The classmate who sat next to you in your Enduring Questions course, your roommate from orientation, the person you clung to during Welcome Week and then never spoke to again, perhaps even your lecture professor—everyone has those people with whom they try to avoid eye contact as they pass.
The hookup culture can also cause some embarrassing and awkward walks down the Gasson quad. Over the years, this phenomenon has been observantly dubbed the “BC Lookaway.” And we all, whether subconsciously or willingly, are guilty of it.
One of the many possible explanations for the BC Lookaway is a fear of embarrassment. It is easy to see that, at least for the most part, a great chunk of BC students are great people. We are all talented and intelligent, and the possibility of being put down by an interaction can be really difficult to grasp. Largely from this identity of being a “good” person, we have developed a paralyzing fear of embarrassment. Instead of risking an interaction that could leave us wondering how that person views us, we simply turn away to try to save ourselves any possible pain. In this way, we save our self-esteem and dignity.
The BC Lookaway could also be attributed to a fear of failure. According to Dr. Marty Nemko in Psychology Today, “often, task avoidance for fear of failure is rational: the person estimates their time would be better spent on something else. A less discussed, often more problematic and, fortunately, more ameliorable inhibitor of wise action is fear of embarrassment: others will think less of them.” Once again, after pondering and reflecting on my own experience, this seems like a huge motivating factor for turning our heads to the concrete or to the top of Gasson when passing someone we aren’t sure how to greet.
Dr. Nemko offers a good solution, or at least a step to take, to improve this habit. He recommends that we develop a better connection with our values and use them to empower us in the face of adversity. That way, we can respond to a situation with what we want others to see most, such as “intelligence, body image, or altruism.”
A good example of this, claims Nemko, is if you are someone who values a positive body image, to view a person who judges your outfit as unnecessary to both your life and your self-esteem. By following this rule, we will not worry about how the other person will react to us and will instead focus on what will make us feel fulfilled. In order to develop this sort of cognizance, we should constantly ask ourselves the question, “What would the Wise One within me do?”
After all, we are all wise. Our wiseness need only be transformed from a primitive, efficiency-maximizing intelligence to a more self-aware, efficacious knowledge. An exercise like Dr. Nemko’s provides a stimulating, Jesuit-esque, challenge whose results could cause changes along the walkways across campus.