Last week my housemates gave me a challenge.
It was to sit face to face with a friend and stare at them for 4 minutes. Don’t talk. Don’t look away. Just look at them straight in the eyes.
There were a lot of moments when we shifted uncomfortably or had to hold our breaths to keep from laughing. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded.
From the first second, there was just one thought that kept repeating in my mind over and over again:
This shouldn’t be so difficult.
It shouldn’t be uncomfortable to look into the face of another human being, to admire the good in them, to take note of the way their eyes crinkle or their head tilts when they feel uneasy. These are the things that should be the simple, uncomplicated, normal.
I want to be able to see people, to actually see them and not harbor the wish to turn away.
Last week, I met a lot of strangers. I was given a room with some chairs and the chance to tell them one by one that they’re loved, they’re enough, they have what it takes.
Sometimes we laughed, other times we cried. There were moments when silence just hung thick in the air like the fog that rested outside. I could see their minds turning and asking the questions: Is it really true? Do I really have what it takes? Am I really worthy of words like these?
I think those are the things that make us wring our hands and pace hallways. They keep us up at night, stare at us in the face over breakfast, curl up next to us on sick days spent at home. Am I worthy of being seen? Worth being told I’m incredible? Am I good enough for someone show up for me in the moments when I’m not at my best?
You deserve for someone to look you in the eye and never flinch.
You are not just another person in a room, face in a crowd, notch on a belt. You are incredibly wonderful and if you were here right now, I’d look you in the eyes and say those things. Because you are worth holding the gaze of other human beings. The fact that someone couldn’t look you in the eyes and say good and lovely things indicates far more about them than it ever could about you.
You should also feel comfortable to be gazed at. In those 4 minutes of being stared at, I had many reminders of all my imperfections. Quickly, I realized that it is almost as difficult to be seen as it is to fully allow yourself see another person.
But you should know that you have no good reason to be insecure, shy, uncertain, or fearful. When you’re being 100% yourself it is one of the most incredible sights on this earth and it’s a crying shame and a disservice to humanity when you hold it back, cover it up or try to push it down. Don’t for a second let yourself feel afraid to be seen.
Last week I got the chance to love complete strangers, to really take a long look at good friends and to have them really look at me. I came to realize that all any of us ever really want is to be seen and afterwards still be insanely loved.
So, as for that challenge, I’d like to extend it much further. I’d like to hold that position, stay locked in that gaze as long as possible.
Sign me up. Count me in. Challenge accepted.