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What You Can Learn About Yourself and Others Through People-Watching

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

People-watching isn’t as creepy as you think it is. 

I absolutely love people-watching. In short, I find people insanely complex and dynamic. Out of the billions of humans on this planet, there are no synchronicities in temperament and personality. Everyone is illogically their own. Childhood, environments, connections and millions of other combinations create a unique individual. No amount of studies will come close to categorizing what it means to function in this world under the intense circumstances pushed upon us every day. 

And the only way for me to feel as if I’m connected to the swarm of others around me is by watching them. Not even the action of talking to others comes close, as we’re also complex enough to mask and create a version of ourselves for every contact we make with others. But when you observe people, you see them in their true form. There’s no masking or playing pretend, you can watch the body language for what it is and truly get to know an individual for the way they are with just themselves.

Our instinct is to explore and expand beyond the boundaries that encapsulate us. One way to understand the world beyond the surface level is through watching and observing. We instinctively pick up on the physical aspect of one’s identity that’s easily observable and attribute them to lesser-known aspects of who that person is. Unknowingly, we judge and draw conclusions about others based on our previous environment’s specifications, providing a harsh fence around individuality. However, this can change by watching more and allowing yourself to be more open when perceiving the world around you. In turn, this allows for openness and appreciation of your own self. If you can look at others and admire what they give to the world, then you can do the same thing for yourself. 

Not only can you learn more about yourself, you can learn about other people. People-watching involves an awakening of a sixth sense that allows one to become more emotionally aware of people and their emotional states. This degree of awareness of others allows you to have a more mindful and present outlook on the world.

A woman is watching a sunset.
Jessica Vadillo

There’s a certain level of admiration to be felt at any moment when surrounded by a new story and creation. Knowing others have secrets, unknown situations and intense emotions all belonging just to them is amazing. It’s almost magic to understand that all of us from every corner of this earth struggle and feel. That even though we are immensely different, we have a string connecting all our intensities together. I truly feel blessed to be a part of the human race, acknowledging the faults but also the triumphs.

Katie Wilberding

Wisconsin '25

Katie is currently a freshman at UW-Madison majoring in English and Political Science. When not studying she enjoys reading, painting, writing, and riding horses.