Spotlight effect thinking

Your brain can develop the tendency to wrongly make you feel that the whole world is focusing on you and is interested in everything happening in your life.

Of course, in reality, most people are too busy with their own lives to truly bother much about your life.

Psychologists call this kind of stupid thinking, where a person wrongly thinks that everyone is focusing on him or her, as “spotlight effect” thinking.

Below is a short example of how spotlight effect thinking can cause harm.


Rachel works in a large office with many co-workers. She recently underwent a divorce and was really worried that everyone in the office was talking about her and judging her actions. Rachel was so worried about facing her colleagues that she even decided to take some days off work.
However, when Rachel eventually returned back to work, the reality was much different to what she had imagined. It was true that as soon as the divorce had happened, her co-workers had talked a little about it. However, within only a few hours, they had other things on their minds and had not bothered talking about her divorce further. After a few days, absolutely no one was interested. In fact, soon after Rachel returned back to work, most of her colleagues were sympathetic to her.

Spotlight effect thinking had made Rachel worry needlessly. Her divorce was difficult enough, and this type of stupid thinking had unnecessarily made it worse.


So why do our brains suffer from spot light effect thinking? The reason may have to do with our ancestors who lived many thousands of years ago. When these ancestors were living in forests, they would have had to be really alert for various threats; for if they were not careful, they would have easily gotten eaten by a hungry predator. In this dangerous environment, our ancestors would have been always on the lookout to see if other animals were looking at them and planning an attack. Perhaps for this reason, even though the modern world is very different to the world our ancestors lived in, our brains may still at times mistakenly think that everyone is looking at us and is interested in our lives.

As you saw in the example we discussed earlier, spot light effect thinking can cause one to be unnecessarily distressed. So whenever you feel that the whole world is looking at you, try and remember that in reality, people are too busy to worry too much about the ups and downs of your life.