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Be Dignified, as a Rule

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Much of what you’ve read on this blog has been written in pajama pants. Writing directly follows meditation in my morning routine, so I’ve often gone right from the cushion to the coffeepot to the desk.

Occasionally life would remind me that there are practical reasons to put on socially acceptable pants before beginning the workday. Someone could knock on the door, for example. But for the most part it seemed like an unnecessary formality that only added friction to the getting-to-work process.

Today I do get properly dressed before going to my desk, because it’s simply more conducive to productivity. Changing into leaving-the-house clothes gives me a “going to work” feeling, which is the kind of feeling you want whenever you’re going to work, even if your office is just across the hall.

Recently I noticed that this effect is stronger the better I dress. Jeans and a pullover are better than PJs and a hoodie. Proper slacks and a button-up shirt are even better. I’m sure an Edwardian waistcoat and tie would generate an even stronger feeling of being a dignified writer getting to work.

I thought it was interesting that this feeling of dignity often follows when you discover a better way to do a thing. Decent pants don’t just inspire a productive mentality, they also elevate the writer’s self-respect. Dusting a shelf after clearing it entirely, rather than by shuffling its contents around, improves the quality of the dusting but also just feels more dignified. Dutifully assembling your tools and ingredients before cooking, a practice known as mise en place, improves the food but also dignifies the cooking process, as well as the person doing it, because you’re no longer scrambling like Ricky Ricardo to find the right spices while your rice boils over.


It only recently occurred to me that it actually works the other way around. Dignity doesn’t follow effectiveness as much as effectiveness follows dignity. We’re more engaged while reading from a beautiful hardcover than from a computer printout, or in a lamplit armchair rather than a plastic patio chair. Wine tastes better out of a spotless wineglass than from a paper cup. Perhaps we should have dignity foremost in mind whenever we do anything, because it’s an intuitive sense we all have, and it points the way to a thing done well.

It might sound like I’m equating my own aesthetic preferences to dignity. I like lamps and armchairs and wine, maybe you don’t. What feels dignified depends on the person, but we can always sense our own dignity, or lack thereof, in how we do a thing, even when nobody else is there to see it.

Dignified doing has always spoken to me, although I haven’t known what to call it. I once wrote a post on Raptitude’s Patreon feed specifically about the dignity of looking up words in a real, paper dictionary — or rather the corrosive indignity of using an ad-riddled online one that you don’t even own.

Exudes purpose

There are dignified and undignified ways to do everything. You might have noticed a subtle difference in how it feels to gently push a jar onto a crowded fridge shelf, forcing the other jars back and to the sides, and how much better it feels to make a space intentionally and then put the jar in it. A little more intentionality, a lot more dignity.

Technology tends to pull us away from this way of being, eroding dignity in the quest for speed, variety, or convenience. I find it more dignified, for example, to listen to music by playing a single album, rather than an AI-generated playlist. Instead of an infinite stream of algorithmically-similar songs, you get a coherent work as its artist intended. I have no vinyl collection, but anyone who does knows there is something spiritually superior about setting an LP onto a turntable rather than thumbing over to the same album on Spotify, sound fidelity aside.

I’m sure some proportion of our modern malaise comes from this sort of technology-induced dignity loss. The more our tools automate once-manual actions, and the more we access them all through the same lifeless touchscreen, the less intentionality and resolve there is behind whatever we’re doing. Maybe some friction and formality is a good thing, because it keeps our values in charge of the action, leaving less to momentum.

Low friction, low dignity

Ultimately it’s a choice though, and the dignified way is there whenever you look for it. I have a folding steamer basket I use almost daily. For a while one of the petals would come off if you held the thing sideways, so I made sure to handle it gingerly and keep it level. Finally I did the dignified thing: I got out a flathead screwdriver, sat down at the table, and carefully re-bent the metal flap that held the loose petal in place. Now it stays. The steaming of vegetables is a little easier of course, but the greater gain was in becoming the person who fixed the thing that needs fixing, and no longer the person oppressed by his faulty steamer basket.

Dignity isn’t only a matter of the tools, clothing, or the method with which you do a thing. It’s in the way of doing: the earnestness, the uprightness, the respect for the task and its doer. I’m endlessly inspired by a particular entry in Marcus Aurelius’s journal, in which he admonishes himself to do everything this way, to “do what comes to hand with a correct and natural dignity,” and to regard this way of being as the only thing the gods require of him.

