Style is a virtue, and any virtue taken too far becomes a vice. There are people who are so obsessed with style and vanity that it negatively impacts their ability to achieve the rest of life’s important goals, but there are also those who are so obsessed with austerity and self-suppression that it affects their lives just as seriously. Humans need to define and express themselves. Our DNA compels us to the same way it compels us to want sex, and just like with sex, too much or too little causes us to go a little crazy and screw up other things in life.
Before you can understand how much style is healthy, you need to understand what style is. That’s a subjective question that everyone has to answer for themselves. I’ll give you my philosophy, and you can use that as a sounding board.
The dictionary defines style as:
- a particular kind, sort, or type, as with reference to form, appearance, or character
- a particular, distinctive, or characteristic mode of action or manner of acting
- 3.a mode of living, as with respect to expense or display.
Anything that has style has a unique set of attributes that all have something in common. You are a unique individual. For the entire gigantic history of the universe, there will only ever be one of you. You’re basically a one-in-infinity phenomenon. You posses a unique set of attributes that all have something in common. That’s something to celebrate, and by nurturing your uniqueness you can make yourself more elegantly unique.
You’re a canvas, a piece of art, a flower that gets to choose its petals. You’re a work to be completed. That’s an opportunity and a responsibility. Abstaining is not an option. If you don’t exercise that instinct, it shuts down, and then you shut down. Prisoners held in solitary confinement, who have all their basic needs met, but no way to define, express or experience themselves, quickly go mad and can even die. Elderly people who are allowed to decorate their rooms live longer than people who don’t have any control over the style of their environment.
Your style is the sum of your identity. It’s your signature on the universe. It’s the expression of who you are. It’s what you probably hope will exist after death. The less of it you have, the less of you there is to exist. The more of you have, the more real you are.
Think of your style as the grain of sand that The Childlike Empress holds in her hand at the end of The Never Ending Story. Your mind is an entire private universe. If you don’t decide what you want to wish for, and then make that wish, then your universe will be empty at worst or a thoughtless imitation of someone else’s at best.
In order to live your life to the fullest, you need to know what you want out of life. In order to know what you want you need to define who you are. Once you have a philosophy and a refined list of likes and dislikes, your internal universe will compel you to project it onto the external world. By consciously defining the external objects in your life such as your clothes, furniture, decorations, vehicle, vocabulary, vocations, behavioral idiosyncrasies and music, you not only validate your existence, but you create a feedback loop to further define your internal universe.
Whether or not you put any effort into defining yourself, your subconscious will do it automatically, but to fully experience the benefits, you need to make a conscious effort yourself. Instead of buying whatever clothes, furniture and decorations are cheapest and quickest to get, sit down and think about what style of objects reflect who you are as a person. Project your mind onto the world by the things you surround yourself with. As you grow and your identity evolves, periodically update your surroundings to match your internal changes.
There could be some higher philosophical or theological value in creating evidence that you exist, but even without that, defining and expressing yourself is the only way to give your life personal meaning. Fulfilling your subjective purpose is the only thing that’s going to make you feel fulfilled or even just have fun. If the nihilists were right, and life really is one big, empty, pointless existential dilemma, the least you can do with your short time here is enjoy yourself. In order to do that to the fullest, you need to explore what’s fun to you. The alternative is to be basic, and a basic life is a life unlived.
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