beat.
In that sense, we all do the same thing.
Everyone knows the feeling of regret, even if we might express it differently- even if that means not expressing it at all. Everyone also knows the gratitude that comes with forgiveness.
I’ll end this post with something I’ve learned as both a people-watcher and as a person. We can try all we want to pick people apart, but we’ll never really get to the root of their troubles, or the cause for their behavior or the answer to whichever questions we might have. But we can get to the root of their feelings. Pick apart feelings, not the people who have them.
It’s the only way you can learn to really see the other
even when your vision is blurred by your own mind.