Dignified to the end

There have been periods, lasting hours or sometimes days, when I’ve settled into this dignified groove of doing one thing at a time, with undivided intention, devoting the whole self to each task, rather than applying just “enough” of the self to deal with it.

The sensation of being in this groove is like a calm version of surfing — you’ve caught a certain exhilarating momentum, you have to make frequent, intuitive adjustments to maintain it, and the roiling sea still surrounds you, but there’s no thought whatsoever of wanting to be anywhere else.


Photos by Remy Loz, Pisit Heng, SGC Design Co

Roy March 27, 2023 at 6:54 pm

This is one reason why I love wearing old-school leather shoes. The thud-clack of the heel and sole as I walk, the joy of using something for 10+ years, and the ritual of cleaning and polishing with a horsehair brush all give that feeling of dignity and self-respect.

Of course, it’s a very small part of life. But I find that taking the time to polish up a pair of shoes bodes well for my productivity and mental health for the rest of the day, and the shoes are a nice reminder of this on my feet.

David Cain March 28, 2023 at 9:25 am

I recently started polishing my boots again, and everywhere I go people remark on them. It’s such a small thing but it stands out as fewer people do it now.

poviha March 31, 2023 at 3:42 pm

This is great news. I’ll tell you honestly, when communicating with people, I always pay attention to their shoes. A person who treats shoes well is a neat and organized person.

Carl Weinkauf May 26, 2023 at 11:36 am

I had a good friend in law school whose father was a professional conman in the 50’s. His dad told him to always keep your shoes polished, because people will trust you. I’m not suggesting using polished shoes to take advantage of people, but it does show that taking care of your shoes has a big impact on how people perceive you.

DiscoveredJoys March 28, 2023 at 2:25 am

A thought provoking article as usual.

When I read that being dignified is being in the groove I’m reminded of other similar approaches to living such as ‘flow’, the Tao, wu wei and even mindfulness.

I wonder if a common theme is the feeling of awareness of cause and effect, satisfying the inherent desire for order. Which would explain why so many digital processes do not satisfy as you cannot observe the intermediate processes playing out.

David Cain March 28, 2023 at 9:27 am

Dignity is closely related to intentionality, which is tied directly to both awareness of what’s happening and to cause and effect. There is definitely something about digital “doing” that obscures both of these things.

greyter April 2, 2023 at 4:53 pm

My classic breakfast is orange juice and hot buttered toast. However, I am one of those people who simply cannot start the day without a cup of coffee. Coffee wakes me up. Often when I drink coffee I get new ideas! I like arabica coffee https://kanubocoffee.com/ . Here I can buy gourmet coffee beans, capsules and blends online to get the perfect cup every time. Arabica is a famous and popular coffee variety in the world. Depending on the location of the harvest and how the coffee is processed, Arabica coffee can open with completely different flavors. Varieties of Arabica coffee are distinguished by a variety of tastes and aromas. Among them, every lover of an invigorating drink can find his own.

Bronnie O March 28, 2023 at 2:45 am

Wonderful, wise, insightful, thought-provoking. Best thing I’ve read in weeks, thank you…

Beth March 28, 2023 at 2:54 am

Ah, this is beautiful, thank you David. Thought provoking and inspiring.

vernetta March 31, 2023 at 3:51 pm

As always an amazing blog. Your words are full of meaning. We are what surrounds us. Our clothes, shoes, interior items – this is everything that you create around you. Accordingly, it shows others who we are. Yes, a lot has changed recently. there are technologies, we began to work online, etc. For a long time I also did not notice everything that was happening around. Last year my life changed and I thought about the meaning of life. And I started from my house. I installed windows and doors whitby https://windowsanddoorswhitby.ca/ to make my house cozier, warmer and safer. My home heating bills have dropped significantly this year. I started to surround myself with beautiful things. I started growing flowers in my house.

Scott March 28, 2023 at 2:55 am

I grew up drinking my morning cranberry juice out of a fancy frosted glass with a gold rim. One day I asked my grandmother where those glasses came from. She told me they had been given to my great-grandparents as a wedding gift. “Then why are we using them? They might get broken.”, I asked. “Oh, we mine as well use them.”, she replied.

