I remember the day, when my teacher asked a question to the whole class. Nobody spoke up, not even me, though I knew the answer.
I felt scared to speak up despite knowing the answer very well because it would feel like everyone was watching me.
I was thinking about what the consequences would be if it went wrong. 💬
My classmates would laugh at me.
I might feel ashamed in front of the whole class.
My ego would hurt, and my confidence would be low.
The experience that I was going on that day was called the Spotlight effect.
I’ll explain what it is, why it’s not good, and how not to let it bother you.
WHAT IS THE SPOTLIGHT EFFECT?
It’s a state of mind when we think everyone is watching and judging what we do or how we look, but in reality, they are not.
It’s because we often see things only from our point of view.
In the year 2000, an experiment was conducted to test a student who wore an ugly shirt and then was asked to estimate how many people would notice his ugly shirt. He estimated 50% while in reality, only 25% observed him.
What I can learn from this experiment:
We think everyone is watching us, but they’re not.
Even if they do, they forget soon.
For many years, the spotlight effect made me scared to try new things or speak up.
I always worry about making mistakes or thinking people will remember my errors for a long time, but at this stage of my life, I found they won’t.
EXAMPLES OF SPOTLIGHT EFFECT
Here are some examples of times when you might feel that way:
1. Worrying About Your Clothes:
Let’s say you wear a different kind of outfit to work. You might worry all day that everyone is looking at your clothes and thinking about them.
But really, most people probably don’t notice much, or if they do, they think you look just fine.
2. Thinking About Things You Don’t Like About Yourself:
If there’s something about yourself, you’re not happy with, like a habit or something else, you might think it’s obvious to everyone.
This can make you feel nervous and worried that people are always seeing this thing and not liking it.
3. Being Scared of Making Mistakes:
Sometimes, you might think that people are watching everything you do at work and seeing every little mistake you make.
This can make you feel nervous and can even make it harder for you to do your best.
HOW THE SPOTLIGHT EFFECT WAS NEGATIVELY AFFECTING ME
It affected me in the following ways:
Pre-conditioned fear lowers my true potential, and I was scared to take risks like speaking in class, forums, or meetings. I always make myself small in public situations by speaking softly or entirely avoiding eye contact.
My memories of past spotlight failures always create anxiety in the present situations. This tail of anxiety long forgotten by others still with me for weeks, months, or even years.
My self-consciousness transformed me into self-centeredness in certain scenarios. My concern that others are staring or noticing me leads to asking them questions about my appearance, which can be taken as negative, even though it is not the intention.
I avoid things that increase happiness (such as dinners with friends, colleagues etc.) because of fear of judgment from others.
I may never be able to turn it off completely, but we could all benefit from dimming the spotlight at some level…
HOW YOU CAN DEAL WITH IT
Everyone feels this effect sometimes in their life.
No matter how socially smart, comfortable, and confident you are the Spotlight Effect can always mingle into your lives.
Here are my four tips that can help you:
1. Challenge your belief:
You should know that people don’t notice you as much as you think. Everyone is thinking about themselves.
2. Be interested, not interesting:
Instead of trying to impress others, be curious about them. Ask questions, listen intently, and engage.
It helps you relax and makes you feel more confident.
3. “So What?” approach:
If you’re worried about something going wrong, ask yourself, “So what?”
Most times, the worst that can happen isn’t that bad. Life goes on, and your family will still love you.
“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” — Seneca
4. Role Reversal:
If it was happening to a friend instead.
If your friend said something wrong, would you worry about it a lot?
If someone at school made a little mistake while talking in front of the class, would you think it’s a big deal?
When you understand that people don’t worry too much about small things you do, just like you don’t worry about small things they do, you’ll start to feel more relaxed.
These simple tips will help me earlier and now you to fight back against the negative impact of the Spotlight Effect on your life.
Following two mistakes I have made for a long period:
Worry what people think about me.
Thinking that other people are thinking about me a lot.
However, When I understood the Spotlight effect,
I stopped worrying so much.
I feel free to be myself.
The same rule applies to you.
Many people are talented but are too scared to show it because they fear what others think. Overcoming this fear can help you share your talents with the world.
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