The Spotlight Effect
So today i was walking towards my bus stop, and to do so I need to pass a small local park. As i was entering, I saw a little girl (lets say she was around ten), wearing headphones and dancing along with whatever she was listening to. She was smiling. A lot. She just seemed overjoyed and was embracing the feelings she was getting as she listened. Then we made eye contact. Automatically she froze, stopped dancing and just had this plain look of either embarrassment or inadequacy on her face. I looked at her and said something like “Hey that was really good! Good job! Keep going” and she didn’t say anything back nor did she continue dancing, she just sat down on the bench and waited for me to leave. Now i know what you’re thinking “Imagine being this little kid and having some random bearded man tell you keep dancing, i think i’d be freaked out too”, but that’s not the point. The thing is, i don’t think it was the fact i told her to keep dancing that she stopped, i think it was because her realizing i was there, and her insecurity ended up getting the best of her. I don’t know, maybe her family doesn’t like her dancing, maybe it’s her “hideaway”.
This got me thinking… Why is it that as soon as people can see what we are doing, that we end up somehow (sometimes without noticing) changing how we act, talk, stand, play, perform,think, all because there is someone watching, and possibly even judging?
This goes back to one of my earlier blogs on one’s vibe. I gave an example of how when i hung out with my neighborhood friends as a kid I would try to act cool, i would talk a certain way, i would slouch a certain way, i would even say hi a certain way, all because i wanted my perception to come across a certain way. Through natural selection we have grown to influence and be influenced by our surroundings, whether: people, society, teachers, schools and family. We do it all to be remembered a certain way. We all do it. You don't talk to your family the way you talk to your buddies, you don't talk to the bus driver the way you talk to lets say a teacher, all because of factors including: Self perception, Self worth, Respect, your surroundings and your/their “social status”. This is completely normal and it influences everything we say, do, think and feel.
Now the sad part is that sometimes the way you think someone feels towards you or things you think they notice about you are actually never even close to their actual perception of you. Let’s say for example that you have something in the back of your teeth. You of course know that you have a piece of spinach or whatever in your teeth but you never announced it to the world, just somehow you put everybody into your world. So you walk around self conscious over thinking everything and every look you get automatically goes towards the negative. You feel like everyone either notices, are just being polite or they're talking behind your back. You never realize but none this is true unless you either, show the piece in your mouth physically or you actually tell someone that you have a piece of food in your mouth, without those two factors no one can know anything about your life, your mouth, or anything unless you show it, share it, or provide some sort of reason to make someone think it. As i learned from Derick River's book “You're not so smart” (which is an amazing book by the way) this is called: The Spotlight Effect. :
“When you are around others, you feel as if everyone is noticing every aspect of your appearance and behavior but in reality people devote little attention to you unless prompted to”.
Now let us go back to that little girl.
She was dancing: Yes
She was enjoying “her world”: Yes
No one was in her world except for herself: Yes
She felt “at home” and was connected emotionally: Yes
When i came she felt judged : Yes
When i said that she could keep dancing she “refused”
She felt judged: Yes
Now, in my opinion, here's how i think her thought process went:
I love dancing
I feel at home and i feel self worth
I understand my intentions and my connectivity to my world
Whos this man watching
Should i stop?
He probably thinks i suck
Lets stop dancing
I cant open my world to him, whos this guy?
So i won't dance
He probably thinks i suck
I don't think i do
Lets wait till he leaves
Oh he's gone
Although you don't actually go through every step mentally, we have evolved to actually take all of that and put it into something we categorize as “being self conscious”. That to me takes away the whole purpose of doing an art, playing a piece, or dancing to a song.
So how do we overcome this? Well, it’s really hard, and honestly i don't think we’ll ever (at least i haven't), but there are some concepts we can use to understand and help us along the way. We will always get nervous, and we will always feel somewhat judged but we can decrease the intensity of this feeling musicians (and everyone in existence) call “nerves”.
World renowned violinist Ray Chen said in one of his videos: “I spend 5 hours a day practicing to make my craft, once it’s time to show it, i get nervous and can't show who i am. Who i REALLY am. Now people think i don't connect with music. My teacher judges everything i do, and i feel like music is now a chore sometimes. So why do we play music if we are constantly stressed about this sort of stuff” (Taken from one of his motivational videos).
I honestly think that the reason we have self doubt with ourselves and our craft is because of the fact that we are so focused on the technical side we forget the emotional captivity and reason for our art.
Aaaaaand that leads us to the next blog's topic “Understanding your and other people’s world". I'm going to cut this blog off here since no one wants to read a long 5 page essay.
Oh? You do? Well check out the next blog and we’ll continue where we left off!
See you soon!