And she was right. That world and those glasses are long gone. I really believe my life today is better for using those glasses than if I had drank my cranberry juice in a more mundane container.

David Cain March 28, 2023 at 9:30 am

One thing I left out of this article due to length concerns was the decline in the quality of our manufactured goods. Even within the same socioeconomic class, the quality of household items is lower than it was a few generations ago, and that saps our dignity as well.

Greg March 29, 2023 at 10:37 am

Planned obsolescence. Industry wants it that way, so they can sell more poorly made junk

Sudhir March 28, 2023 at 2:57 am

I like the idea of ‘doing an activity with dignity’ rather than doing it in a ‘mindful’ way. I think this way of doing is more holistic and pragmatic.

David Cain March 28, 2023 at 9:31 am

I agree, and I think dignity leads to mindfulness anyway, because mindfulness is closely tied to an appreciation for reality as it happens.

Shane March 28, 2023 at 1:44 pm

I wonder what extent of overlap you see between what you phrase as “dignity” and the narrator in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance references as “quality.”

Amy March 28, 2023 at 3:04 am

I dressed up a bit the other day just to walk my dog. I felt more confident, stood taller, smiled more. I’m usually pretty sloppy because it’s more comfortable, but the reality is, I felt more comfortable in my presentable clothes than I did in sweats. I lowered my standards at some point and have been LIVING sloppy. I’m tidy and clean, but I’ve had a slipshod attitude that I realized I find unattractive and it reeks of a lack of self-respect. Thanks once again for putting my vague thoughts into words!

David Cain March 28, 2023 at 9:32 am

The great thing is we detect the change in dignity immediately. We all have a sense for it, even though we drift away from it because of cultural and technological trends.

Beth March 28, 2023 at 3:22 am

I read this lying in bed feeling unwell but telling myself I had to push myself through the day. The tone of your piece inspired me to listen properly to my body and “be ill with dignity”! I got up, cancelled all my appointments, made tea and a healthy breakfast, put clean pyjamas on and got back into bed. I’m lucky that I can do this, I know, but it’s time I practice what I preach to others about prioritising health wellbeing. I will rest with dignity and get myself well.

John B March 28, 2023 at 4:36 am

a life well intentioned is a beautiful thing.

Peggy B March 28, 2023 at 6:36 am

Beautifully said

Joe March 28, 2023 at 5:24 am

As someone in recovery I pray in the morning to my Higher Power (the God of my understanding that I DON’T understand -I’m an agnostics that has quit the never ending questioning but that’s a topic for another time) to see me through the day without drinking and then again at night in gratitude for making it. I say these prayers on my knees because a) the drink put me there and b) my prayers do genuinely feel more dignified in that manner. Thank you for this clarifying illumination of my Practice.

David Cain March 28, 2023 at 9:37 am

It seems to me that dignity is an essential element of spiritual practice. Our spiritual aspirations always involve trying to cultivate virtue and renounce vice, and dignity is a real-time sense that keeps on the right side of both of those.

Karen March 28, 2023 at 7:05 pm

Well said Joe. Beautiful words.

Haley Brengartner March 28, 2023 at 5:43 am

I loved this piece; it brought a means and justification for understanding the actions and pursuits of others rather than simply understanding myself better. I’m highly attuned to human behavior but am often left confused trying to figure out why people do things one way or another or in a particular order, perhaps it is because it makes them feel dignified and that is more than enough explanation to ground their preferences. This stance, interesting enough, also pokes many holes in the “life hacks” economy, not only is there dignity in a slower more intentional being, there is also not one way of doing things that will satisfy one’s need to feel proud and noble in their actions.

Pat March 28, 2023 at 6:32 am

There is a beauty and a flow in taking one thing at a time, in a dignified way. Sometimes at Christmas, it’s just my husband and myself, and we set a beautiful table and have a special, gourmet meal together in our sunroom. Just recently, thanks to a nephew of mine, I have begun using a fountain pen, and not just sticking a cartridge in but actually filling it by sticking it into a bottle of ink. He and I write letters to one another using our fountain pens. He always explains to me which pen he’s using and the color of the ink. I find this habit enchanting! Every time I take a hot shower, I focus on the feel of the water on my skin and pray for those who haven’t such a luxury. In my younger days, I was constantly multitasking and trying to get as much done in a day as possible. That was my feeling of accomplishment taking over. But today, nearly 70, I have begun cherishing the little things that give me a sense of beauty, clear-headedness, and joy. This is how I capture the feeling of dignity.

