CAMPBELL: Working on inner presentation as crucial as outer

Campbell_WEBI am going to tell you a story. It is slightly embarrassing for me, but full of valuable life lessons I am compelled to share. I call this story “The Time I Wore Hiking Boots to a Bar.”

Now, the title of my story might not sound as embarrassing as the actual events of this particular evening, but at the time, the boots were the defining factor in my experience.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last week, before I returned to Milwaukee for the start of the semester, I made plans to spend time with a friend from high school. We are pretty close, this friend and I, and our plan (or so I thought) was to go on a walk to catch up with each other. There was snow on the ground and, since I spent all of 20 minutes packing the morning after finals last semester, I did not have the wherewithal to bring my snow boots home with me. So I was wearing hiking boots. And hiking socks. And I have these very hipster glasses that everyone thinks are fake but that do, indeed, correct my vision. I was an interesting sight, to say the least.

Our walk turned into a walk to a bar, which turned into a ride to a bar, partly because it was offered to us and partly because the distance from my friend’s house to this particular bar would take a good 45 minutes at a brisk pace. So I was wearing hiking boots.

When we arrived at our destination, I was dismayed to find that I was more than a little underdressed for the big-school, SEC, Missouri-beat-Alabama-that-night crowd. I turned to my friend with a look of terror on my face: “You let me wear hiking boots here?!” All I got as a response from him was a laugh.

As the night wore on, instead of focusing on how out of place I surely looked, I began to try to work my unique look. Instead of sitting in a corner or hunching at a table, I straightened my shoulders and tried to put a look on my face that said, “So what if this old Marquette sweatshirt is a little too big for me and a little worn out? This is my thing. I always dress like this. I like that I’m dressed like this.” Confidence is key, you see. Because I do not always dress like that; I could have fit in with that crowd if I had put a little effort into it.

My confidence, however, paid off when, while washing my hands in the bathroom, some young woman I had never met looked me over, smiled and said, “I love your glasses! And your shoes – that retro style! – so cute!” I had put not thought but comfort into my style that evening, but I had found a way of carrying myself so that it did not matter. That compliment, even if she had been joking (though I have chosen to believe she was not), made my night out in hiking boots.

The moral of this story – which I called embarrassing seven paragraphs ago, but that I now would rather refer to as enlightening – is that no matter what your personal style may be if you think you stand out like a sore thumb, if you are confident enough in yourself, that is what other people will see – your security and sense of self. Often, we get preoccupied with how we present ourselves (which can be important – I would never wear hiking boots to a job interview or on a first date, unless we were hiking) and forget that our internal presentation is just as important and noticeable.

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