It’s not something we consciously think about but we each have what I call our self-perception of who we think we are based on what we look like. Just as we can see someone for the first time and form an opinion about them, we do the same about ourselves. In my case, it was a “hairy” change in my appearance that made me consider what kind of person I am (or think I am).
My wife Bonnie left town for four days to visit her daughter. That meant Niles, our dog, and I were going to “bach” it for four days. One of the luxuries in bach’ing it is not having to shave (assuming you are clean shaven). Not shaving seemed safe for me since I could let my wife have one look at me with a four-day growth of facial hair then shave it off at her request.
Well, Niles and I comfortably survived those four days. When I picked Bonnie up at the airport she was surprised, as I suspected, at my budding grey beard. But then came my turn to be surprised. She said she thought she liked the way I looked and maybe I should continue to let it grow so she could see what I looked like with a full beard. Each day when I thought I would hear the command, “SHAVE’, I instead heard the continuing compliment of “You look good in a beard.”
Then about a week later my son stopped by. He and my wife got into a critique of my beard. Ah ha, I thought. They will want the beard to disappear. No chance. The consensus (I didn’t have a vote) was I would look better with something along the lines of a Van Dyke beard. Sigh. I took a quick trip to the barber, and my full beard turned into a van Dyke.
I now sport that Van Dyke. What is interesting is others’ reactions to my new appearance. One or two said I looked smart. Whoa I thought; did I look stupid before? A checkout clerk said I looked distinguished. The problem is I’m not applying for the position of Ambassador to the UN. My wife said I looked handsome. This made me wonder what she thought I looked like before the beard. But most importantly, it was and is the change it brought in who I think I am.
If you were to have asked me pre-beard who I was, I would have said an easy going, mostly smiling, try-to-get-along-with-everyone kind of guy. Now, I don’t know. When I’m away from the mirror I still think of myself as that easy-going guy. I look at myself in the mirror and know that I haven’t changed. But the guy staring back at me looks a bit more studious than I am and maybe just a bit more stern. A guy a little less likely to crack a joke or laugh at one. Then I wonder how many people I judged by their looks only and possibly been a bit harsh in my judgment because of the way they look.
So what can I say about all this? Take a look in the mirror and decide strictly on the way the person looking back at you is like (not the way you know you are).