The Spotlight Effect—Our Biggest Deterrent to MinimizingAug 20, 2023
Read time: 4.5 minutes
You’re getting ready to go out with a group of close friends.
You’ve been preparing all week. Booking a haircut appointment and double-checking your schedule to ensure nothing ruins your plans.
The night before... you’re staring at the clothes scattered across your bed for hours—struggling to find something to wear.
“This is ridiculous,” you think to yourself as you try on another outfit.
“Everyone’s going to judge me if I wear the same thing I wore the last time we all hung out!”
What thoughts are running through your mind at this moment?
Nearly a decade ago, this was my reality. Except it was every day, not just when my friends decided to get together.
In today’s issue of The Clarity Club, we’re taking a look at The Spotlight Effect—why we overestimate how much people think about us. (And how this has become our biggest deterrent to minimizing).
Let’s dive in.
The Psychology of the Spotlight Effect
Remember graduating and walking across the stage, hoping you don’t fall because it feels like everyone’s eyes are on you? In reality, everyone’s just waiting for their kid to be called.
We often believe that we are in the “spotlight” and that others notice us more than they are.
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The Spotlight Effect often makes us overly worried about being judged and may discourage us from doing things we want because we think others are watching closely.
This can be a BIG problem and an even BIGGER deterrent to decluttering our lives.
Inside Other People’s Minds
It’s human nature to care about our appearance and how we present ourselves to the world.
The world, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t care.
The world only thinks about you when they need to. And unless something is going very well or very poorly, the world likely doesn’t think about you at all.
This is a good thing. It means people may not notice the outfits you repeat, the year of your car, or how little you voluntarily choose to own.
But it also means that they won’t notice all the incredible benefits you’re receiving from living with less unless you tell them about it—getting them to move their focus off themselves and onto you.
And well, that’s an interesting contradiction, isn’t it?
How To Conquer This
Alright, so how can you conquer this and begin decluttering your life?
Prioritize your values before opinions
To reap the benefits of living a clutter-free life, you must be clear on what you value.
The Spotlight Effect may make you worry people will judge you for not valuing the same things they value, but remember—people aren’t paying as close attention to you as you think.
It often takes multiple interactions with someone for them to get to know you fully. So don’t be afraid to lead with integrity and authenticity from day one.
Look for opportunities to reduce anxiety around decluttering
The Spotlight Effect leads us to worry about being judged for not decluttering fast enough or decluttering too much (in the eyes of modern society).
If you feel this way, find ways to reduce decluttering anxiety. You could:
- Filter all your decluttering decisions through your values. Ask whether this decision will pull me closer to the things I value or pull me away from them. This makes decision-making a thousand times easier.
- Create your own template rather than chasing a predetermined minimalist aesthetic.
- Set process-oriented goals. Goals that mark meaningful checkpoints along the journey of simplifying your life rather than goals that fixate solely on the result of owning less.
- Eliminate comparison by running your race at your pace.
Write down the vision you have for your life (beyond decluttering)
If you ask anyone remotely interested in decluttering their life why they want to do it. They’ll name a list of reasons, most of which speak only to the benefits of decluttering. They may not even think about the impact it has on their life beyond the stuff.
This is the Spotlight Effect in action. We assume that others are paying close attention to our lives when we declare ourselves a “minimalist,” when in reality, they aren’t.
This tricks us into focusing solely on the tangible parts of life, as we worry that others will think we’re stretching the truth if we speak on anything more extensive than that.
If you want to enjoy everything decluttering can create for you, you must get crystal clear on your vision for your life (beyond decluttering).
You don’t declutter just to have a presentable home.— Ronald L. Banks (@ronaldlbanks) July 24, 2023
You declutter to gain clarity.
You declutter to become a better partner & friend.
You declutter to be able to enjoy your kids.
You declutter to make room for what you value most.
The people you know (and don’t know) aren’t thinking about the clothes you wear, the car you drive, or how little you choose to own nearly as much as you think they do.
In fact, they barely think about you at all (compared to all the other things going on in their own lives).
And in the rare chance someone is, here’s what I say…
That person has entirely too much time on their hands and should be worried about their own values instead.
⇨ This Week’s Action Step: Apply the tips I shared above to help you conquer the spotlight effect and start decluttering your life. You’ll be glad you did.
That’s it for today!
Keep growing on your journey, and I’ll see you next week.
Whenever you’re ready, here’s how I can help you:
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