Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Spotlight Effect & How Nobody's Actually Paying Attention

The Spotlight Effect & How Nobody's Actually Paying Attention //

One of the simplest lessons I learned during my time in college happened to be one of the most life-changing for me.

I grew up believing that what I said, did, and looked like, mattered to everyone. I would beat myself up for not being perceived as pretty, or trendy, or cool. I would want to crawl under a rock and die when I did something even slightly imperfect in front of other people, like stub my toe in the hallway when people were watching, or even just let loose and dance my own way. I just knew they were thinking about all the ways I was completely fundamentally flawed and uncool.

The pressure to be approved of was so maddening. 

This incorrect way of thinking led me to do a lot to please other people. It led me to wear clothes I hated, pretend I liked things I didn't, and to even change my major because I believed that it was more important to be approved of, than not. 

The truth, though? The truth is inside of a little thing I learned about in Social Psychology class called The Spotlight Effect

This little phenomenon is basically this -- people believe they are the center of the world's attention. (How egocentric of us!) The result of this is that nobody is paying attention because we all believe we're the main focus. When everyone is in the spotlight, no one is. 

The Spotlight Effect & How Nobody's Actually Paying Attention //

At first it sounds bleak. Nobody is paying attention to me? I don't matter to anyone? No one cares what I'm doing? 

If you look at it even further, though, it's so completely liberating. NO ONE CARES WHAT I DO. THAT MEANS I CAN BE MYSELF AND THAT'S OK. 

I was choosing photos for this post and passed by the one above because I was sure you'd all critique in your head all the flaws I can see in that photo. My crooked teeth. My chin pimple. My pointy chin, or my weird chunk of hair. You guys didn't see any of it until I said that right? (If you did, well cool, you're a little judgy, aren't ya?) I also thought for a second that if I posted pictures of myself that would make everyone think I was obsessed with myself. And then it hit me... that is the WHOLE point of this post. 

So, wear that bright blue lipstick. Cover your body in tattoos. Dance awkwardly along to Lionel Richie at Target because his song All Night Long just speaks to you.  Wear the baggy ugly jeans because they actually don't squeeze you to death. Avoid all heels because it doesn't matter what people say is sexy... you don't feel sexy wobbling on stilts. Cut those bangs you've wanted to get in forever, even if you're worried it will end up looking like a six year old took scissors to your hair.

The Spotlight Effect & How Nobody's Actually Paying Attention //

Be a crazy cat lady, or a crazy plant person. Don't freak out if you have a barbecue sauce stain from lunch on your shirt or a big pimple on your face, or crooked teeth. 

Be willing to be yourself in public and say what you really mean, and don't pretend to love Fallout Boy just because everyone else does. (Be honest, weren't we ALL pretending? What even were they saying in their songs? I STILL DON'T KNOW.)

Let your freak flag fly. There's only one you, and since no one is really paying attention to you under a microscope, it's imperative that you to stop trying to package yourself the way you think the world wants and just be who you really are. 

Seriously, just do you. Life is so much more fun that way.

++ What is something unique about you that you have always tried to hide for fear it wouldn't be loved?

Join the conversation!

  1. I LOVE THIS POST! So so true. We are all so worried about what other people think of us...and DUH everyone else is also so worried about what other people think of them! I turned 30 last year and it took me so long to learn this, but I finally feel like I'm coming around. Thank you for sharing this post and reminder, it is so important! <3

    1. Yeah, it's sometimes like everything falls together in your thirties. I feel that way, anyway.

  2. I love this! This was something I came to learn in college as well (and that I'm constantly having to remind myself of). In one of my group therapy sessions another member shared a piece of advice her therapist shared with her... "You're not that important." It wasn't meant in a bad way, but more in line with what your post is about! We're all so concerned with how others perceive us that we don't realize everyone's too wrapped up in themselves to care about what we look like, sound, or dance like!


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