With social media at an all-time high, it can be easy to get caught up in how you appear to others, otherwise known as image-management. With image-management, you find yourself pre-occupied with how you appear to others and what they think of you. This gets in the way of looking for opportunities to create a genuine connection.
We often think that the spotlight is on us, with people watching our every move, decision, and word choice. Jean Pincott writes in Psychology Today’s article, Lessons You Won’t Learn in School, “The time you spend focused on yourself wondering if you are displaying confidence, competence, awkwardness, or agitation, likely doesn’t matter.“
Case in point
A group of study participants wore a shirt adorned with Barry Manilow’s head. All participants were embarrassed to wear the shirt in public. They were asked to guess how many of their peers would notice the shirt.
Fewer than half of the estimated number of people even regarded the shirt!! We aren’t in the center of people’s worlds as much as we think.
Deep Sigh of Relief
That means when you say something stupid, trip down the hallway, or awkwardly extend a hand to greet someone while juggling your coffee and phone, take a big breath. People don’t notice you as much you think they do! Pincott refers to this as the Spotlight Effect.
We often get so caught up with our own feelings and thoughts circling in our head that we create stories about what someone else is saying about their experience with us.
He thinks I was too bold. Maybe I should have done this instead.
I hope I didn’t offend her. Maybe I should have agreed instead of offering a new solution???
We often look at these stories as truth versus what they really are….stories we create!
While this is all very interesting, what is even more intriguing is that the spotlight extends to our internal state as well. We often believe that our internal state is known to others and we work very hard to try to cover how we are really feeling. This too is radically overestimated.
So what happens if we turn the spotlight off, let down our guard, and toss image-management out the window? You might just:
Pay attention throughout the week and notice times when you believe you are in the spotlight. What image are you trying to portray to others?
In what situations do you have your guard up? Why is there a need to protect yourself?
What are the differences between the real you and the image-managed you?
What stories are you creating in your head about how other people see you?
Find one opportunity this week and practice sharing the genuine version of yourself. How does it feel? It’s okay if it feels scary. This might be a new idea for you! What is the value in being genuine with others?
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