That dog next door is howling again and I’m sitting in my yard enjoying the winter sun listening to him. Now I understand how the dog feels, pacing up and down behind the fence. I’m waiting to go into hospital to get a hernia repaired, but that’s another story, long boring and frustrating. Another month to go and I’m there, unless I get bumped off the list by a more deserving patient. Can there be one? I can’t hike or do much at the moment. I have been thinking about something that deserves a bit more attention, more than the dog and I are getting at the moment anyway. Neither of us are in the spotlight at the moment.
“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here” Abraham Lincoln. This plays into what psychologists call the “spotlight effect” everybody must be caring about what I’m doing. But the fact is nobody gives a crap about what I do. The world doesn’t revolve around me. The anonymity of my tininess is extremely comforting when I feel as if everything I do, matters. We all have an innate self-awareness of our faults, mistakes and slip-ups.
In truth, other people don’t notice them nearly as much as we assume. Because there’re too busy noticing and greatly exaggerating their own flaws. What we believe to be true, regarding our public appearance is often not the case. Most of the time, people are not that interested in our appearance or performance. Each of us are the center of our own universe because we are so focused on our own behavior. It’s difficult to arrive at an accurate assessment of how much or how little our behavior is noticed by others.
Our own spotlight.
My dads brother came to Australia to live in Brisbane in the early fifties. He had been in Australia for thirteen years, when a family crisis caused him to return to the local town he was born and grew up in, until he left for Australia. According to my father, he was expecting to be welcomed back with open arms. The center of attention, telling tales of his years away and how much he had achieved. They were walking past the home of a former good friend, who happened to be working in his front garden. My uncle put his arms around this mans shoulders and gave him a hug.
My father told me the man was confused, he didn’t understand what the hug was all about. Then it became obvious, as he said “I thought I hadn’t seen you for a while, have you been working out of town” Why exactly are we so caught up in our own spotlight? We are anchored in a world of our own experiences, so we have trouble realizing, that people are absorbed in their own lives and so, are too busy to pay attention to ours.
Glare of the spotlight.
When you feel your in the full glare of the “spotlight” try not to listen to your internal cues of anxiety, sweaty palms, elevated heart rate and a feeling of doom and dread. Imaging how noticeable you are to others and they’ll therefore judge you even more harshly. It’s normal to have moments of self doubt, but thanks to the “spotlight effect”, our blunders often feel more severe than they are in reality. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, it helps to be more outspoken, rather than timid. It’s really a stage performance, doubling everything from facial expressions to gestures and reactions.
The effect is one of confidence and owning your actions, rather than self-consciously communicating, with small meek gestures and actions. I’ve been aware of this for a while now and have made the effort to live a bit louder, a bit freer and say. “Who cares.”