I bought a bright blue jacket. It’s the color of a blue jay. This shouldn’t be big news, except that I live in New York City, where we have a dress code. That dress code consists of one color: black.
The jacket was available in several colors. Standard black, of course, red, the aforementioned blue, and sunshine yellow. Fueled by good cheer and a pumpkin spice latte, I decided to live on the edge and went with the blue. The sunshine yellow wasn’t even an option. I said “live on the edge,” not “jump off the cliff.”
On the subway ride home, I began feeling buyer’s remorse. Everyone over the age of five wore black coats, black hats, black gloves. Still, I liked the jacket and thought it was a good purchase. When I got home, I cut the tags right away. There. I’ll teach myself not to second guess. But myself had other ideas.
I avoided the jacket. Put it at the back of the closet. Wore my old ratty jacket, the one I was planning to donate to NY Cares Coat Drive. This was silly. I doubt anyone registers what I, a stranger, is wearing. And if they do, why would I care?
At the next opportunity, I donated the old ratty jacket as planned. There. I’ll teach myself not to worry about what other people think. But myself had other ideas.
For the next few days, I bundled up with thick sweaters and layers to avoid having to wear a jacket. Then the temperature dropped, and I couldn’t avoid it any longer. We had a date with destiny.
I tried it on for the first time since I’d bought it. Oh, was it too snug? I should have gotten a size larger. Maybe I should have opted for something a bit longer. Was it going to be warm enough? All of this was dancing around the main issue. The color. It’s just a jacket, I kept reminding myself. Part of the reason I’d chosen that color was to get out of my comfort zone, even in this nominal way. It’s good to push boundaries from time to time. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s important to give myself a chance.
I zipped up the jacket and grabbed my keys before I had another chance to talk myself out of it. I got to my office building without incident, but I felt self-conscious, like a fish trying to swim against the school. There is a paradox here. I both want to blend in and be recognized; belong and stand out. (Though as Brene Brown points out, fitting in is not the same as belonging.)
As I walked the long hallway to my office, a co-worker stopped me. Some of us have worked together so long we are pathetically tuned in to the slightest changes in appearance. “Hey, that’s a new jacket! Great color.” Really? I stood a bit straighter. I hung the jacket on the back of my door and thought maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. Later, on leaving for the day, another colleague offered a similar compliment while a third peeked around a filing cabinet. “Yes, I was going to mention that earlier. I like your jacket.”
Suddenly this was the best purchase I’d ever made. I felt confident and savvy. I practically strutted onto the subway for the ride home.
Have your perceptions changed after getting approval (or disapproval) from someone?
Have a great weekend, everyone!