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Monday Mini: The Spotlight Effect

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.

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. To make it worse, those pictures are up permanently. Someone could go to your profile and stare at your pictures all day, so we try to edit them to perfection. 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.

This is your reminder to stop making your life picture-perfect and live a life that makes you authentically happy.

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