Perhaps this goes without saying, but I find it’s much easier to act kind, strong, and dignified in public if that is also the way I act in private.
Our public selves are not different entities than our private selves; these are merely convenient distinctions.
It is not impossible to be impeccable in public if one has spent the rest of the day being slovenly in private, but it is much more difficult. And I do think it is impossible to be impeccable in public if one makes a regular habit of being slovenly in private.
There are many things that are acceptable and appropriate in private that are not so in public. It’s not that we have to behave exactly the same. But there must be a quality of impeccability even to our “alone time.”
So, for example, if I am staying in all morning on a Saturday to read and drink coffee, it’s fine for me to do this in my casual clothes. No need for Sunday finery. But the clothes should be clean and neat, as should I. I should handle my books with loving care. The house should be in good order, and I should know what time I plan on putting down my books to engage with the rest of the world. Then, when I do, I go into the public world stronger and more placid due to my leisure, rather than dissipated and nervous.
Many people of course do not act impeccable in public or private. It is not even a goal on the radar of many people. But this is not my concern; I can control only my own actions.
Other times I get the sense that certain other people do intend to be sharp and spotless in public (in appearance, in speech, and in behavior), but that they fall short because they are out of practice. Like a teenager forced to wear a suit at a formal event, they appear uncomfortable and unsure of themselves, even as they try to project a respectable exterior. I suspect I can spot these people because I have often been guilty of the same inconsistency myself.
(Of course it is the failings I am most guilty of that make me most annoyed when I see them in others.)
What does it look like? People can be literally shaky (their hands, their knees). Their eyes are shifty and their posture poor. Or for those who master proud posture and “confident” smiles, you can see the insincerity in their eyes. Bad behavior leaves a mark on a person.
Even dressing with dignity gets more natural with time. Many people (men especially) hate formal or dignified dress because they can’t sit well nor stand well in such clothes. They feel they stand out too much, and indeed they do, because others can sense their discomfort. Other people can dress quite formally and still appear totally relaxed — not seeming out-of-place even among the horribly degraded standards of today — because they are relaxed. Clothes do not make a person appear stiff: it is the person himself who does so.
If I don’t think it’s right to curse in public, I shouldn’t curse when I’m alone. Not because I’ll be struck down by lightning for sinful speech, but because man is made from his moments. Mind, speech, spirit and body: all of it matters all of the time.