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The Spotlight Effect: Nobody Cares About You… And That’s a Good Thing

In 2011, I got into the online fitness world. I started running a site and was writing, tweeting, and posting all of the time. I thought it was a lot of fun, and I even started making some money at it.

I had family members who were proud and friends who read everything I wrote. It was great.

Then I had my first experience with an Internet troll. And that dude tore me up. He made me feel small and dumb. This was before I understood that this is the role of a troll. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how a human being could spend their day doing this sort of thing.

From then on, I started veering away from writing for fear of being wrong and called out again. I wanted to make sure that the science was tight, but that made my writing boring. I lost my edge.

My writing became less frequent and eventually I lost interest and the site died.

The worst part is that I remember everything about him. His name. His bacne. What he said. The post he commented on. Everything.

And you know what? He probably doesn’t remember it at all. He’s probably still down there in his mom’s basement, crushing Pop Tarts, and splitting his time between reading the latest research on cortisol and leveling up in the latest version of Halo.

The Map of Our Worlds

Draw a map of your hometown.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Did you do it?

No, of course you didn’t do it. I read shit like this all the time, and I promptly store it in my “I’ll do it later” folder.

But seriously, take 5 minutes and do this.

You still didn’t do it…

Whatever.

Alright, for the three people who actually did it (Thanks, Grandma), what did your map look like?

It likely included your home, your work, or maybe the school you went to. Maybe the local mall or pizza joint you order from every Friday.

When Harvard students were asked to draw a map of their campus, (and they actually did it) every one of them put their world at the forefront.

Athletes had the stadiums at the center of their drawings. Those who are more studious drew a large library. Those who were less studious started their maps with a detailed drawing of the bars.

None of the students drew the residential homes that sit nearby campus because it wasn’t a part of their world.

The point is that we are the center of our own worlds. Everything that occurs in our life weighs 100x heavier to us than it does to others.

A huge barrier to action is fear of what others may think of us.

I effectively stopped creating content because of this one asshole in 2011. It caused me to filter all of my creativity through the lens of “Are people going to think this is whack?”

Which is the worst place to create from.

I’ve trained college girls who were terrified of the gym because they thought every one was looking at them. I’ve talked to my friends who’ve spent hours carefully curating text messages to girls in order to come off confident and clever. I’ve seen those close to me get degrees and jobs that they don’t really want so their family members will be proud. 

We tend to believe people are noticing us more than they really are. When in reality they are caught up in their own work problems, relationship problems, and Pop Tart addictions. It’s called The Spotlight Effect. We think the light shines brighter on us than it really does.

There are too many relationships that never materialize, careers that never start, and dreams that never fulfill because we are caught up in what others may think.

We carefully sculpt Instagram feeds and meticulously write messages because we think every word, action, and image is going to be scrutinized by the New York Times.

This is bullshit. It keeps too many of us from accomplishing what we could. I guess what I am trying to say is that people don’t care about you. Even when they do judge us, they quickly get back to judging and analyzing themselves.

So don’t let that be a reason you don’t take action on that lingering passion or idea. 

It’s hard, I know. It’s innately human to care about what others think. That’s normal. But letting their thoughts dictate our actions, that’s not. Especially because their thoughts don’t really concern us. They really aren’t paying that much attention to us. They really don’t care that much about what we do and who we are, and that’s a good thing. 

4 Comments

  1. Total truth. Great analogy with the map of the hometown.
    Also, very glad to see you back writing after the posting hiatus! 🙂

    • Danny Danny

      Thanks Kaci 🙂

  2. Daniel Daniel

    Great post, Danny. I’m also glad to see that you’re writing again. I think self-interest is something that is almost always missing in any type of social calculus. The Lou Holtz quote is a good one, especially because it’s probably pretty accurate: “Never tell your problems to anyone…20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.”

    • Danny Danny

      Thanks for reading, brother. I’ve actually never heard that Lou Holtz Quote before, but I wholeheartedly agree with it.

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