Mind Matters: It's time to release your inner character

I used to work with a guy who was a wild dresser by Australian standards.

Let’s call him Stan.

He would wear to work suits with bright yellow and pink dress shirts, colourful suspenders and multi-coloured sneakers.

Stan, originally from Ireland, moved back there. A woman I know went to visit him. 

As the two walked round Dublin, with Stan in his usual garb, he received frequent catcalls.

The woman did not see anyone dressed like Stan.

I concluded from the story that Stan did not dress as he did because he was Irish but because he was a character. 

I define a character as someone who is outlandish is some unharmful way.

You might call the person eccentric. 

For instance, one of my high school pals attended a 20-year reunion dressed as the female lead in the movie Basic Instinct. That’s the spirit!

In olden times, court jesters were paid to be characters.

They got away with jokes that would lead others to a quick execution. 

A former student of mine once called me eccentric, so I think I have what it takes to be a character.

My way forward involves taking my odd-item collection off my shelves and putting the items to use.

I started by wearing at work a lei I was given by a friend who had visited Hawaii.

My surprised colleagues called out "Aloha" when they saw me.

Some wanted to know what the occasion was.

But a character needs no specific occasion to be different. 

Next I wore at work a white “Captain” hat that I bought on a cruise ship.

I combined the hat with white pants and white shirt. At this point I was on a roll.

But being a character is not as simple as wearing unusual clothes. I need to say or do something unexpected.

I wrote in a prior column about my interest in whistle talking and that I have developed a whistle way of greeting people. Using that greeting may put me in a category all by myself. 

What is it about humans that leads some of us to want to be different?

Is it our awareness that there are over 7 billion other humans roaming the earth? Is it a rebellion against sameness? 

You may have a character in you eager to come out. Think about it.

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England.