Caitlin Moran is spread over The Times as though she is that newspaper’s version of a Page 3 girl: the thinking man’s temptress. But at least she’s funny. And much, much more articulate than most Page 3 girls. Her interview with Lady Gaga in today’s Times is gut wrenchingly hilarious, if only for the introduction where she uses 500 words to tell us about missing a flight –
“It’s not so much that I am now almost certainly going to be fired. Since I found out how much the model Sophie Anderton used to earn as a high class call girl, my commitment to continuing as a writer at The Times has been touch and go anyway, to be honest.”
Later in the interview, part of which is conducted in a sex club in Berlin, Lady Gaga tells Moran that she has “zero concept of how I’m assessed in the world.” My left eyebrow travelled upwards slightly upon reading this statement. But not quite as far upwards as when I read, “Perhaps uniquely among all the journalists in the world, I can now factually confirm that Lady Gaga does not have a penis. That rumour can, conclusively die.” My neighbours thought I was having a fit in the back garden by this point.
However, I don’t mean to get caught in a discussion, or otherwise, of Lady Gaga’s lack of appendage. More, I got to wondering about how some of us mere mortals get caught in being so worried about what the world thinks of us that we are paralysed by our own fears, when someone of Lady Gaga’s worldwide fame couldn’t give a blinkers. Perhaps it is what marks her and other (actual, as opposed to reality TV) celebrities out for their success. And not just celebrities in the movie/music/politics worlds. I mean even ‘celebrities’ within their own sectors and industry – business, journalism, academia, teaching, nursing. Or, more simply, successful people.
Myself included, I know far too many people who stop themselves from doing something because they’re afraid of what someone with whom they have no connection, or at the most a passing sense of acknowledgment, think of them or what they’re doing or what they’re wearing. I’ve wanted to write for a long time. I’ve managed to write one or two short pieces that I’ve always liked, but that I’ve shared with a total of two people. My sense of worry of how my writing will be judged has been worth more than my desire to do something that I think I might be good at. In virtually every other sphere of my life I (mostly) fight the urge to worry about others’ thoughts and opinions on my actions, my dress sense, my dancing, my likes and dislikes. In my professional career, I am paid to challenge convention, yet on one of my biggest ambitions and desires, I’ve been held back for too long by what my head thought others would think.
Nor am I the only one. I can look to the example of many of my peers and see the same sense of paralysis. These thoughts were also prompted by the delightful example of Johnny B. Truant. Sometimes this paralysis is all consuming, preventing the forming of basic social relationships and sometimes it is more subtle and, as in my own case of writing, or one or two others that I can think of, it stops us from doing something that we at least feel we would be good at because the perceived thoughts of others amount to more than our own sense of self-worth. The kicker in all of this – those perceived thoughts are just that. In all honestly no one really cares about us, at least no one beyond our tightest circle of friends and our family. And everyone else? Well they are simply too concerned with what we think of them to be worried about what they think of us.
My point, thanks to Caitlin Moran and Lady Gaga, is that no one ever got to the pinnacle of anything by worrying about what others thought of them. So, I’m taking a leaf out of the Lady’s book – if you don’t like what I write, that’s your problem. Just don’t read it. More importantly, the central point of this posting is simply a plea to stop worrying about what that guy/girl who you sometimes see at the coffee shop or in the library or in the bar thinks of what you’re doing. He/she probably doesn’t even notice.