How many times a day do you worry what other people are thinking about you?
How often do you put on a bathing suit only to throw on a cover-up and wear it all day because you’re worried someone (or everyone) will notice some extra jiggle in your middle?
How does it make you feel when you notice someone looking at you?
Are you worried they’re examining all your flaws and thinking nasty things about you?
Well I have some good news for you:
No One Cares As Much As You Do.
(And that’s a good thing).
You see, we have this tendency to assume that everyone is always judging us, noticing the cellulite on our thighs, constantly smirking at the extra junk in our trunks.
But social psychology experiments have shown us that we tend to assume other people catch our flaws and missteps way more than they actually do.
This is called the spotlight effect.
It was discovered by Thomas Gilovich and friends in 2000 when they decided to do a social experiment on unsuspecting undergraduates.
They had the students wear shirts that they thought were embarrassing (they actually had photos of Barry Manilow on them – poor Barry! 😉 )
Once they had their shirts on, the students were shuffled into another room to hang out with other students who got to wear whatever they wanted (i.e., not Barry Manilow shirts).
After hanging with the cool kids, the Barry Manilow groupies were asked to guess how many of the other students noticed their embarrassing shirts.
Not that many.
The students guessed that around 50% of the people in the room must have noticed the ridiculous shirt. But only about 25% of the other students could actually tell you who was on it.
In fact, study after study showed that – whether the students were wearing embarrassing images (like Barry or Vanilla Ice) or more positive images (like Bob Marley or Martin Luther King Jr.) – they consistently overestimated how many people noticed the images.
The other students just didn’t care as much about the shirts as the undergraduates wearing the shirts thought they would.
Yay For Freedom!
This may seem depressing at first – people don’t care about you as much as you thought they did. That doesn’t sound like a very positive thought, right?
But how freeing is it, really?
How awesome is it that you don’t need to worry so much about what other people think of you? Because chances are they aren’t even thinking about you as much as you’re assuming they are!
It’s called the spotlight effect because we feel like we have a spotlight on us at all times – highlighting our blemishes. But the truth is that everyone else is way more involved in their own stuff to take much notice of your stuff.
And that – my friend – means you’re free.
Free to stop beating yourself up, cutting yourself down and missing out because you’re just not “there” yet.
How much life are you missing out on because you need to lose 10lbs?
Or hide your belly?
Or cover up your legs?
If the answer is lots, here’s a better answer for you:
Every time you worry about what other people are thinking about your body, remind yourself of the spotlight effect.
Remind yourself that no one cares as much as you do. Honestly.
Sure, there will be times when people notice, and stare, and make you feel uncomfortable. But chances are that the vast majority of people on the beach are much more concerned about what way they should sit to minimize their stomach rolls to notice yours.
Or, as Gilovich himself said:
“We might take a modest step toward more fulfilling lives, in other words, if we took stock of a few of Abraham Lincoln’s more memorable words and understood that “people will little note, nor long remember” what we say or do. Of course, Lincoln was wrong about his own words and about that speech in particular. But there are precious few Lincolns.”
Your Bikini Body Isn’t Something You Need to Worry About
When you realize that other people are more into their own stuff than they are into yours, you’ll be too busy building sand castle memories to worry about whether your back fat is showing.
And if simply reminding yourself about the spotlight effect isn’t doing the best job of cutting your self-conscious thoughts off at the knees, you can always add meditation to your toolkit.
Meditation and mindfulness training has been shown to help us feel less self-conscious.
(Yet one more reason to add meditation to your toolkit! Even 5 mins a day – or every couple days – can help. I use the Headspace app and love it. PS I don’t get kickbacks for that recommendation. Just a suggestion because I really do love it.)
So stop missing out on all the fun because you’re too worried about what other people will think.
Wear the dress.
Go to the place.
Do the thing.
It’s like exposure therapy – the more you get yourself out there, the easier it’ll be to keep getting out there without worrying that other people are noticing your lack of thigh gap (because hopefully they’re having too much fun themselves to even care).
P.S. Did you like this post? If you did, please share it with all your mom friends!