I’m an introvert. In my single days, I had good relationships with many friends, but I had the hardest time meeting potential dates. As I soared past 30 and still hadn’t met “The One,” I struggled with feelings of invisibility. I worried about how I was going to meet a potential husband if I didn’t feel like anyone even saw me. I tried the singles group at my church and made many meaningful relationships, and my girlfriends and I ventured into bars to meet people, but I had no luck. After a conversation (read: whining session) with a girlfriend who was around the same age and also an introvert, we decided that we needed to change up our strategy. Our new weapon would be earth shattering: we vowed to smile and make eye contact with people at least once during the day. I know it sounds pathetic that that would be an epiphany to a Thirty-Something Professional, but I decided to start my “eye contact and smile tactic” at the gym. I started with familiar people whom I had seen there often and built up to the personal trainer who trained people in the area I frequented.
Something changed in me as I made eye contact and smiled at strangers. I began to grow in confidence. I felt good when I “connected” with other people, albeit just through a smile. Rarely even did I initiate conversation. After my eye-contact-and-smile-skills improved, I decided to try them out at the grocery store. Low and behold, I had similar responses and I even began to work on my conversational skills. I continued to grow in confidence and within a short time, I ended up meeting and marrying my sweet husband. I don’t know if my decision to make eye contact and smile helped me meet and marry my husband, but the confidence I gained through my little experiment sure didn’t hurt.
Fast forward 9 years to a frazzled, tired, Forty-Something working mother of young boys. Somewhere along the line, I have begun to feel like the invisible introvert again more comfortable with the running conversation in my head than speaking to other people. Unfortunately, that in-my-own-head conversation started getting interrupted 100 times a minute once I became a mother. Frequently my thoughts are disorganized and incomplete. While I have several very close friends with whom I’ve had very long term friendships, our lives have somehow become too challenging to regularly get together.
Outside of my family of four, extended family, and my work, I often go weeks without talking with friends about life. I have the yearning for a “mom tribe” where I can be “Amy” instead of “Mommy,” “Employee,” and “Wife.” Don’t misunderstand me, I LOVE my roles. I sometimes pinch myself because I can’t believe I have the life that I do. I’m very satisfied, but also discontented at the same time. Throughout the MANY challenges Motherhood throws my direction, I have always had to desire to be known despite my introverted nature and comfort level within my head. It is very difficult to find those mom friends that you want to share motherhood with and allow you to reprimand your kids and give them goldfish and fruit snacks without fear of them criticizing your parenting skills.
After my son had completed a few weeks of Kindergarten, I asked him to tell me about some of his friends at school. He stumbled for words, but I realized his perception was that he didn’t have any friends. He hadn’t found a connection with any one person. I offered him my motherly advice: Sometimes to HAVE a friend, you have to BE a friend. This sounded ridiculous to him, and he told me as much, but I paused to ponder this thought and realized I needed to take my own advice. I reflected upon how I was able to gain confidence as a younger version of myself. I decided to try the “eye contact and smile” tactic that proved successful in my previous life.
While splurging on ice cream with my family, I decided to see if I could still “make eye contact and smile” and help someone feel noticed and less invisible. As I was leaving holding my son’s hand, I made eye contact with a woman about my age. She smiled back. I began to feel a little less invisible, and I hope she did, too. Maybe a smile is the first step into a beautiful friendship…