Vincent Chan

I’m embarrassed to tell you this

Welcome to reThinkable – my weekly newsletter where I share actionable insights to build a wealthy healthy life.

Here’s what we’re covering:


😳 Paralyzed by embarrassment

💭 What is The Spotlight Effect?

🔅 How to dim The Spotlight Effect

Estimated read time: 3 minutes and 17 seconds

😳 Paralyzed by embarrassment

I had a vivid flashback this week while making dinner. I’m at the gym. Decided to try lifting weights heavier than my usual. I played a pump-up Drake song on my phone. Confidence was high… until I struggled to get the barbell back on the rack.

Right there, in the middle of the floor, it felt like every eye in the gym turned my way and I was paralyzed by embarrassment. But when I finally looked around, expecting those judgmental stares and giggles, no one even noticed.

This paralyzing fear of embarrassment and failure, it turns out, is a common thing people experience. I’d be willing to bet you’ve experienced it before too.

And it’s all thanks to The Spotlight Effect.

In today’s email, I’ll cover what it is, how it’s preventing you from succeeding, and how you can stop it.

💭What is The Spotlight Effect?

The Spotlight Effect is basically when we believe others are paying more attention to us than they actually are — in other words, we feel like we’re in the spotlight. 


Chances are, you’ve experienced this in your day-to-day life too, such as when you:

  • Try a new hairstyle and feel like everyone is judging it

  • Make a minor mistake in a meeting and assume that all your colleagues are focused on your error

  • Worry about a pimple on your face and think everyone is laughing at it

But the truth is, no one cares. Most people are too preoccupied with their own concerns and issues to notice these minor details. 

The problem with always giving into The Spotlight Effect is it can paralyze and prevent you from succeeding:

  • You avoid stepping up at work because you’re worried about messing up, missing out on growing in your career

  • You avoid negotiating a higher salary or asking for a promotion, fearing judgment for being seen as pushy

  • You don’t network with more successful people, fearing they’ll judge you for being needy

When we’re less concerned about how others might judge us for our potential failures or setbacks, we approach opportunities with more confidenceStudies show that this directly boosts our sense of self-efficiency — in other words, we believe in ourselves more.


The more we believe in ourselves, the more motivated we feel to take on challenges and the more grit we have to push through roadblocks, resulting in a virtuous feedback loop:

When we see ourselves doing well (even with small tasks), we believe more in our capabilities, which propels us to take on even more ambitious goals. And, in turn, increases our chances of success.

And we can only start this feedback loop if we reduce the impact of The Spotlight Effect and, as a byproduct, increase our confidence.

🔅 How to dim The Spotlight Effect

Here are 3 simple strategies to dim The Spotlight Effect:

1. Shift Your Perspective: Think about the last time you noticed someone else’s minor slip-up. Chances are, you can’t remember. People don’t hold onto those memories because they’re too busy dealing with their own stuff. So when you mess up, just know people will forget about it quickly. 

2. Give Instead of Take: Instead of focusing on how people perceive you, focus on what you can offer to others. If you’re speaking at an event, concentrate on delivering the best information you can to the audience rather than worrying about their approval. Not only will this make you less self-conscious but you’ll also deliver more value to others.

3. Worst Case Scenario: The next time you experience The Spotlight Effect, think about the worst-case scenario.If you’re at a party and you spill water on yourself, ask yourself, “so what?” Answer honestly and keep asking yourself, “so what?” Here it goes: So you spilled water on yourself. So what? I’ll have a wet shirt for the rest of the night. So what? People might laugh at me. So what? You’re still alive. Your friends don’t care about it. Your family still loves you. After the night is over, you’ll go home and life will move on. Forcing yourself to imagine the “worst case scenario” puts into perspective just how insignificant your mess-up really is.

These 3 strategies will help you reduce The Spotlight Effect’s impact so you can confidently take on more opportunities and transform your life for the better.

PS: I don’t want to be the only one sharing embarrassing stories 😳. Tell me about a time when you felt The Spotlight Effect. Reply to this email and let me know. It’ll be our little secret.