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I Had It Backwards. It’s Wonderful Not Being All That Important.

·331 words·2 mins
Mental Health

Like a lot of other little kids, I used to dream about being someone special. Being someone important.

And in fact, I did consider myself very special once upon a time. I was the center of the universe. It’s developmentally normal, you know. Adolescents are particularly prone to certain cognitive biases. The imaginary audience, a feeling that whatever you say or do is the primary focus of other people’s attention, is a biggie.

And yes, this effect can persist whether whatever you’re saying or doing is good or bad. I find myself mystified when I encounter other people assuming they have an imaginary audience in the wild — particularly when they include me in it. I’m always taken aback when someone wrongly assumes that something completely random and unrelated I did had some obscure connection with something they said or did that I didn’t even see or notice. It happens with some regularity with certain people actually. In fact, I find that it tends to happen with the same people over and over again.

This is likely because some folks never outgrow the feeling of having an imaginary audience. When it persists into adulthood, it’s typically known as the spotlight effect (named so because people, wrongly, assume the spotlight is on them at all times).

It has to be a very difficult state of affairs to engage in such rampant personalization. Exhausting, needlessly dramatic.

On one hand, I do understand people’s desire to be important or special. But on the other hand? Uhh… that’s too much pressure. No thank you. I had it backwards when I was a little kid.

Because I’d rather be unimportant. Do my own thing. Have my sweet little life to savor. And it’s a good thing, being okay with not being all that important — because at the end of the day, none of us are really all that important. Not really. We are all literally just people doing our best. Even the High and Mighties.


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