Everybody cares what others think of them. It's part of what makes us human. It's an evolutionary thing, geared to help us survive. The difference is how much you care. It's just a matter of degrees.
As I grow older, I care less and less what people think of me. But when you're younger, particularly at school, life's much easier if you conform, if you're pretty much the same as everyone else. If you dress similar, if you speak the same way, if you declare that you hold particular values that equate with the consensus, even if you really don't. It's safe. You're accepted. You're not teased, ridiculed or friendless - a sad state when you're a kid or a teenager. In a way I'd love my son to be an individual when he's at school (he's only 3), a character, an eccentric, an unpredictable artist. But another side of me, the side that wants to protect him, wants him to fit in, to be accepted, to be popular.
Australian adults rarely escape from the safe position. We have our Australian values. We only vote for 2 political parties. We all love sport. We still dress more or less the same as each other. We all watch reality television, blockbuster movies and read Bryce Courtney books. We listen to 3AW and read the Herald Sun, believe what we hear on Channel 9. Break away, people, think differently. Explore new ideas. Forget what other people think. Argue, discuss, challenge. Provoke.
The point I anticipated making here was that I no longer care very much what people think. Perhaps about 5% of what I did when I was 15. I'll challenge people's opinions at dinner parties. I'll admit to my own weaknesses. I'll confront people who are being unjust. I'll piss people off.
Here's something that proves I don't care what people think. And I'd like you all to contribute something too. Something that you might not have liked to admit when you were 25 and thought you were cool:
I went to a Billy Joel concert in 1987, and I enjoyed it.