Dan March 28, 2023 at 3:23 pm

I love this. What is life but enjoying the small things? And we do this best when we take these actions with dignity.

Rocky March 28, 2023 at 7:38 am

“Do what comes to hand with a correct and natural dignity,”
I too found this inspiring! I’ve always been impressed with people who carried themselves in this manner. This dignity radiates outward as well as inward…. And we wouldn’t want to disappoint the Gods now would we David? Gracias !

Ryan Sutter March 28, 2023 at 7:50 am

This is a post that really speaks to me and elucidates something that I have been trying to wrap my head around for some time now. Thank you for putting it into words. I’ve been feeling for years that there is something substantively different, legitimately lost, in the way we all tend to live these days. All art, music, and literature reduced to “content”, so much of what we do mediated through these little smart devices, even our relationships. The word for it is undignified and striving to be dignified seems like a very rational response. For a few years now I have been reintegrating allegedly obsolete technologies back into my life. I have reacquired vinyl records, bought a dictionary, started taking film photos again, started writing with a typewriter or fountain pen, and started preferring phone calls with actual human speech over texting and email. This has been kind of confusing for me because I feel no particular nostalgia for these things, I’m a very tech-forward person who has always been an early technology adopter, I am no luddite. It is just that I can no longer stand the indignities of being tracked and targetted and pinged, having my real world attention disrupted by texts, notifications, pop-ups, and trivial distractions. I want to feel intentional, focused, and present. I want to accomplish creative work and have a sense of satisfaction. I don’t want to be harassed by my own devices, I don’t want to be constantly hounded by advertisers who see me as nothing more than a potential revenue stream. There’s no dignity in that, or the endless social media scroll or the vapid consumption of endless streams of videos or songs. Dignity really is the key. Well said, sir, well said. Thank you.

Sebastian March 28, 2023 at 8:56 am

I feel this response might have been my own — I’ve been on the same path (my newly acquired 1958 Olympia SM3 manual typewriter is sitting beside me as I write this; my fountain pens are to the left of me; my vinyl collection is in the next room over, a room devoted to listening to music). Well said to you, sir, in turn!

David Cain March 28, 2023 at 9:43 am

I think maybe the people who are most into techology might be the ones feeling this most acutely, because they’re the ones taken farthest afield by it. The general thrust of consumer technology over the past generation has been towards convienience and stimulation, which pretty much directly oppose intentionality, presence, and creativity. They are stultifying. We’ve drifted so far down that road that it’s becoming more obvious what’s missing.

Red March 28, 2023 at 8:04 am

This is an interesting perspective. Similarly, I pay attention to the small things, but I view this attention as care that I’m taking, not only for the benefit of possible guests (of which I have few) but for myself. Recognizing a tendency to neglect myself years ago, I made the decision to treat myself as I would a guest in my home. I make efforts to keep my space presentable, fix what needs fixing, and tend to my needs as I would a guest. And it’s been beneficial, as you describe.

David Cain March 28, 2023 at 9:45 am

I like this heuristic. There’s something odd about our moral norms when we treat ourselves like we don’t deserve the basic consideration we would afford to guests.

Jasmine March 28, 2023 at 8:39 am

“…but the greater gain was in becoming the person who fixed the thing that needs fixing,” resonated with me deeply. This is the energy I channel to make even the smallest inconveniences around my household nervous! =)
Thank you, as always, for sharing your mind with us.

Holly March 28, 2023 at 8:40 am

Love this. You might enjoy, if you haven’t already, Robert Pirsig’s work, especially Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He talks about excellence in much the same way you speak of dignity. I’ve tried to live by this idea my whole life but I’ve never seen anyone else address it until I read your post. Thank you.

oneWEIRDword March 28, 2023 at 9:00 am

Yes! For me, it’s making tea in a teapot. Drinking the tea from a china cup and saucer (so easily available in thrift shops).
Definitely agree about getting dressed. I try for business casual, as if I could get called into the office today (it could happen!).
Good stuff in the comment too, as always.

