The Spotlight Effect
You enter a room full of people and immediately feel their eyes burning into you. You fidget, smile nervously, avoid all eye contact and try your best to get out of the glare. The ‘Spotlight effect’ is at work. A term coined by psychologists Thomas Gilovich, Victoria Medvec and Kenneth Savitsky; it refers to one’s tendency to believe that they are under constant scrutiny all the time. The psychologists conducted two studies wherein participants were asked to don a t-shirt depicting either a flattering image or a potentially embarrassing one, and asked to estimate the number of observers who were able to recall the image on their T-shirt. No one remembered. No one was looking.
How the glare blinds you
This imaginary beam of light robs you of yourself. Just answer the following questions honestly: How many times have you not allowed yourself to don that dress that you absolutely love because you’re scared others will laugh at you? How many times have you stopped yourself from expressing an opinion because you think others will think it’s just stupid? How many times have you turned down a dance with a gorgeous guy only because you’re scared the others on the dance floor will think you have two left feet?
Think about it – the more you deny yourself the things you love to do for fear of ‘others’, the less you live to your fullest potential.
Deal with it
1. Just think back to the study. After all, there’s no refuting scientific evidence is there?
2. Focus on something else. Distracting the mind works wonders. Take the focus off yourself simply by focusing on something else in the room
3. Think things through in advance. Say you have a family function and such gatherings usually make you feel self-conscious, then dwell over it in advance. Imagine the scenario in your mind’s eye, think about how it makes you feel. Now, think about how best to handle this situation. So that when the day comes you’ll have rehearsed it and that will help you deal with it better
4. Most, if not all, of us are particularly conscious of one of our traits, usually physical. Accept yourself with all your perceived flaws and you’ll feel more self-confident in every situation
5. Think about the limits you’ve set for yourself out of fear of being talked about by others. Slowly and steadily engage in those behaviours (as long as they aren’t harmful or illegal). Over time, you’ll learn to change your thinking patterns and will learn to express yourself more fully. 6. Ok, every now and then you will attract some attention and yes you will embarrass yourself. Tell yourself, it’s just part and parcel of being human. When that happens, tell yourself – big deal!
7. If you find that the fear of ‘others’ has reached proportions that are almost crippling. And your fear is not limited to a few situations but touches most or all aspects of your life, then you need to seek medical help as there is a possibility that you may be suffering from social anxiety as opposed to the spotlight effect.