“We worry too much about what others think, when the reality is they’re thinking about themselves, not us.”
I believe those words, or something close to it, are from an interview with graphic novelist Leanne Shapton. Those words contrast with most of us who are hyper-sensitive to who’s watching us, who’s sizing us up, and who likes us. Are people paying attention and forming judgments about us? Or are they self-absorbed and oblivious?
I’ve been paying attention to who’s paying attention to me. There’s much wisdom in those words. Few if any are paying attention.
How about at the gym? Is anyone watching to see if my squats go past horizontal? Or if I’m lifting more weight now than I did a month ago? Does anyone notice if I re-rack my weights or not? (Besides the owner who spends a lot of time putting things away.) Does anyone know if I’ve skipped a week? Probably not.
I like to watch people at the gym. I recognize the ones who are there every week. I watch in awe as some lift a whole lot more weight than I do. I notice how many people have earbuds and are texting on their phones in between every set. I wonder what they’re listening to or who they are talking to.
How about at the store? No one notices me in the car behind them as they slowly walk down the middle of a parking lane. Few notice that I am trying to get past them as they park in the center of an aisle to ponder the choices of cereal on the shelves. One lady didn’t notice as she took off with my shopping cart. An attendant is there at the self-checkout lanes, but I don’t know if they are watching that closely to make sure I scan every item in my basket. (For the record, I do.)
I like to watch people at the store. I watch them as they stroll the aisles, glancing side to side, deciding what they might want to buy that day. So different than me. I have a list. I’m on a mission. I get in and out as efficiently as possible.
How about at the coffee shop? Does anyone know or care that I can hear their conversation? Or see what they are studying? Or notice that I am watching them?
I look to watch people at coffee shops. I look to see what the baristas have set out in the pickup area. What’s in that food bag? What is that pink drink? I like to peek at what someone is studying or reading. I like to listen in on interviews and conversations.
In many of the mystery books I’ve been reading lately, the protagonist spends a lot of time watching body language and facial expressions. Detectives, spies, and intelligence types notice a lot about the people around them. I’m inspired. The more I read, the more I watch. I want to notice, too.
What do I see? And who is watching me?