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How to Gain Confidence and Overcome the Spotlight Effect

Updated: Jul 13

If you struggle with social anxiety, odds are you've experienced the spotlight effect. Have you ever gone out of your comfort zone with a new outfit and felt like everyone was staring at you? Maybe you ate at a restaurant alone or went to a new coffee shop alone and felt like everyone was judging you?

I have double good news for you. First, what you felt was explainable and not your fault. Second, nobody is actually watching you. In this article, learn how to gain confidence and overcome the spotlight effect!

Gain Confidence and Overcome Comparison
Gain Confidence and Overcome Comparison

The "spotlight effect" refers to our tendency to overexaggerate how much people are noticing us.

This effect is already widely felt by people with social anxiety, and it's been made even worse with social media. In our social media posts, people are literally judging us every day with their likes, comments, or lack thereof. These feelings of anxiety linger off the phone, and we assume people are judging us the same way in real life.

But do you remember what the girl next to you in the store was wearing? Do you remember that awkward thing the waiter said at the restaurant yesterday? Do you remember the person you passed on your hike? Probably not. And yet we randomly remember embarrassing things we said 10 years ago. Nobody is judging you as hard as you're judging yourself.

Nobody is staring at you. Nobody cares that much. And that should be LIBERATING. Go out of your comfort zone! Try a new outfit, go to a movie alone, go out with imperfect makeup instead of spending an hour redoing it.

Of course, all of this is easier said than done. Some of us have built a habit of comparing ourselves over the course of 20, 30, 40 years. What are some actions we can take to start to build confidence and stop comparing ourselves to others?

  • Get OFF the phone. The first step to stop comparing yourself to others is to close your circle. Stop paying attention to what everyone else is doing!

  • Start a journaling practice. Journaling is a huge step in the right direction. Journal to start a gratitude practice, delve into your past and see where your confidence problems started, and reflect on how your confidence journey is going!

I recommend using the Monk Manual to start a journaling practice. Their daily planner makes it easy to start thinking about gratitude and reflection on a daily basis. Use this link to get 10% off your first order!

  • Start doing things by yourself. So many of us are scared to do simple things alone. Go to a movie, go out to eat, or start going for hikes by yourself. If you're feeling brave, take a trip to a new city by yourself! Going on small outings by yourself are an easy way to feel more confident in yourself.

  • Find new hobbies that aren't appearance-based. Exercising is a great hobby, but do you have any hobbies that aren't "productive?" Find a hobby that is purely yours and purely for fun, not something that is supposed to make you look better or is a part of your productive week!

  • Lastly, you have to stay consistent. Trying to stay off social media, try new hobbies, and adventure by yourself feels foreign at first. Journaling feels like it's not doing anything to help your mental health at first. It takes months of working on yourself to start noticing a difference between the old you and the new you!

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