One of the reasons clothes are so important in our society is because it communicates who we are. What matters to us. What we do for work. What we think is important. An officer in uniform is a sign of authority. A socialite in an expensive dress communicates her wealth.
A couple days ago, we were standing on an NYC subway platform. Two police officers came running by, their hands on the nightclubs hanging at their sides. They were dressed in full uniform. More officers came down the stairs, also dressed in uniform. And then a couple of normal looking guys started barking orders. They were undercover and had revealed themselves because of whatever was going on.
Even if it isn’t clothing, there are a ton of ways we try to communicate who we are. And there are even more ways we try to mask it. But in the end, how we dress or what sports team we like or how skilled a laborer we all are fall into a secondary category, when it comes to defining a person.
The main way we show people who we are is by our attitude.
Somewhere deep down we know this. We are afraid of it, so we protect it as much as possible. But we can hardly help feeling how we feel.
There are two ingredients that constitute an attitude. The first is our emotion. Emotions are a reactionary response within us. They are important and valid and need to be expressed. Unfortunately, we do so without the second ingredient.
We too often treat emotions and attitude as the synonyms. But they are not the same thing. You cannot, for the most part, choose the emotions you feel. But you can choose your response to those emotions. The second ingredient is our choice. Emotions are the beginning but the end is our decisions, influenced by the thoughts, beliefs and perspectives that we hold. If we make choices based purely on emotion, we are showing people less than half of who we really are.
Our attitude reveals our values. What is important to us? What is worth fighting for? What are we afraid of? What makes us insecure?
We try so hard to mask our values. We try to cover them up or hide from them. Our values are the soft underbelly of our identity. Exposing them is an act of vulnerability.
We try to hide our attitudes like an undercover cop. But just like those last two guys on the platform, they find their way to the surface. Especially in a crisis. Attitudes bleed through the masks we wear and expose the vulnerability we try so hard to hide.
Try as we might, we cannot push our choices into a cave. We cannot blame others for them. They are us. They belong to each of us. And you may think you’re keeping things under wraps. But the truth is not so easily hidden.
So, what does your attitude say about you? Three things.
First, what you worship. Make no mistake, everyone worships something. Said another way, your attitude reveals what you have decided to give power too. It shows who you serve. Whether your attitude is good or poor doesn’t matter so much (hating an ex-girlfriend and loving her reveal the same thing in this case – you are thinking about her).
Second, your attitude reveals your values. What you decide to speak about and against shows what matters to you. It shows what you long for and what is worth your time, energy, and emotions.
Last, your attitude reveals the way you view yourself. We may rant against the injustices of the world or tell jokes about a story we heard, but really we are deciding what to put forth. What bubbles out of us. Am I a victim or an influencer? Like holding a beach ball underwater, we can keep this at bay for a while, but it always bounces to the surface eventually. And that bounce in our lives is the attitude we adopt. It shows how we think about the relationship between ourselves, the circumstances around us, the people around us, and our ability to influence and be influenced.