Spotlight (modified transcript of #2 Lifeskills podcast)

Last week we focused on the #1 lifeskill - Understanding that everything that happens to you is not always about you. These lifeskills are based on an article in Psychology Today, “Lessons You Won’t Learn in School” by Jena Pincott. 

This week’s podcast is entitled “spotlight” and our #2 lifeskill is “Focusing on other people without dwelling on how they view you.” 

According to Jena, this thought goes along with last week’s discussion. If you are the center of the universe and the star of your life then you may also belief that everyone else is watching your every move. 

When you watch a movie star up on the big screen, it’s easy to notice absolutely everything about them because they are soooo big. I remember going to see “Dick Tracy” at the movie theatre with some friends in high school. Geez - it must have been the only movie playing at the time! 

Because we got there right before the movie started, we were in the front row. Literally, the front row. I nearly broke my neck watching it. As one actor walked into the scene from the left, I had to turn my neck to see them and then my neck moved as they moved across the screen. I think Warren Beaty had a yellow coat on (I guess they were trying to be bold like the cartoon) and I remember thinking, “Wow - that is a really yellow coat!” I could practically see the thread in the seams of the coat! 

The good and bad thing about movies is that you can really spend your time focusing on the actors. The spotlight is on them. You are running the spotlight. You are not interacting with them so you are just observing. Like mall watchers. They just sit and stare. (That might have be a time that you literally feel like a spotlight is on you!) 

Sometimes we then translate that spotlight effect onto ourselves and we think that we walk around with a spotlight on us in our everyday life. 

As you talk to someone you might think they are absolutely noticing everything good and bad about how you look. You might wonder: do I look pretty? awkward? confident? awkward? agitated? awkward? incompetent? awkward? All of these questions and fears running through your mind while you are trying to have a conversation and ask questions and answer their questions. That’s enough to wear you out! 

Want some good news? Jenna wrote that, “Evidence shows that the spotlight is not quite so bright. People do not notice us nearly as much as we think they do.” She discovered that many people believe that how we feel internally is “known to others”. She found that when people tried to practicing lying to others they overestimated how noticeable their lie was. 

Have you ever said something and later spent time running that scene through your memory and just cringing? Jena calls it a “verbal flub”.  You may have thought, “Oh my gosh I sounded so stupid!” or “I can’t believe I said that - how embarrassing!”. You just rerun and rerun it through your mind - as if that is going to change the event. 

Sure, we have all said things that might have made history but so many times we say things that nobody even remembers us saying. We are just so self centered! 

Like I pointed out on the previous podcast, these memories can be good for us. It gives us our identity but the fact is - we are not the center of the universe and we all make mistakes and maybe people don’t notice us as much as we think. 

Do you know what might happen if we take the focus off of us? We can then give up the quest to manipulate how people might be seeing us and we can interact with people in a more authentic way. Just chill and be ourselves. 

What if you were just who you are and you relaxed? 

What if you found those friends or people that you like and that like you just the way you are. Maybe then you will find other people opening up and being real with you. 

I have found that as a counselor, although I am not fond of putting my picture out there or even my voice, I do want to be “me”. Warts and all. If you are thinking about coming to a counselor and putting your emotions out on the table, don’t you want a counselor that you like and that you feel comfortable with? I’m not for everyone. I don’t have the time or energy to be the type of counselor that meets the specific needs of everyone. It’s just so much easier to be me. I can’t be anyone else successfully. 

Can you think of someone you can be with and you can really be you? Be thankful for that! I understand that at work maybe you are a little more professional or pulled together than you might be at home. We all have to use our manners and skills sometimes. I’m not encouraging you to be a messy slug all the time but sometimes we just need to be a messy slug. Sometimes we feel better when our hair is done and our makeup is on point. Sometimes we have to clean up nicely and sometimes we have to get down and dirty and look like we haven’t showered in days. 

Just realize that wherever you are and whatever you are doing, just do what you need to do. There may be some people noticing your every move but most people don’t. Just focus on them and ask them how they are doing. Get the spotlight off of yourself and just connect with people. We are all made for connecting so quit wasting time looking to see if you have lint in your belly button. Look up and notice the world and the other people in it. Enjoy this life!