Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Image Rollercoaster

My very good friend, Nicholas Hawkins, owner of the image consulting company Young Gentleman Society, has been given he unfortunate task of being my image consultant (No, I am not hollywood, just smart enough to know that my image contributes a large part to my success) for the last year. I have hired and fired him a record of 5 times over the course of one weekend (can we say "high maintenance"). Admittedly, because of my own issues.
I have so many ideas and so many concepts of how my life should be lived that conflict with each other, causing one bad ass roller coaster of personal presentation. It was difficult for me to find a balance of holding on to who I was, becoming who I want to be, and changing the things that weren't aligned with my vision. Even tho the path was turbulent, the goal was always the same; authenticity.

I decided a few years ago that I will never live life unhappy, restricted or too calculated. So as my style started to change from "barefoot island athlete" to "artistic business owner and public figure", I rebelled. Afraid that I was somehow being disingenuous from who I was. So my roller coaster with my image consultant went from "photoshoot fresh, looking like wealth" to "true artists live off the land and make clothes from the sheep I raised". Needless to say that this made it impossible for Nick to work with me.
But in retrospect, the struggle was a necessary one. It came from a good place. I just never want to portray something that I am not. The problem was that it was hard for me to accept that I am not the same person I was growing up. I am not in the same position and I am working on different goals. But I still have the same beliefs and morals, and that's what needs to be held close. I just had to get comfortable with being me and own it!

So now, Nick is back on the team for the 12th time (I'm a handful). He and his staff have the patience of saints. But this time I have learned to accept a few things. I was putting too much emphasis on what was on the exterior. Putting on a suit doesn't change that I am simple island boy. And dressing like a vagrant doesn't negate my education or my potential altitude. I had to fight my fear of becoming materialistic and accept that I am a fan of fashion. I like looking nice. I like expressing myself through my personal presentation. And fighting against that so the I can stay "real" was my biggest form of being unauthentic.
As I write this I am back home in the Virgin Islands. Now, I go to a regular local spot in a linen button up and chinos. Yes, I definitely stand out among the oversized T shirts and du-rags but I am not going to force fit myself into any group. I have ti face that I am not that guy anymore. But what I have found is that a few things happen when you present yourself, as yourself, confidently. People take notice and want to know who you are , you attract people to you on a greater level and you feel less pressure to make moral compromises.
So yes, I flew into the island with a shirt and tie on. Why not? I'm a business man (or as I say "I own some stuff!"). I like the way I am treated when I wear a tie. I like working internationally, so when I give people my business card in airports, wearing my suit rather than my flip flops, they stare, read intently, and carefully put it away to find later. but even more importantly... I just feel good!
When I go out. I like to keep it more simple and less stuffy (still stylish because I like fashion as art). I like to be comfortable because the point of going out is to relax and have fun. So the odds are finding me at a spot that has a "strict dress code" unless it's for business or a special event, is slim. Because although I like fashion, profiling (the young professional DC scene is famous for this) is not my idea of fun.
I remember my former boss, millionaire club owner Marc Barnes, making a statement to this effect, "I don't understand why people buy all these fancy clothes to go out, but look like crap when they come to work. You should look better when you are making money than when you are spending it". (Knowing him, I'm sure there were a few profanities littered throughout the statement but you get the point)
"Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." - Marianne Williamson "Our Deepest Fear"
Well now my roller coaster is slowly become a less turbulent ride. But it had to start with self acceptance, courage and confidence. Thanks for reading!

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