Play devil’s advocate on an issue that you have strong opinions about.
DA: You look like a bum.
Me: I do not.
DA: You do too. You need to cut your hair, or your beard, or both. Not to mention your dirty trousers, old jacket, bad breath and snot-stained nose hair.
Me: What do you mean? I found these trousers yesterday!
DA: On the floor?
ME: I don’t look like a bum. I look like someone who cares less about his exterior than interior. You know, someone who would rather be pretty on the inside than on the outside.
DA: You don’t care about how you look? Why do you shower every day, then? If it’s not important, why do you object to cutting your beard?
ME: I object to being that kind of person.
DA: Oh, come on. Don’t you feel good when you wear a suit? Don’t you feel god when you wear clothes you like? Don’t you hate it when your sweaters are too short, revealing your navel when you lift your arms?
ME: Yes, but…
DA: You’re just lazy, that’s the problem. You just don’t care about your looks because it takes time and energy, knowing full well that it would be an investment, not a waste of time. Spend a few minutes more every day to choose the right sweater and the right trousers, and the entire day will be better.
ME: I don’t believe you.
DA: Do you know why your wife, why almost every woman, spends ten minutes extra in the bathroom before leaving the house? Not to look pretty, but to feel pretty. Make-up will make you beautiful not because you look better, but because you think you look better. You don’t have wear make-up, don’t worry. But what’s wrong with grooming yourself? Combing your hair? Removing stray beard hairs?
ME: But once I do that, I start thinking about how I look, and then I focus on that, I become shallow, and then…
DA: Bollocks. You’re just afraid you might realise that you’re not as good-looking as you think you are. Am I right? You’re afraid that once you start thinking about your appearance, you see all your minor and major shortcomings, your wrinkles, your lack of dress sense, your strange nose, your bizarre ears… I could go on, can’t I? You’re just like a pupil who won’t have grades, he might find out he won’t be able to go to Cambridge after all. You pathetic little man.
ME: Now look. How come you can decide what is grooming and what not? I comb my hair. You didn’t except that, did you? I admit, I occasionally comb my hair to avoid having bed hair all day. It doesn’t look good, but at least it does look better than it could have. And as for my beard — how says I don’t care? Who says I don’t look myself in the mirror and think about it, consider cutting it, admire the white spots. It doesn’t look like I do anything, but believe me, I do. At least I think about it. But that’s not enough? I should look groomed as well? You just said it was enough to feel groomed!
DA: If you look like a bum, you will be treated like a bum by others, no matter how many hours you have spent perfecting your look. And if others treat you like a bum, you will in the end treat yourself like a bum. It’s not difficult to understand, it is? The most important thing is to feel good about how you look — but if others think you look too shabby, you’ll have a hard time anyway.
ME: I don’t think about how I dress, I just grab whatever clothes I find — but it’s OK, I feel good anyway.
DA: Until your wife sighs about how you’re able to find the old sweater she hid in the back of the closet, the one she hoped you would use only when painting with your kids. Until she makes you realise that it’s the worst sweater you have.
ME: I just change, then.
DA: You want to do good this year, right? You want to improve and learn? You want to challenge yourself? Then start by sorting your T-shirts into two piles: OK and training-only. Fold your sweaters nicely, spend one minute, half a minute every morning to find the one which matches your trousers, or at least look better than the rest. Think about how you look. Spend time improving how you look. Yes, I know you suck at it. And I know that it will make you feel woefully inadequate: you have no idea how a blue T-shirt matches brown trousers, and you will realise that your dress sense is even worse than you thought. But so what? Should you learn only what you already know?
ME: But what if I don’t like feeling dressed up?
DA: You do. You just need to find your own style. There’s no escaping you do have preferences. Build on them. I know this sounds strange, but some people walk out their front door feeling good about how they look.
DA: Oh, shut up. If you think it’s against some moral law to feel good about how you look, then you’re far from being having the beautiful interior you claim to be aspiring. I’m quite sure there are more stuck-up people among your kind: people who think anyone trying to look better are shallow, are themselves rather shallow.
ME: This is kindergarten-ethics.
DA: Exactly. You’re better than that. It’s not unmanly to worry about your looks, it doesn’t have to take away anergy from other areas of your life, and it most assuredly doesn’t make you into a bad person. And it’s no use washing your hands and claiming you don’t care and therefore no-one else should care either: everyone cares, whether they like it or not, and your appearance affects everyone, and therefore yourself, all the time.
ME: I have three kids next week. I won’t have the time, nor the energy.
DA: I already told you: you do. And if you don’t, you will if you do: spend a little energy and get more back.
DA. So we agree? Your exterior matters as well? Yes, yes, most people care more about their looks and less about their mind than they should. But that’s not an excuse for looking like a bum.
ME: I don’t.
DA: No, you don’t. Not anymore. I’ll make sure you won’t.