People Watching

By Lorraine Scott


People talk about going to the mall, the beach, or a busy park, and just watch people. They find enjoyment in noticing others around them. They watch the way they act and how they communicate with others. Some can sit and people watch for a long time. What drives them to do this?



Is it curiosity? Is it the quiet observations? I was curious so one day, I tried it.


As I was walking through the mall, pre Covid-19, I began watching other people. I was silently looking at who was around me. What were they doing? How did they interact with others? What were they wearing? As I was making note of these things in my mind, I also realized, I was making judgements. The more I was watching other people - the more judgements I was making.


I have had the pleasure of following Dr. Stuart Shanker and his work with Self- Regulation. He has developed a method of looking at stress, how the body responds to stress, as well as ways to adapt our thinking so we can relieve the stress. It helps us find our balance between stress and calm. The best part, this is all backed up with years of scientific studies. It is not a program. It is a process you can apply to yourself, or anyone.


I have learned that when we are making judgements, this is actually a form of stress. Stress uses up a lot of energy within the body and too much stress takes its toll. The more we can relieve this stress, and regain energy, the calmer we will feel.


The first part of Self-Regulation, is to realize when you are feeling stress. I did that when I noticed I was being judgemental. So now I need to reframe, or dig deeper, into why I was feeling this stress. I needed to ask myself why I was feeling this way, and why was it happening now? As I thought about it, I began to understand. I was in a location I really was not comfortable in. I was considering spending money I really did not have. I had not eaten yet that day and I was tired.


All these were annoying me and building up inside me and my reaction was to be critical of others - lashing out at them in my mind.


I began to look at how I could deal with some of these issues. I knew I was hungry, so I got something to eat. That also helped to ease my tiredness as I was refueling and building some energy. I knew I had limited money to spend, so I reassured myself I could buy items I wanted when I had more money. I would only buy the items I needed right now. Three stressors I reframed, and I felt better. I felt less irritated inside.


Anytime I am in a crowded place, it causes me stress. I worry about what other people think of me. I worry I will say or do something that is silly in the eyes of others. Then it hit me. I was afraid of being judged. I was afraid of the exact thing I was doing to other people. What an “AHA” moment. I was seeking acceptance from people. I was worrying and having stress around people making decisions about me while they could be feeling stress themselves.


This took awhile to think through and understand. Now that I have, I am able to be more relaxed around other people. I still am concerned that I may have moments of slip ups. When this happens, I remind myself it is okay if they do not think the best of me. They may be experiencing many stressors today. I know, within me, I am a good person and worthy of knowing. That is all that matters as I feel calmer.


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