Do You Worry Too Much About What Others Think About Your Actions and Appearance?

Do you find yourself worrying too much about being judged by others? Certainly it's a common thing where issues of anxiety, social anxiety, low confidence or low self-esteem are concerned. 

You may worry about doing something embarrassing, saying the wrong thing, or making an idiot of yourself in front of others. Or perhaps you worry about your appearance and what people are thinking when they look at you, and you assume it's some sort of negative appraisal they are carrying out. Such anxious thoughts about being judged can stop you doing things you really want to do, can make you wish the ground would swallow you up if you are around others and can mean you dwell on events and feel bad afterwards.

And whilst all those thoughts and feelings seem very real to you, research shows that you will be overestimating the extent to which your actions and behaviours are noted by others. 

In the video below I explain more about this effect and the research showing that people tend to believe they stand out in the eyes of others more than they actually do.

I've also written in more depth about the research, and the studies that took place, in a previous article that you can check out here: Why You Should Probably Worry Less About What Other People Think About You - The Research on Fear of Failure and Being Judged

This is the video version where I talk through the research findings and what it all means for you, if worrying about being judged is something that affects, depresses and limits you. Click on the image and have a watch: 

worry what people think fear of failure fear of being judged Watch on You Tube

And so, as the research shows quite clearly, we all have a tendency to overestimate the extent to which our actions and appearance are noticed by other people.  

This is true for negative things, such as messing up what we are saying, doing something embarrassing, having a 'bad hair day' or thoughts about how you look in what you are wearing. It's also true for positive things, those moments where you think you've done something great yet it goes unnoticed or underappreciated.

This 'spotlight effect' means that we believe that more people take note of our actions and appearance than is actually the case. We think the spotlight shines more brightly upon us than it actually does in reality.

Because we are so focused on our own behavior, it can be difficult to arrive at an accurate assessment of how much--or how little--our behavior is noticed by others. Indeed, close inspection reveals frequent disparities between the way we view our performance (and think others will view it) and the way it is actually seen by others…we sometimes find that the efforts we view as extraordinary and memorable go unnoticed or underappreciated by others. The same is true of the actions we wish to disown because they reflect poorly on our ability or character. They too may have less impact on our audience than we might think…they often pass without notice by others” (Gilovich, Medvec & Savitsky (2000), reference below). 

Our estimates of how we appear to others are overly influenced and distorted by how we appear to ourselves. We struggle to recognise that our own perceptions of our actions in our own minds are not matched by the perceptions in the minds of others. We incorrectly assume that people are paying more attention to us than they, in fact, are. And although we know that other people are not as focused on us as we are on ourselves, and we take that into account when trying to assess how we appear to others, we still end up believing that the perspective of others is more like our own than it actually is.

All of this is great news if you have a habitual tendency to fear failure or being judged or perceived negatively by others. Rather than feeling anxious or avoiding things, you can relax and seize the opportunities that you want to knowing that many of the fears and worries you may have experienced before now were likely misplaced or exaggerated in your mind.

"The present research suggests that a great many of these fears may be misplaced or exaggerated. Other people may be less likely to notice or remember our shortcomings than we typically expect…The lesson of this research, then, is that we might all have fewer regrets if we properly understood how much attention - or inattention - our actions actually draw from others” (Gilovich, Medvec & Savitsky (2000)).

To your success,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket 

  

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References:

Gilovich, T., Medvec, V.H. and Savitsky, K., 2000. The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one's own actions and appearance. Journal of personality and social psychology, 78(2), p.211.

Savitsky, Kenneth, Nicholas Epley, and Thomas Gilovich. "Do others judge us as harshly as we think? Overestimating the impact of our failures, shortcomings, and mishaps." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 81, no. 1 (2001): 44.

Gilovich, Thomas, Kenneth Savitsky, and Victoria Husted Medvec. "The illusion of transparency: biased assessments of others' ability to read one's emotional states." Journal of personality and social psychology 75, no. 2 (1998): 332.