Imagine the scene. 100 or more 8 to 10 year old kids seated around a large room on the floor. In the middle of the room sits a piano with the scariest teacher in the school peering over his music. One by one pupils get up from around the room and walk what feels like a never-ending path to the middle of the room. All eyes are on the person in the middle. They stand there isolated, in front of all their peers and sing in a room where the only noise is the nervous rustling of other people but predominantly just their trembling nervous voice and a quiet piano. The teacher dismisses each pupil some without even letting them finish or looking up from his piano. Everyone can tell who has made the school choir cut and who is out.
“You’re not up there very long” you tell yourself. “It will be over before you know it.” But that’s not comforting. It doesn’t allay your fears. As pupil by pupil go up, every new person is one person closer to you. You can feel your hands sweating. It’s finally your turn. You make the walk, your legs buckling beneath you. You turn and face the teacher, waiting his next order. You’ve watched lots of people do this already but you’re still not sure how this goes. Your mind has gone blank. You tell the teacher your song number, he plays an intro and you start. You sing as best as you can. You even get to finish. He tells you “ok, that’s alright”. You’re done. You walk back breathing with relief. “Did I get through? Do I even want to go through?” You sit down.
You don’t care anymore.
You’re done. You check your pulse.
You’re still alive.
This is a scenario my friends and I faced every year for about three years in Primary School. It was our Hunger Games. It didn’t get any easier even if you had been in the choir the year before. Yet there is one misconception that we all fell into the trap of believing each time. One thing we all thought was true but never was. Which was…
“All eyes are on me.”
That when you were in the middle of the room feeling vulnerable and alone, you were being judged. That was a lie. The only person that each of us were focused on at any moment was ourselves. I didn’t care how the kid in the middle was doing. It was my turn in four pupils time and all I could think about was the scenarios in my head, where I tripped on my walk up, or where I hit a false note or started too high or where everyone laughed.
I was the focus. Me. Not you. Not him or her. Me.
A hundred kids thinking everyone was just watching them.
But a hundred kids really just thinking about themselves.
As we get older nothing really changes. We all worry how we are perceived by each other. We all worry whether we are successful enough or make enough money. We all worry we’re going to trip and be laughed at. All of us wasting our time believing a lie.
The truth is actually you don’t need to be afraid because no one is watching. We’re all just trying not to fall over to worry about you. You’re free to make a mistake because people are simply trying to avoid their own. Sure there will be times when people laugh or judge you but it’s only because they’re trying to feel better about themselves. They’re still not focused on you; they’re just trying to mask the pain of focusing on their true selves.
So let’s all stop wasting our time and stop worrying what others think.
Because the chances are, we’re not thinking about you at all.