After half a decade in the working world, I've embraced a truth that makes just about everything easier

Graeme Robertson/Getty ImagesOther people aren’t watching as closely as you think.
  • Everyone feels like everyone else is watching, judging, and remembering their actions.
  • But the truth is, people are too wrapped up in their own lives to worry about you.
  • This isn’t meant to be depressing – it’s freeing, knowing fewer eyes are on you than you think.

Growing up, I was a shy kid.

I wouldn’t ever raise my hand in class because everyone would look at me. I was that kid who covered her ears when people sang “happy birthday.” I blushed at the drop of the hat (I still do) and I never accepted anything adults offered me because I was desperate not to inconvenience them.

But now, seven years into the working world, I’ve embraced a truth that neutralizes everything from the humiliation of hand-raising to the agony of “happy birthday” and then some: Other people just aren’t paying as much attention as you think.

I realised this once and for all when a colleague and desk neighbour at a previous job was doing a life experiment where she wore the same six main pieces of clothing for a month.

Around the 25th, I saw her in the morning and genuinely complimented her pretty red dress.

“Are you kidding me?” she asked. “I’ve worn this 10 times in the last month.”

I hadn’t noticed.

And that experience rings pretty true – most of the time. Everyone is wrapped up their own lives. For the most part, they’re glossing right over the details of yours. You could choose to find this depressing (“nobody cares about me!”) or fortifying (“nobody cares about me!”) I find it the latter. If no one’s watching all that closely, the stakes are lower. I can try that new project. I can take that trip. I can take some chances and know the only one agonizing over them six months later will be me.

It sounds obvious, right? You’d probably be surprised to hear how often I tell the red dress story, and how many times it applies to the anxieties of my friends and coworkers.

For instance, the other night, I was sitting across from Susie Moore, discussing life over a plate of Shiseido Peppers.

She runs a location-independent business and is planning to spend the month of February working remotely from an island.

It sounds like a dream, but she has one big reservation: She’s worried about missing out on life in New York, her beloved home city where things are always moving fast.

“Don’t you ever worry about missing something important, when you’re out of town?” she asked.

“No,” I told her, grimacing over a particularly spicy pepper. “Not to be horrible, but the truth is most people won’t even realise you’re gone.”

Reading it over now, it does sound sort of horrible. But she found it reassuring. And the more I think about it, so do I.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.