Earlier today I was at the grocery store, in boy mode, just heading in. I paused a moment, and saw this guy nearby just ahead of me, also going into the store. I grabbed a cart, went in, and maybe 15 seconds later I was passing by this same guy. You know how sometimes you’ll make eye contact with someone just by chance and then you look away a little nervously? Well, I did that, looked away, and then for some reason looked back. He sort of nodded, seemed to hesitate, and said in a normal tone of voice, “Are you okay?”
I was kind of startled out of my fog and said, “Oh, yes, yes, I’m fine,” smiling and making sure I sounded reasonable and sane. And then he said, “Because you looked like you were upset about something.” I was surprised, since I was feeling fine – actually feeling something pretty close to “happy” – and I said something like, ” Oh, no, no, I’m fine, everything’s okay.” And he said, “Okay” and continued on.
I immediately went down an aisle and felt a little embarrassed. I mean, none of this felt hostile or confrontational or anything like that. And I didn’t get any impression that he was trying to pick up on me or wanted to start a conversation for some reason. So I was thinking, how could I look like I was upset? Did he perceive me as emotional distressed, or pissed off and looking for trouble, or worried, or something else? I almost wanted to go back and ask him for more details, but figured that would seem crazy.
It was really unusual and the rest of the time I was in the store I was wondering – How do I come across to people? Do I appear to be an angry person? Preoccupied? Concerned? A pushover? Dangerous? I was stumped and couldn’t get my head around it. It just goes to show how personal everyone’s experiences are. We’re all trapped in our own little world, and so much of what we see out there may not have any real bearing to reality. It makes me wonder, how often do I read people or situations wrong? Probably lots, maybe most of the time. We all have those expectations and “self stories” that we’ve carried around since childhood (“People are assholes, people are nice, I have no luck with women, children don’t like me, I’m not good at soccer, blah blah blah) and they just operate automatically without even being aware of them.
I was just dying to know: What just happened? What did this guy see? What made my reality and his apparently so far apart?