The spotlight effect

May 18, 2022

Written by UJJI Team

The spotlight effect

“But more importantly, there’s no need to be obsessed with what others think of us. The reality is that everyone has greater concerns — themselves. So speak your mind. Take some risks. Be the man in the arena.”

― Lois Chew

Have you ever been in this situation where you are tasked with doing something like a presentation, and all that you think of is that people will notice your flaws on mistakes? Sometimes the thought of how embarrassing the whole situation will be if things went south will be so overwhelming you prefer not to do the task to avoid such a case even if it’s something within your capability. The second scenario is when something embarrassing happens to you in a public place. You find it challenging to get over the thought of people still looking at you or thinking of you. Hence, you keep feeling bad, and even trying everything possible to avoid such a situation, even if the intentions were pure. The spotlight effect is what keeps many talented people undiscovered.

So, what causes the spotlight?

The primary cause of being in the spotlight is when people are overly self-conscious, and they think that everyone sees them as they see themselves. The truth is, everyone has their issues to deal with, and people also have empathy. By the time you are still covering your face in shame, the people who witnessed the situation would have already moved on. Another reason is overestimating how people think of what we are thinking about. For example, when you think someone is trying to know what’s on your mind because of something that may have happened. While the person may have forgotten that they talked to you, you will still be thinking that they are trying to read your mind or something like that whereas, it isn’t the case

Dealing with the spotlight effect

The first step in dealing with the spotlight like effect is to take a realistic approach when thinking about what happened. In this case, put yourself in other people’s shoes and think of how you would have felt if it was someone else the incident occurred to, and you were only a witness. You would realize that you probably forgot about it after some hours, and that was it.

Another approach is to ask how bad it was from other people. Whenever you’re in doubt, and you can’t get the thought off your mind, you can ask other people who were there to tell you how bad the incident was from their eyes. By the time three or more people tell you things like, “It’s not bad” or “I’ve seen worse,” it can go a long way in calming your thoughts.


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