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Does It Matter What Other People Think of You?

Is it natural to worry about what other people think of you?  What about when you're in the public eye, and other people's opinions are coming at you, unrequested, from all directions? 

For the most part, we have no way of knowing 100% what someone else thinks of us, though that doesn't stop many of us from worrying about it.  We build up a mental picture from bits and bobs of infomation, half-truths and imaginings.  No wonder the result is almost entirely fictitious.  Still it doesn't stop us telling ourselves it's real.  However, once you start sifting out the facts from the assumptions, it becomes much easier to step away from being worried about what others think of you.  You don't know, you can't change it, so it's a waste of time to worry about it.

I was thinking about this issue recently because of a strange spat involving the parenting website Mumsnet and the writer and broadcaster Jon Ronson.  Basically, some of the forum posters were giving their opinions of Ronson's merits and shortcomings - the usual anonymous webby chit-chat.  Only news got back to JR HQ, and he then emailed one of the posters directly in response, and a discussion which would have quickly faded away lit up again like Christmas in a fairy lights factory.

Now, you can be sure that people in the public eye do look themselves up on Google.  Jon Ronson will probably read this post at some point.

**pause whilst Joanne waves at Jon ~ hi Jon ~ **

In ye olden pre-internet days, celebs were fairly well protected from what the world really thought about them.  Where we might have slagged off the celeb who irritated us in the pub and forgotten about it the next day, now we do it online, where it continues to exist long after the sentiments have died.  For the celeb, It's like having a village pump outside their house, where people gather to discuss their shortcomings.  Loudly.  Who would be strong enough not to listen in?   Sometimes the thought of dealing with public criticism is enough to put people off following their dreams in the first place.

It's an unfortunate side effect of the world we live in, and something everyone who puts their head above the parapet will have to learn to deal with.  There will always be people who don't like you, just make sure that they don't outnumber the people who do.

No matter how outlandish a belief is, there will always be someone, somewhere who holds it (urine as a refreshing thirst quencher anyone?  earth populated by lizards?  George Bush as a credible president?).  So it is never a realistic proposition to expect that your work will be liked by all of the people, all of the time.

Just remember that it's only hot air, so stick it in a balloon and let it float away.  Don't attempt to hang on to it.  Don't engage with people who slag you off, neither of you will come out of it well.  And don't email people who slag you off in chatrooms.  The circumstances in which that will be a good idea just don't exist yet, and probably never will.

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