Planning for the Virtue of Beauty: #2 Presence

Planning for the Virtue of Beauty: #2 Presence
A small collage of photos of Alexandria planning for presence
Some of the Many Faces of Alexandria

Before we get to planning for presence, let’s do a quick recap. We’ve agreed to overcome our heritage and live in the light and loveliness and magnificent splendour of the pursuit of excellence.  We’re calling it Project Worthwhile Life, and starting with a 12-month programme to develop some virtues.  In this instance, the virtue of beauty: the pursuit of excellence in aesthetics, and we’ll be working on the areas shown below:


I take care of my physical well-being and surroundings.

I live the authentic me.

bodyTaking care of my body: diet, exercise, taking my medicines
presenceDeveloping a “look” or style that indicates who I am, e.g. tiger stripes telling people to tread carefully!
homeCreating a comfortable, happy, cheerful, welcoming and calm home that reflects who we are right now
gardenConstructing a lush garden for summer shade, winter storm protection, food production and mystical defence

My last post dealt with body, and today we’ll be looking at presence.

planning for presence

As I mentioned in flourishing, this comes via the notion of command presence.  As Sassinak1 explains it:

“the room was empty except for this little old lady in the corner, looked like the kind of retirement-age warrant officers that swarmed all around the Academy, doing various jobs no one ever explained… Then this little old lady gets up. Nobody saw that; we figured she was taking roll. Walks around to the front, and we thought maybe she was going to tell us the Admiral was late or not coming… not one of us saw her stars until she wanted us to, when she changed right there in front of us without moving a muscle. Didn’t say a word. Didn’t have to. We were out of our seats and saluting before we realized what had happened… she gave us a big bright smile, and said ‘That, ladies, was a demonstration of command presence.’ And then she walked out, while we were still breathless…  She said it all: it’s not your size or your looks or your strength or how loud you can yell—it’s something else, inside, and if you don’t have that, no amount of size, strength, beauty, or bellowing will do instead.”

I deduce that this something else inside is the authentic self that so many of us try to hide. And we do that by following the herd and trying to fit in rather than simply being who we are. We wear the “right” clothes and we say the “right” things, but inside we are Anne Robinson thinking “You are the weakest link – goodbye.” Or is that just me?

So this authentic self is initially observed through personal presentation; through our clothes, hair and makeup. People look at us and make assumptions about who we are, and they allocate us a sort of social value that determines how much thought and effort they will put into us.

And then we speak or act, and sometimes that clashes with what we look like. The stereotypical blonde bimbo/gym junkie who is well informed with strong political opinions perhaps. Or the bohemian in flowing skirts and tops who is acerbic and critical. The Personal Assistant that dresses better than the person they work for, or on the other side of the equation an undiscovered Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg.

I’ll tell you a secret – I reread the book around about this time last year, so I have been thinking about this for while already. Poor Katy – I’ve driven her mad with my ruminations on this!

For me it starts from dropping two dress sizes through the transplant. I was packing my clothes to donate to charity and I realised I had thousands of dollars’ worth of brand new unworn clothing…

And I thought I had to replace every single piece, so I bought replacements without a plan (or clue) and within a year I had discarded almost two-thirds of that; thousands of dollars of slightly worn clothing for charity…

And then Aunty Kate bought me a new “wardrobe” – 12 items of clothing, yet not one matched another let alone formed a cohesive wardrobe.

I thought there had to be a better way, so I thought about my presence and how people were reacting to me, and I gave myself some guidelines:

  • a budget (5% of income) to cover clothing, accessories, makeup and alterations
  • a colour palette (black, white, red, blue) so all my clothes would match each other and I could randomly pull clothes from my wardrobe and they would look fine together
  • my clothes should be wearable throughout the year (I live in a relatively mild climate)
  • wear classic styles so each item could be worn in different contexts and at different occasions.
  • good quality clothes (and accessories) in woven fabrics made from natural fibres
  • a replacement schedule

So, my goal for this area, is to stick to the guidelines and continue to build a practical and workable wardrobe that reflects who I am.

PS: My shopping spree and loud dressing were fun (sort of) and I would encourage anyone in a similar situation ([re]discovering who they are) to give themselves permission to go a bit nuts too, but to set a firm limit on how much they can spend.

Next time, we’ll look at beauty in the home.

  1. Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Moon (and/or Jody Lynn Nye depending on whether you believe the cover page or title page), Generation Warriors, book five of the Planet Pirates Series 

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