Spotlight Effect

Do you ever feel self-conscious and worry that others are judging your words or actions?

Even as a professional speaker who is used to talking and demonstrating in front of large groups of people on a regular basis, this can happen to me, too.

The concerns about what other people think about us can interfere with our ability to express ourselves.  It can inhibit us from taking the actions required to meet people, to share our ideas, to change jobs, to ask for that raise, or to embark on a new adventure.

If this is the case for you, take heart – you certainly aren’t alone!

It is not uncommon to find ourselves feeling embarrassed or silly in front of others.  If this is bothering you or interfering with the results you’d like to achieve, you can do something about it – starting with awareness.

Simply knowing that the ‘Spotlight Effect’ exists can be useful in lessening its psychological grip.  It is the term used in social psychology to describe the way in which people tend to believe their actions, appearance, or social faux pas are being noticed more than they really are.

We can also find comfort in knowing that this phenomenon is actually hard to avoid, because our entire existence is projected from our own experiences and perspectives. We use those experiences to keep us safe and to evaluate the world around us, including other people’s opinions. However, of course, other people are the center of their own universes, too; they are focused on life from the vantage point of their own personal experiences and perceptions. Guess what?  Their focus is not on you – at least not in the way or degree to which you think.

It turns out that an accurate evaluation of how much one is noticed by others tends to be uncommon. The result is that people think other people notice stains on shirts, bad hair days, or tripping on stairs, more than they actually do.

Regardless, the Spotlight Effect can cause us to second guess ourselves, to delay making important decisions, and to lower our confidence, impacting the degree to which we speak our honest opinions, try new things, or think creatively.

For those with anxiety issues, the Spotlight Effect can be downright debilitating and can cause them to completely avoid new people and situations at all costs.  This can negatively affect the success of their career path and the quality of their relationships.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that most people are self-conscious and are concerned about what other people are thinking about them.  In fact, it’s a proven statistic that more people would rather die than speak in front of an audience. This awareness has helped me to realize that if I’m feeling “butterflies” or tension in my belly, I’m probably not the only one.

Learning about this phenomenon called the Spotlight Effect may be just the thing you need to take the edge off your concerns and feel more empowered to take healthy and timely actions in your life.

Additionally, if you need an extra little boost, here is a Brain Gym® activity that will also calm your nerves, take the edge off your negative thinking, and bring you into a calmer and more focused state.

Positive Points

Lightly hold the area on your forehead halfway between the hairline and the eyebrows, just above the centers of your eyes. Use just enough pressure to pull the skin taut.

Holding these emotional-stress release points, known as neurovascular balance points for the stomach, for even just 1-2 minutes, will invoke relaxation, calm and clear stomach aches, anxiousness and nervous “butterflies”.

The positive points access the frontal lobe area of your brain to balance stress around specific memories, situations, people, places, and skills (ever forget where you are driving to or who you were going to call?).

People tend to hold stress in the abdomen, resulting in stomach aches and nervous stomachs, a pattern often established in early childhood. The Positive Points bring blood flow from the hypothalamus to the frontal lobes, where rational thought occurs. This prevents the fight-or-flight-or-freeze response, so that a new response to the situation can be learned.

When actions originate from your Fit Brain connection, your natural learning abilities are revitalized and relaxed, and positive attitude is available so that performance becomes effortless.

Ultimately, in an article by Gilovich, T., Medvec, V., & Savitsky, K. (2000) in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology they state:  it’s important to remember that there is no need to blush and rush off the next time you embarrass yourself since you are probably the only person who was really paying attention to your mistake.  But you also have to give people a break when they don’t notice your new hair cut or compliment you on that really insightful comment you made during a meeting because they aren’t paying as close of attention to your appearance and actions as you are, because they are too busy paying attention to themselves!

To your Fit Brain and Fit Life,