David Cain March 28, 2023 at 9:46 am

The cup and saucer is a potent symbol of dignity

Kerry Joan March 28, 2023 at 9:22 am

Hi David
Thanks for another thoughtful post.
The clothing I wear definitely effects my mood. If I wear pajamas all day long, I feel bad about myself at the end of the day. Like I didn’t try hard enough.
And don’t forget to make your bed every morning!

Alice March 28, 2023 at 9:30 am

I thought of Konmari when I read this. Yes, it’s just another fad to some people, but put in the context of dignity, imagine the dignity of a drawer full of folded, upright underwear vs. an underwear drawer where it’s just a big mess and you can barely get the drawer shut. You pointed at this when you talked about the fridge and the steamer basket, but imagine consciously treating everything with dignity including inanimate objects. With the Shintoism of Konmari, one goes so far as to imagine the steamer basket itself benefiting from the dignity of being repaired and appreciated, which I know is a bridge too far for a lot of people, but I’ve wondered if we benefit in more subtle ways from projecting dignity into the world on as many levels as possible.

Dave Robinson March 28, 2023 at 9:57 am

I’ve read this essay three times. It nails something quite important in this age. The choice of the word “dignity” to express the core concept was interesting. David, did you consider and reject alternative words? Thank you for your work. I’m super choosy about my reading time but have always felt your work warrants the reading commitment.

Fiona March 28, 2023 at 10:27 am

A friend’s father recently passed. She told me how they gave him a haircut in hospice and how handsome he looked, and at least seemed to feel better. It reminded me of the same stage of my own father’s passing. He was unconscious, but a kind nurse gave him a shave and tidied him up. It was the kindest thing and I knew he appreciated it.

Brian March 28, 2023 at 10:44 am

Ah yes. Handwritten thank you notes (with a fountain pen, Pat!), stamped and mailed, instead of email (feh)–or worse, nothing. Getting dressed for a flight instead of shorts and flipflops. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been upgraded when I fly–like to first class on a flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver. Priceless. I’m a family physician and I always dress the part, often with a tie. I think I’m a better doc, more diligent, and patients have more confidence in what I tell them. I also train docs. My style advice to them is “Dress the way your mother’s doctor would have dressed” (although now that I’m over 70 I usually invoke their grandmother!).

Dinwar March 28, 2023 at 11:14 am

I remember in a HAZWOPER refresher we were looking at photos of laborers at the Empire State Building. We’re a bunch of scientists and engineers–the folks who are managing large projects–and the laborers in the photo dressed better than most of us in the meeting.

It’s worth asking what constitutes dignity. Clothing is very culturally dependent, for example. Jeans are undignified because we’ve all accepted that they are; there’s nothing intrinsic about them that makes them undignified, it’s merely a cultural norm. In some contexts, such as construction sites, jeans ARE dignified–you wear them because they’re durable and protect your body, and it shows you’re competent and able to do the work. Wearing pajamas all day may be undignified–but if you’re spending a cold, rainy day inside playing with your kids, who are also in pajamas, it can set the proper tone.

David Cain March 28, 2023 at 3:01 pm

Definitely. What’s dignified depends on the context. I suspect that our sense of what’s dignified arises from a well-tuned evolutionary sensibility. We are able to intuit an idea of how our current dress, posture, countenance, and way of being is likely to be evaluated by peers. But even when there’s no peers we still have this same sensibility operating, and we evaluate ourselves by it.

Dinwar March 28, 2023 at 5:22 pm

It’s communication, largely. Most communication is nonverbal, and clothing is part of it. What we wear, for example, says something about who we are in that particular situation.

Dignity in this context, I think, consists of communicating intentionally. if you default to the cultural costume of wherever you are, you’re not saying anything in particular; jeans and a t-shirt in the USA says “I’m an American” but so does your presence so it doesn’t add anything. Dressing nicely says “I’m of X status, doing Y thing, and I want everyone to know it.” For example, when I wear a button-down shirt on a jobsite I’m saying “I’m Management, and I’m here to oversee this work.” If I wear a t-shirt I’m saying “I’m a grunt, here to do the work.”

This works when you’re alone for the same reason that writing down your goals, or saying them out loud, does: you’ve made a commitment, you’ve taken a step in that direction. Since you’ve already made a small commitment, it’s easier to make another.

