For all who know me well and those who have followed Revolutionary Paideia, you know I really don’t care too much for vain people. Too many people are all about being flashy in appearance and style, but lack true substance emotionally, intellectually, physically, professionally, and socially. It’s all about image for these people. They are too consumed with the spectacle (see Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle to gain an even better understanding of what I’m saying). While the spectacle may be entertaining and give you some instant gratification, the entertainment and gratification is ephemeral. Some of you try to act like you are so confident, act like you have it all together, act like you are a trendsetter, act like you are rich, and pretend like you are so attractive. When you are alone, however, you get an opportunity to reflect on just how unhappy you are and the reality of your low self-esteem or self-esteem problems rise to the surface. I constantly advocate for people to be themselves and not fusions of multiple people and identities.
In no way am I saying that having swag is not useful—it’s useful! You just have to know how to have more than just swag. Make sure that your swag is real too and not just a false image you are presenting. If you know that you don’t have the type of clothing in your closet you are claiming you have, then don’t lie about it. If you know you don’t have the money to wear the type of clothes, drive the type of car, live in the type of house, attend the type of school, and eat at the type of restaurants you do or claim, then just be comfortable in your spirit with what is within your means until you are able to afford those things. Don’t commodify and reify yourself. Some people have metaphorically turned themselves into things instead of the human beings they are. Resist embracing the image and favor substance.
When you have substance, you will find that you don’t need all of that attention you are seeking. You will find that attention will just naturally come to you. You will find that you will not have to let people know things about you and what you have—they will just know.
Some people want to be all that but they are not willing to do the work to be all that. If you are not willing to do the work necessary to be all that, then realize that being all that is not for you. Place your values in substance. Substance will fulfill, sustain, empower, comfort, and reward you.
At the end of the day, you simply have to love yourself. Love just being yourself. There’s absolutely no one like you, so you should be happy and fulfilled by this reality. When you realize that being yourself is already swag, style, and show, then you will be able to convert your swag, style, and show into substance. Don’t rob yourself of substance and don’t allow others and society to rob you of substance.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison