I don’t care what they say, this is my life

“Dance like nobody’s watching,” they say, but have they ever seen me dance? It’s not pretty. And if Patrice thinks a little wine never hurt nobody, then, for all her wisdom, it is clear no one has told her about me. People can get hurt. People have been injured.

Dancing can do a lot of good. People who can dance say so all the time. Studies agree with these people. Dancing, to be perfectly clichéd, frees you. It’s liberating and exhilarating. Get the good hormones flowing and put the bad feelings in a corner. Build strength and flexibility, improve your confidence, improve your mental wellbeing.

So go out there and dance. Dance in bedrooms and kitchens. Dance at parties and limes and fetes and in grocery aisles. Dance, dance, dance.

Pepino Rodrigo Serrano Gonzales, or Pepe to his muppet friends, is a Spanish, sometimes-cross-dressing king prawn. In Muppets from Space, there’s a scene involving the use of an invisibility spray – and the fading power of that spray.

I don’t quite remember what everyone else was doing, but while invisible, Pepe was living his best prawn-life, pirouetting through the air in a tutu. Pepe danced like no one was watching because no one could see him.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that for many of us.

We care much too much about what people think of us. We don’t want them (whoever they may be) to think we are silly, awkward, ridiculous, or just plain lacking in rhythm. We don’t have invisibility spray. Not everyone can be a balletic prawn.

The thing is, we don’t want anyone to know we can’t do any number of things. So, we do nothing. Or at least we don’t do the things we think people will think we can’t do. (Say that three times fast.)

Inhibition because of what other people think has been torturing us since primary school.

For me it was no sports, no music, no dance, no art. I wasn’t going to let anyone see how bad I thought I’d be at those things.

By secondary school it was such an ingrained habit I just didn’t try out, because that was who I was. I was a person who was so mortified by all the ways in which I could fail, I just didn’t try.

But failure was the least of my worries. It’s probably a smaller worry than many of us realise. What we’re truly terrified of is how people will judge us. And all we can see is the likelihood of embarrassment and shame.

My fear of all those things was so huge that even when I was accepted to do something I thought I couldn’t do (like additional mathematics and singing), I backed away. No, I ran away. Because eventually I’d fall on my face; I had to. After all, hadn’t I always known I couldn’t do these things?

That’ll kill just about any ambition.

So we don’t cook adventurously or live creatively or dress fearlessly. Because someone out there, whom we don’t know, who means nothing to us (and we mean even less to them), who has no relevance to our lives, they – again, this nameless horde – they get to rein us in.

Billy Joel once said, “I don’t care what you say any more, this is my life. Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone.”

A long time ago, someone reminded me that in an even more remote time, that was my anthem. I played it loud in the car.

That was my angry. That was my uncool. That was my unhappy, my don’t-belong, my embarrassment-about-being-me. That was all I could do in the face of the fear of being found wanting: scream a song, driving along to school.

The thing we need to wrap our heads around is that no one cares.

People are not out lurking on the fringes of fetes to see if you can or cannot dance. Ok, maybe some people may be going on their malicious path looking for ways to pull you down. But their number is not likely great, and more importantly, their opinion of you is more than likely irrelevant.

If there are people who are genuinely important to you who treat you like that, you need to re-evaluate those relationships.

You know what people are really interested in? Themselves. So, if most of us are preoccupied with our selves, what time do we have to look at others?

And if that’s not the case, well, as per Patrice again, they need to drink water and mind they business.

Remember to talk to your doctor or therapist if you want to know more about what you read here. In many cases, there’s no single solution or diagnosis to a mental health concern. Many people suffer from more than one condition.


"I don’t care what they say, this is my life"

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