Have you ever looked back on old pictures of yourself only to shake your head at who you were in that moment and the choices you were making then? I’ve been doing just that all morning with some pictures of a party I was at, oh, three years ago.
Something about these pictures has been gnawing at me since my phone started reminding me of the anniversary. Can you guess what it is?
I’m not authentic in these pictures and my essential Gwen-ness is completely missing. I know how to pose for the camera but no matter how pretty the picture is I know that these pictures aren’t telling the truth.
We are all familiar with that old adage that the eyes are the windows of the soul; I find that to be completely accurate.
Look at my eyes: the smile doesn’t reach them. You would never know by looking at these that I spent most of the night crying in the lobby with a couple amazing friends who knew why I was upset and why just being there was killing me. But in the snapshots you see, there’s nothing that would make you think anything was wrong. I didn’t have to think or try when the photographer was near, I just posed and put the convincing lie on, slipping it over my body like I had that dress. I did a damn good job of it too because of the hundreds of people there that night, only a number I could count on one hand saw through my deception.
I find that as much as people are able to control many of their revealing habits and to even distract from their tells, the thing I’ve never seen anyone able to control is their eyes.
Tells, if you’re not aware, are the unconscious things you do that give you away when you’re trying to bluff. I learned what my tells were when I was a child and playing Clue with my brothers; we are all a titch competitive. One brother got tired of losing so he stopped paying attention to the clues and just started paying attention to the rest of us, figuring out each of our tells: the deceptive tells, the all out lying tells, the “I’m smarter than you are and I’ve got you now” tells. I don’t play poker because aside from the fact I’m lousy at it, I know my tells and when I’m in a game I am not good at controlling them.
Have you ever watched one of those professional poker matches on TV? Every one of those players in a hat or sunglasses or other ridiculous disguise is trying to hide their tell. So are the players who constantly fiddle with poker chips, flipping them over their knuckles or mixing a small number of them over and over endlessly.
While you can learn to control and disguise some things to keep your game of deception going, there is one thing you can not control:
Your eyes are an amazing organ capable of conveying micro expressions. Take away the rest of your body and your face, leaving only your eyes, and the skilled people watcher will still be able to read you: your eyelids and eyebrows, your pupils, the corners of your eyes, your cheeks, the tension on the bridge of your nose, and even tiny changes in your iris give you away. While you may be able to hold your nostrils from flaring and purposefully keep your eyebrows low and relaxed (looking), I don’t believe it is possible to consciously stop your brain from releasing different chemicals and firing the neurons that can effect your pupils and iris.
As I have been sitting here contemplating the me from three years ago with the flat, dead looking, smile free eyes and what made them so, I’ve begun to wonder how often we pose a believable lie to the world, a lie so believable even we buy into it, because we have stopped looking within, through that proverbial window, and have focused only on everything else that is seen on the outside.
Have you convinced yourself that you’re perfectly happy and content to work 70 hours a week at the expense of a social or romantic life?
Have you been able to make someone believe you’re happy in your relationship even though inside you feel like it is slowly sucking the life out of you?
Have you been able to put on the “perfect” filter over your life, convincing everyone around you your relationships, your family, your work, your hobbies, and your friendships are all perfect even though you are unfulfilled?
I guess what I’m really asking today is this…
If you looked into your own eyes for a few minutes, contemplating where you are in your life, who you have surrounded yourself with, and what you’ve filled your time with, would you really see a happy, authentic, honest, and fulfilled you?
Or would you find a very convincing lie?
I recently gave a friend a piece of advice that I found I needed as much if not more than he did:
Do something that makes the smile reach your eyes, crinkling the corners, dilating your pupils, and, if you’re like me, bringing the truly happy color back to your irises.
Originally published 10/28/17