This question is probably one of life’s greatest mysteries. There are moments of darkness where out of the blue, people throw a flare of hope reassuring us-well people do give three-quarters of a fuck about us. Then there are moments just when we think people have got us, they throw the proverbial middle finger at us. Let me ask you, per your life experience, do people really care that much?
A RIDER’S CARE
I had a friend who was from a wealthy home. Call it whatever you want; while most of us got a pat on the back, he got a brand new top tier car on graduation day. Few days after graduation, we literally saw how a brand new car could transform a wimp into prime King Solomon. He changed in our eyes. He suddenly commanded respect and it was a blast hanging around him.
He obviously realized his change in luck and with this came an obsession to pay extra attention to his car. This would culminate in several clashes with authorities as he would constantly be late to work. When he broke the news he resigned from his first employment, I screamed ‘what the actual hell!’. He went on blabbing nonsense. So I asked him, ‘what would happen if you don’t wash your car for a day?’.
He had something to say every damn time. So we agreed to go on a bet: no washing of your car for a week and if you get more than four people commenting on how bad your car looks, dinner at any restaurant of your choice. Turned out in more than two weeks, no one literally gave a shit about how his car looked. Turns out people have bigger issues plaguing them to give a damn about him or his car.
And this is what we call the Spotlight Effect!
THE SPOTLIGHT EFFECT
This is basically a phenomenon that describes an exaggerated perception of other people’s interest in our lives. We are so self-conscious we micro-scrutinize our own flaws thinking others are noticing them as much as we do. I’ve got some good news for you! – face it, you aren’t as important as you think!
Just as much as you are at the centre of your world, so does it play in everyone’s world. Everyone is just as scared as you are, second-guessing and battling tirelessly to hide their insecurities from others who funny enough, are doing the same.
The faster you come to terms with it, the lesser the degree of anxiety you are going to experience in social situations. Trust me, no one noticed your skirt stuck between your butt-cheeks for those five seconds that felt like an eternity. Even if people did, they aren’t dwelling on it as much as you are doing.
BUT THERE IS A CATCH…
All these changes when you are a popular figure or world-famous. The dynamics change. Suddenly your life becomes a focus of others who make a living scrutinizing your life. Your insecurities and spotlight effect are magnified a 1000 folds. Anxiety shoots off the roof.
Are you really ready for fame? Fame isn’t for everyone I guess. I don’t like it, and chances are if you are under the radar like every other person, you overestimate the quality of fucks people give about you. Hit the road, Jack!
THE REALITY IS PEOPLE ACTUALLY REALLY CARE MORE THAN YOU THINK
The incredible story of Jeremy Meeks is one for the tabloids yet buttresses the reality of people’s perception about us. In 2014, Jeremy Meeks, a former member of a notorious gang “The Crisp” was on the run. A fierce manhunt ensued with Stockton Police Department posting a photo of him on Facebook. Within hours, his mug shot had gone viral earning insane public adoration. He was tagged the “Hot Felon”.
While in prison, he scored a whopping modelling contract. Became the cover icon of a French luxury men’s magazine and to top off the madness, was hunted down by the daughter of a British billionaire businessman who “wanted his babies“. And that she did. In the space of a few months, he had gone from a convicted felon to superstardom. What was his secret? Look no further- his looks!
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE VALUE OF YOUR APPEARANCE
Do looks matter? If the story of Meeks is anything to go by, then yes. But there is more to it than blue eyes and genetics. The judgement of people is on autopilot. Within a few seconds, people scan for clues to create an impression before you open your mouth.
Their first point of contact is your appearance. From confidence tricksters to salesmen, these lads understand this principle of appearance-based auto-judgement hence their perfectly rehearsed routine of good looks, good dressing, convincing voice and perfectly timed mannerisms and body language.
Studies suggest looks can bias the way we are treated in the workplace, in school, in court, and in our personal lives: how much a person is paid attention to in their social circle.
In short, people place a premium on your appearance more than you think. Even if you aren’t blessed genetically with good looks, you ought to have style! Appearance goes beyond facial beauty. Get rid of the oversized clothes, give your wardrobe a thoughtful revamp. Trim the scruffy facial hair. Take a bath, floss and brush.
If you never cared, it’s about time you gave a quality fuck about your appearance. It got a convicted felon reduced jail sentence, could do wonders for you. Well, unless you are a Nigerian youth, makes sense to dial down your appearance.
THINK BEFORE YOU POST
The social media landscape has changed over the years. You have no idea how fast a post could go viral. A bunch of extremely sensitive keyboard warriors are on the lookout to devour you. The issue is, you can’t control the scope through which people scrutinize your social media posts. A hearty joke could be the end of your career.
There’s no better person to learn from than Kevin Hart. The comedian’s “homophobic” tweet from 10 years ago when he had just started his journey to superstardom sparked public outrage.
Don’t play dumb thinking “my friends will know what I mean”. Social media isn’t a friends-only ecosystem. One wrong tweet, post or “like” could ruin you. Limit your madness to local apps like Whatsapp where you are sure it is the majority of friends who understand your context see what you write. You can’t go about explaining your context to strangers.
Block controversial people/people who have direct power over you from viewing your posts i.e parents, employers, work colleagues and pastors/religious leaders. And don’t be overly stupid enough to record sex tapes.
Don’t underestimate how much interest people have in your life nor overestimate their interest. The key is to strike a healthy balance. Practice being in the moment and living out of your head. You can only be on this path if you realize everyone around you is dealing with living inside their heads just like you.
Not many can tell a $12 ring from a $5000 wedding ring. People aren’t really paying that much attention to your exaggerated efforts. Dial it down.
People care about you genuinely more than you think. They might not be here in the now, but don’t underestimate this reality. Reach out to those who are in need. Learn to work on your appearance, don’t buy things to impress people who don’t know you even exist. And oh, keep your fuckery off social media.
Once again, I ask, per your life experience do people really care?