Sharon March 28, 2023 at 11:35 am

Couldn’t have been better timed, David. It’s spring and that’s when I tend to go a bit nuts – off the rail – starting too many seedlings etc. Self-diagnosed ADHD and must have farmer genes. If I don’t have some household help to clean and tidy, as well as my large wildish garden (and I am 74)…well, I need help and that’s OK. This time of year there is laundry half put away, etc. etc. and my dining room table (seldom used for dining) is stacked with books and other stuff. House built in 1927 and in those days, folks didn’t have much “stuff” so, in my defence, there is little storage.

Bought a navy blue trench coat yesterday. Put it on and felt immediately dignified. Thank you thank you again. I also love many of the comments. Wish I could get to know some of the people who read your writing.

Dani March 28, 2023 at 12:41 pm

Great and timely post as usual :)
Today I immersed myself in a beautiful little book (Tin Man by Winman), coffee, sun, balcony, book, the perfect quartett. The moment I put it down, the revenge itch to watch trash TV set in. But the Housewives of Beverly Hills inspired me to dress for the life I want ;) I unpacked the dishwasher within 2 minutes and did all the things I needed to do in a conscious focused and stylish manner, which felt right and relieving. I even patiently stayed in a hotline for 30 minutes and solved an issue.
Then I read your reaffirming observations! Thank you, David!!

Nick Kowalski March 28, 2023 at 12:56 pm

This essay brings to mind the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. I believe this is what Robert Pirsig calls “Quality”. Thanks.

David Cain March 28, 2023 at 3:03 pm

I will give this one another shot. He lost me at some point, but it was a decade ago when I tried to read it.

sharon March 31, 2023 at 8:10 pm

Yes David – I read that book (many years ago…) and it was great for a while then….I stopped getting it. Anyhow glad I’m not the only one…

Sujata March 28, 2023 at 8:17 pm

Very interesting an unusual post. Love it and agree with it. ( although am guilty of doing lot of work in PJs too )

“Honour the process” – an instruction by an Indian Guru.

Rich Keating March 28, 2023 at 9:46 pm

I used to think that dressing more formally was pretentious and a burden, but required for some jobs and situations. I avoided ties like the plague. Then I took a job teaching at a very formal British style international school and started wearing ties, and even a jacket! At first it was a burden, but I learned to appreciate dressing carefully and with some thought. Dressing formally changed the way I felt, and I believe it also changes how people deal with me.

Dean Wilson March 29, 2023 at 8:17 am

I am 70 years old, have carried much wisdom imparted to me by my father. One of the most relevant, and for some reason controversial, “you can always tell a man (person) by his shoes and the company he (she) keeps.

Ed March 29, 2023 at 9:30 am

Thoroughly clean up the interior and wash and dry your dirty car. Take it for a spin around the block. For some inexplicable reason it always just seems to “drive” a bit better.

David March 29, 2023 at 10:27 am

Yes! Anyone familiar with the show “Downtown Abbey” or have read the book, “The Remains of the Day”, should be familiar with importance of dignity.

Paulina March 29, 2023 at 11:27 am

As always great writing. I follow a small group of great writers but not much time left to read in a day sometimes. Unfortunately I end up deleting many of their work when I get to the first line but yours are always a must. You always nail the moment – your lines are like taking a trip with you, profound. Thanks so much

Charles March 29, 2023 at 11:42 am

Regarding polished shoes; when in the U.S. Air Force at a time when shoes/boots were “spit polished,” although spit was never used, I continued to wear polished shoes after military service. Later on in years, when I was in a position to interview prospective employees, I always managed to look at their shoes. If their shoes were polished, to me it was a sign they were people of integrity and perseverance and cared for their appearance. After employing several of those I interviewed, they proved to be great employees!

Elizabeth March 29, 2023 at 11:45 am

I really appreciated this article. You describe something I’ve sensed, but could only describe as elevated living. Although I’m semi-retired and the pandemic has resulted in my no longer going out much, I recently committed to “pulling myself together” – hair, makeup, outfit – just to be at home. I find I recognize the woman looking back at me in the mirror, and I’m more inclined to want things around me to “come up to my level.” A little formality makes me feel like I’m truly living and not just getting through the day.

