Why can eye contact be so uncomfortable?

Do you find eye contact really uncomfortable?

Well you’re not alone! Many people struggle to make or maintain eye contact, whether in social or physical situations.

The real challenge is getting it just right and feeling confident doing so. Eye contact can be a catch-22 because too much of it can make you seem very intense or even creepy, whereas too little can make you come across as shifty or shy. Which begs the question -- is there a way to master eye contact and not feel uncomfortable? 

All I can say is yes, yes, yes! But first ask yourself this -- why are we so dang scared to look people in the eye? Well, speaking from an evolutionary standpoint, eye contact was a sign of threat, however that is an ancient theory we are truly able to break free from.

If there’s a will there’s a way! And thanks to recent research and a collection of helpful advice from a few credible sources, I’ve found the key to finding that eye contact sweet spot, plus how to build your confidence so you can feel comfortable sustaining eye contact.  

First things first.. here’s something you may not know: People who struggle with this issue may actually be suffering from a form of anxiety called “eye contact anxiety”. Which refers to the discomfort a person feels when making eye contact or continuing to look into someone’s eyes. However, each person deals with their own level of discomfort, ranging from mildly to extremely uncomfortable.

But don't fret, because you’re not alone! There are many people struggling with this on a day-to-day basis for different reasons:

Main reasons people struggle with eye contact

  • Fear/anxiety 
  • Vulnerability 
  • Insecurities 
  • Shy
  • Feel fake/phony
  • Don’t want to be seen
  • Feel unattractive 
  • Think they’re not good enough  

So what is the appropriate amount of eye contact? The general rule of thumb is to maintain more eye contact when listening and less when speaking, but this can also be dependent on the situation and how close you are to the person you’re having a conversation with.

Ideally, casual friendships should go lighter on eye contact, while deeper and more intimate relationships can share longer gazes. In the professional world, it’s better to aim for a moderate length of time or break the gaze at intervals that make sense if you need a moment to recover or reset yourself.

One study found that the ideal length of eye contact is 3.3 seconds, the perfect sweet spot between coming across as shifty to kinda creepy!  

The first thing to remember is you’re not the only one experiencing this! Face your fears, and remind yourself that you must keep experiencing it to overcome it! Improvement is gradual which takes time, and building up the confidence to make eye contact and feel good about it takes practice. Start by practicing eye contact on yourself for two minutes, just breathe and let the thoughts flow through your brain, but sustain eye contact for two minutes in the mirror. Next, practice on someone you love like a family member, or partner, and make an effort to look everyone in the eye throughout your daily activities. Lastly, start engaging more with strangers (this one will really help grow your confidence) say hello to people in the streets and use eye contact.

5 tips for building eye contact confidence

  1. Face your fears
  2. Don't look down & slowly look away
  3. Practice on yourself or loved ones
  4. Remember the 3.3 second rule
  5. Say hello to strangers & make eye contact with them

Eye contact is such a powerful thing and it’s a great way to build your confidence. It’s time to break free of the fear and feel good about making eye contact because it’s truly a beautiful thing and always remember how awesome and powerful you are!



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