Be it good or bad - I've hardly ever cared about how I appear to people.
Don't get me wrong - I'll be the first person to ask whether I've offended anyone and I willingly apologize when I think I'm wrong (and a great many times, even when I don't think I'm wrong - when it comes to the people I love) but I've never cared about how I physically
appear to people.
And that's pretty strange considering I'm Kelantanese and it's in-built in Kelantanese men to be as shallow as the next man, if not more. Regardless of how much I try to convince other people and myself that I'm not that shallow - but the evidence would work against me, I think. People would think that I expect my partner to be attractive - and maybe they're right.
But the expectation does not extend to myself, somehow. I've never really bothered about keeping up appearances - of attractiveness, of wealth, or to evidence some form of stature, class or breeding.
Yes, I think that manners and humility are pre-requisites to show good breeding but everything else is a bogus indicator - money, big cars, qualifications, fashion, glamour, lineage, cultural snobbery, jingoistic behaviour, displays of overt religiosity or on the flipside, crass and hedonistic libertarianism, ala Western style.
I've always believed in keeping it real. I grew up rejecting Mum's materialistic fervour - we were not from a rich family, but we were far from poor - because I always felt that there was something unreal about the rich families that we hung around with (some of which were my aunties, uncles and cousins) - something pretentious and insecure and constantly asking for "more", in a material sense.
The extravagance seemed fake to me - I was surrounded by people who measured other people by how much money they had. I was repulsed by it - by how status was defined by what you have, instead of who you are.
People seemed to prefer the illusion of stature than the substance of class. People who seemed clever by their collection of academic and professional scrolls, but are short-sighted and almost always, emotionally or socially retarded. Or sometimes, just plain bad.
I grew up rejecting crass materialism and blind class-consciousness - because I thought it was fake. They didn't seem to have an identity - they were defined by anything and everything that money could buy.
Why should someone respect you just because you have more money? A bigger house? More posh cars than drivers, in the family? Isn't the real measure of wealth more of how a person utilizes that money to contribute and give to others? Isn't the measure of class, how you treat other people - how polite you are? How humble you are? How intelligent or wise you are?
There are loads of people out there living beyond their means on a credit binge - they've got more clothes and cars, than money and they're crippled by debt overhangs. But many people would see the manifestation of wealth - and think they're rich.
(I should know - my brother's exactly like that. Lebih baju dari badan
- and most of the time, the extra cloth will come at someone else's expense)
It never made any sense to me - although I see droves of people who live their lives by ostentation and a material yardstick. So, I rejected it.
Of course, one has to be true to oneself. That's the easy part. The hard part about being true to oneself is when the principles you live by, are not understood by others. And it affects how they treat and perceive you.
I used to think that it didn't matter. If people judge a book purely by its cover - then they're not very intelligent people and there's nothing to lose by not keeping their company.
But maybe it does matter.
Maybe you can't entirely reject the values revered by your society - simply because they have no other lenses, to look at it from. Just because I decided to be different - doesn't mean that they will understand - or accept it.
No man is an island. All our actions and consequences are inter-related.
I've always been an avid observer and thinker of cause and consequence - constantly trying to understand why people (or society for that matter) are, the way they are.
Everyone is a product of inter-relationships - with family and loved ones, with friends, colleagues, etc - and the experiences that have arisen from them. The only thing that differentiates us, is how we let events (or the people) that happen to us, shape our lives, perceptions and outlook.
And recently, I found out that sometimes, things that we don't care about - may actually come back and haunt us.
For one, I've never cared whether I appeared to have money, to other people. It's a personal matter and none of their business.
Even if I out-earned them, or if I had more savings and investments than them, I had more assets and less debts than they do and even times of big fat salaries or bonuses - I have never let it shape, how I appear to other people.
And where I can financially help, I have helped - to both the deserving, the undeserving and the ingrates.
But I want people to like me for what's inside - for the person that I am, for my interests and passions, for my humour and laughter, for how I treat other people, for the advice and counsel I give them, for the non-judgemental listener when they're in a bad spot and for the times that I've been there, when it counts.
These are the things that matter to me. Not for what I wear, what car I drive, how big my house is, how big a corporate my employers are or how many overseas holidays I take a year. What's that got to do with anything?
But I forgot one thing - you don't change the yardstick of the world, just by rejecting it.
Regardless of how you feel about it - people will still judge you by the yardstick which they've always measured everything.
And your rejection of those values - the only perception that it serves to create, is the wrong one. By totally rejecting those values - you put yourself at a handicap, in the eyes of the world. Sometimes, it's more rational to the world to be financially irrational or to just stick to society's norms. Risk being the exception - and in their eyes, you're either a fool or a charlatan.
If you're financially prudent and you time your major purchases to get the best value possible - they think you're poor.
If you give up a high paying job on principles - you can only be stupid, because the alternative is unthinkable to them.
If you're not showy and you don't stay in a posh office because you believe that it's best to be prudent with your organization's monies - they think you're poor. Or worse, a con man, perhaps hiding in some shady corner of officedom.
If you work from a home office, they think you're a bum - despite the fact that work deadlines are being met, projects are running, tangible results are produced and money's being made for the organization.
If you prefer to work for an NGO and have rejected a five-figure salary job 3 times, because you value being effective and not just being a cog in the wheel - you're either a liar or stupid, or both.
If you don't drive and you take public transport - they think you're poor.
If you have 2 condos and don't drive - they think you're either poor, a liar or must be leeching off a rich family or someone else. Forget economic cycles, easy loans and financial management - it's easier to believe the worst, of someone - rather than find a rational explanation.
If you don't dress well, you don't eat at posh places to be seen, you like your T-shirts and slippers and your home doesn't look like an interior designer has been in it - you must be poor.
These are facts, folks - the cover is a very important of the book.
It's the first thing that catches their eye - and without further perusal - it is the only thing that plays on the emotions, persuading purchase.
And if you choose to have a cover that's not mainstream and is rarely understood or accepted - you will pay the price, ultimately.
Most people will never look beyond the cover of the book, to see what's inside. They've judged you from your appearance and that's all they need to know. They've made up their minds about you.
If you choose to be different - prepare to be left a lonely dusty book on the bookshelf of life. And you have no one else to blame, but yourself - because no matter how you explain it, the world will never see it from your perspective.
They don't know how to.
So, stop arguing with the world and sell out on your freaky individualistic tendencies.
If it takes a BMW to get some decent respect out here, then please go get one - even if you can't really afford one (hell, some of my friends do it!).
And never let an idealistic fool like me, convince you otherwise. Forget the book - the people of today buy covers. You're better off just being a glossy magazine.