What is she doing with her life? She wants to be a writer? No one makes any money at that. Is she crazy? She needs to give up and get a real job. Superannuation matters. Life sucks and then you die.

This is what “everyone” thinks about my life right now but they probably don’t know it. I have written the script.

I went to a small business event this week. Everyone noticed the oil spot on my skirt – damn that bento box! I looked awkward. I was wearing a neon sign that said “this is my first event and I’m scared”.

And yet, it’s likely the neon sign was dim and the spilt Japanese visible only to those fixated on my knees.

Everyone is watching… or not

It can be easy to think that everyone is watching you but it’s just not true. No one is watching. They all think you’re watching them. It’s called the spotlight effect.

We unavoidably live in our own little brains, our own bodies and our own realities. Those realities are much more shaped by what we think than what other people think.

Inflated sense of importance

The spotlight effect: we are the centre of our own little worlds, we think people notice us much more than they do. We’re all worried about being judged. And yet, often, the only one judging (or even paying attention) is us.

What other people think

Other people are worried about dropping their lunchtime burrito, spilling coffee before (or during) an important meeting, whether their boss thinks they are plotting against them.

They worry that you think their nose is too big or their boobs too small or that their car is a bomb. Chances are you haven’t noticed their nose, boobs or car.

Other people are worried about what you think of them. You are worried about what they think of you. No one is looking that closely at each other. It’s a bit ridiculous.

You are not the centre of the universe (damn!)

So you’re not the centre of the universe, maybe not even to those who love and adore you. How disappointing. They are the centre of their own universe. That’s as it should be. That’s just how it is.

You are not the centre of the universe (thank God!)

Once you get over the shock, this looks and smells like freedom. No one really cares. You can do what you like. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, you can do a lot more of what you like.

The only judgments you really need to deal with are your own judgments of yourself. If those are harsh and unhelpful, you can change them. If they come from your moral compass and values, listen to them.

Pay attention to what you think and feel about what you’re doing.

But people do judge, they are watching

I do know what you mean. I have encountered some quite astounding levels of interest in my personal life. It’s invasive but it’s also funny and not normal.

When that does happen, you have to ask why people are so interested and keen to comment. I’d like to think it’s because I am truly fascinating but I know that’s not true.

When others focus a spotlight on your life, it’s probably to deflect attention from their lives. They must be really scared of the spotlight.

Shine the spotlight on yourself

You’re living under your own spotlight anyway, so do it consciously. Direct your own attention. Shine light into the dark places. Know what’s there.

When you do that you will care much less what others may find. You know what’s there; you know you’re ok and imperfect.

Your own opinion of yourself is what matters and no one is really watching.

What a dumb game

We might as well stop worrying quite so much what other people think. Mostly they aren’t watching, they think they’re being watched.

When others are watching and judging you, it says a lot about them and nothing much about you at all.

If no one is looking…

What a bunch of narcissistic mind-readers we can be! The good news is that you’re not the only one who thinks it’s all about you. Other people do too. Very often they don’t even notice you. Quick, what can you get away with? The teacher isn’t looking. You are no longer in school.