Last week, I was enacting my morning ritual. Fresh out of the shower and finally fully awake, I started dabbing on the shaving cream. I glanced up at the mirror and looked myself right in the eye. Surprise. The white of my left eye was no longer white. It was bright red. I realized I had broken a blood vessel. The creatures you see in horror films have eyes almost as scary as mine. Since I had broken a blood vessel in my eye before, I knew it was nothing to worry about. The prescription for a broken blood vessel in the white of the eye is to ignore it. Wait a week or two, and the blood will be absorbed back into the eye and the monster-like look will fade.
When it happened before, I took the prescription. I ignored it. But, this time, for some reason, I got self-conscious. I felt like a teenager worried about a minor skin blemish. At times during the week when I was talking one-on-one with colleagues or ordering food at a restaurant, I would wonder what they thought of my eye problem. I had to work hard to get the eye out of my head.
It’s been more than a week now, and no one has said anything about my eye. Were they just being polite? No one said, “That is one freaky looking eye you got there, mate.” Nor did they say, “Hurt yourself?” “Have you seen a doctor?”
Yesterday, I said to my wife, “My eye is finally starting to look better.” In reply, my wife said, “Is there something the matter with your eye?” She hadn’t noticed. We’ve been keeping our distance because she’s been sick for the last two weeks, but I thought she too was being polite. My view of myself as Dracula bait differed from what she had seen. We often don’t observe closely the people we see all the time. Fortunately, while our “imperfections” seem large to us, they are often small to others.
As we age we learn more about when to care what others think. We come to understand that we don’t have the time to spend worrying about minor matters, especially those that are out of our control. We learn to stop being our own worst critic. We try to do what we should be doing and forget about our self-doubts. Others will find the imperfections if they want to. When that happens, we should ask, “Are they trying to help us by pointing out a blind spot or are they trying to make themselves look better by making us look worse?” Most of the time, when there’s an elephant in the room, it’s a good idea to point it out and see if others see the same thing. Next person I see I’m going to say, “Hey mate, I’ve got one freaky looking eye. What do you think? Should I audition for the Walking Dead?”