"Be wild. Be outrageous. Be anything but normal. Be a sea of magic in a world full of deadened eyes."
When we go outside on a daily basis, we typically don’t think about everyone else who could be looking. After all, it's not about them, but about us. Do what is comfortable and like what you do. I mean back home, if I was taking the trash out in my pajamas with unicorn slippers, I wouldn’t think twice. And people, honestly, wouldn’t obsess over it.
After having moved to Shanghai and since returning back stateside, I have taken extra consideration of how I dress, act, and carry myself outside. This is not to say that I wasn't mindful of my attire when in public, or private for that matter. I wasn't going to the supermarket in pajamas. I was reminded of the value in appearance and authenticity and to do everything like people were watching because THEY ARE!
As a foreigner, and especially a black foreigner, I receive more attention than normal. Back home I could get away with a beanie and hoodie. In Shanghai, not so much (I still try though). I stood out no matter how hard I try to appear invisible. The stares were frequent and hard. An old man, literally, almost drove into me (on his bicycle) because he was staring down my throat. I got nowhere near accustomed to the constant stares and they were pretty hard to ignore. I really hated standing out all the time and wanted to hide.
And then I changed the way I thought about standing out.
I was not made to hide. If I was, I would have indeed been made invisible. I needed to embrace the attention and press on with the idea of looking good while others stared. The way we dress is an outward expression of self, our individual character, our values, and dignity. To think such frail articles of clothing could be significant, yet they are.
However, it couldn't end with merely looking good, but exuding goodness in every sense of the word. Sure, people see our appearances first, but then there is the intrigue of our class and actions. How we hold ourselves and how we treat others and handle situations around us. In our daily walk, we should give others something good to look at. While people search for everything negative like hidden treasure, we should give them something good to find.
When you stand out, make it so others can only see the good through your appearance, attitude, and actions.
Appearance... it speaks before you do.
Your appearance is your first impression, so you might as well make it last, right? People always notice how you look before they notice you the person, unfortunately. Even though people have different standards of beauty and fashion, it only takes one image (no matter the image) to mess everything up. Sure, you represent you, but you also represent your family, friends, workplace, and ethnic community. (That’s a lot!).
In a world craving visual stimuli, image is important and can be more impactful than you imagine. The important thing is to make sure you maintain a high quality of standards and do not blend into the sea of fast-fashion, idols, and over-produced social imaging. Stay true to who you are and express yourself by highlighting your uniqueness. You already stand out. Let them feast their eyes on your shine. Dress to impress and draw them in. Be polished, be authentic, and most importantly, be comfortable.
Attitude... can change your day
Confidence is sexy. You’ve heard this before, and people definitely take note of it. It is a great tool to have. It's all about mindset. For most, the assumption is that attitudes are reactionary. This can be true, however, you have power over your own attitude, not other people. A positive attitude can reshape your entire outlook on situations. A good disposition is the difference between a good day and a bad day. Whether you go off on someone who doesn’t understand your language or make a new friend who can help you navigate in a foreign place. Whether you encourage someone to make a new change in his or her life or to stay in a current position and steep further into depression. If your attitude can change someone else’s stance on how they battle their issues or think about certain matters, it would be wise to think twice.
Actions... speak louder than words.
I'm sure you have heard this line many times. Actions speak louder than words and this is true because your actions are a manifestation of what you pour into yourself. Be mindful of how you interact with others. You respond with kindness because you have tempered your heart to do so. Your words do not cut down, but build up others because you have learned to be more considerate with your speech.
More often than not, people remember what you did before your name. Do your best to make sure your actions line up with the person you say you are or want to become. Start a trend of positive actions. It’s better to stand out because of that than what people poke at. Of course, we are people. Accept the fact that people aren’t perfect. Repentance and owning up to who you are is more appreciated than arrogance and denial.
Don't walk around feeling like you have to hide who you are. You are your best representation and have the advantageous opportunity to do good and spread good wherever you go. Those unique things that make you stand out are your superpower and what will propel you forward. Show others the kind of person you would want to meet and salt your path with a little bit of good everywhere you go.