How To Zoom Out To Get Perspective

Close-up of a Black woman's hands with red nail polish on taking a photo of food on her smartphone

One of the tools that helps me stay grounded when I'm feeling anxious is zooming out.

Think about the camera in a smartphone. When you try to take a picture that's zoomed in too far, the camera often struggles to focus, leading to a blurry image. In the same way, when we only look at what's right in front of us, not only is it easy to miss the bigger picture and context, things can start to look distorted.

Close-up of a Black woman's hands with red nail polish on taking a photo of food on her smartphone

Here's an example. I've helped a lot of people improve their relationship with food, and many folks have a zoomed-in view of nutrition. They believe if they don't carefully micromanage each day's meals down to the specific calorie and macro counts, their diet won't be properly balanced and they'll be less healthy and more disease-prone as a result. Talk about anxiety-inducing!

But if we zoom out a bit, the picture gets clearer. Consider that if failing to balance nutrients, macros, and calories on a day-by-day basis could really cause serious harm, then we wouldn't be able to survive as a species. Our bodies evolved to maintain homeostasis across all kinds of circumstances (including a fluctuating diet) specifically so we could stay alive. That's why it makes more sense to look at our overall nutrient intake and food variety over weeks and months than meals and days.

Zooming out is also a great tool to use when you notice yourself catastrophizingi.e., assuming the worst-case scenario is the most likely outcome in a situation.

For example, I'm prone to medical anxiety and tend to catastrophize about my health. It's easy for me to jump from a benign symptom to assuming that I have cancer or I'm dying. When I'm in that spiraling state, I'm very zoomed in and can feel trapped in my own mind. But if I can remember to zoom out, then I have a built-in escape hatch.

A genderqueer person wearing a hospital gown and sitting on the exam table of an exam room

Zooming out reminds me that I'm a fairly young person who regularly goes to the doctor for preventative care. And it helps me remember the small statistical likelihood of the conclusions I've drawn as well as the many other possible explanations for what I'm experiencing.

I know how easy it is to focus on what feels like it's looming right in front of you. Thankfully, zooming out can give you a break from standing on the edge of the cliff in order to position yourself more fully in the entire landscape. I promise there's a lot to see from that vantage point.

This essay was originally sent out to those who subscribe to my email newsletter, The Queer Agenda. To get more writing like this in your inbox each week, subscribe here.

 

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 Hello! 

I’M SHOHREH.

I’m a self-trust coach, writer, and podcast host with a mission to help people figure out who they are and what they value so they can come home to themselves.

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