Thomas March 29, 2023 at 12:07 pm

This writer has hit upon an essential skill in living. Call me old or old fashioned, but you feel better when you show self-respect. I know everyone can’t do this, but when you become unemployed, the LAST place you want to go is to the unemployment office. Instead, go to the barber or hairdresser, then the dry cleaners or laundry, then get your clothes and lunch ready for the next day. The next day, dress up and leave your house as if you are going to work and look for a job. Regarding jobs, you may not be able to replace your previous one quickly; flip burgers if you have to. I have done this (and I have two Masters degrees); it works every time!

Keith H March 29, 2023 at 1:21 pm

What you describe in your final paragraph is very closely related to a practical version of Zen that R.H. Blyth describes in several works, but most prominently in the first chapter of “Zen in English Literature”.


Khuong Pham March 29, 2023 at 2:33 pm

Beautifully written. One of my favorite bosses through the years had this as her motivational quote: “ Everything you do is a signature of yourself, so sign it with STYLE!”

Ed Gatza March 29, 2023 at 7:53 pm

This is a quality post. Thank you. Two old bromides quickly come to my 80-year-old brain: “Anything worth doing is worth doing well,” and “Pay attention to detail.”

Trisha Scott March 29, 2023 at 9:48 pm

This is reminiscent of the British dressing for dinner in the wilds of The Colonies. It’s a thing. I once lived with friends who “dressed for dinner” on occasion and it made it more of an occasion. I have been known to spend hundreds of dollars on vinyl records, crystal goblets, and fine china. I’ve spent time dressing for success and watching all those around me treat me with unearned respect because of that dress code. I get it. But now I get that while all that is nice, it’s obscene. Better the fire you build with skill, the iron skillet, the tin mug, and sturdy clothes to live and sleep in. I now live in a middle space with hot and cold running water, four walls, and a roof, not to mention the myriad conveniences we take for granted here in what was once “The Colonies”, but I have the greatest respect for myself when I do more with less. Dignity less the role-playing.

Sharon Hanna March 31, 2023 at 8:14 pm

WOW Trisha Scott. Amazing – you are (?) the only person who had this response. I think though what David was pointing to was more about his fixing the steamer rather than letting it be fucked up. I think so anyhow. And feeling maybe more ‘grown up. But I love what you said.

Trisha Scott April 1, 2023 at 12:06 pm

Ha! Yes, fixing the steamer. That fits nicely with doing more with less, valuing what you have, and paying attention. I know David has shared a lot on those subjects too. Here he framed it differently. Maybe I just prefer another frame. I find dignity and things like joy come from the inside out, not the outside in. Still, there is truth and value in the “fake it till you make it” philosophy. Sorry, I find words can seldom express what it is we actually long to communicate. Happily for us, David is pretty good at it.

meenakshi April 2, 2023 at 10:40 am

Great post. Thanks for your thoughts.

Author Jennifer L. Scott, too, talks about dignity in all aspects of life. It is one of the important principles covered in her YouTube channel and blog. (https://dailyconnoisseur.blogspot.com/). Interesting content.

Mrs.B April 16, 2023 at 4:28 pm

Thank you for your post. I agree that things just go better when we add some dignity to our lives. I also think it behoves us, as humans, to add dignity to the lives of others. I have a beautiful, smart child who suffers from mental illness. Although this child did manage to finish a university degree, she suffers from acute social anxiety which makes most day to day interactions with the outside world seem impossible to her. Many well-meaning friends and relatives chastise me for not “laying down the law” to her and making her come home and live in our basement. She is safe and comfortable where she is. She can manage, albeit just barely. Yes, I have to help her. Yes, this a huge burden for me. But I do it willingly to afford her the dignity she deserves as the kindest, most loving human I have ever had the pleasure of meeting in my 60-plus years. And I know that out of 3 children who might have to take care of ME in my senior years, she will be the only one who will volunteer and who will treat me with dignity. It goes both ways.

Ashish May 3, 2023 at 6:41 am

this is wonderful.

Nicci June 9, 2023 at 5:24 pm

I’m reminded of another one of your posts (I believe it was you!) where you describe society as not being materialistic enough… In the sense of not taking care of the things we have, and respecting our environments enough to repair rather than replace. Great article.

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