I found myself in a rather an odd position this week and it wasn’t from yoga. It involved Rob, a video camera and Doby the house-elf from Harry Potter. I’m guessing you’re not sure whether you feel intrigued to know more or are a little scared to read on!
We recently set up a film production company (Rob and I, not the house-elf). As one of the films we are making is a documentary on my daughter’s journey with selective mutism, Rob has been filming us all a lot. Now I don’t mind really. You know, if I’m working from home and Rob is around, hovering in the background with the camera. However, for some reason I become acutely aware of the camera and I begin displaying the characteristics of an awkward fifteen year old boy.
And the more the director, a.k.a. Rob, instructs me to “just be natural”, the more awkward and almost cardboard like I become, with a smile that looks forced. Frustratingly, I know I can enjoy being in front of the camera. I was the star of a mock zombie movie short after all (that’s a different blog, in which I will apologise to my old neighbours).
Anyway, getting back to the point. We have been watching the footage, discussing angles and fade-ins and technical things. At least, we should have been. My first response to Rob’s comments was pretty much “uh huh” because actually, I was busy having a conversation with myself inside my own head at the same time. And that conversation went a little bit like this:
“Why does my face look so serious?”
“You have ‘resting bitch face’, that’s why.”
“Sorry my what’s that now?”
“Your ‘resting bitch face’. You know, your default expression.”
“No, Rob said I had a sad default look, like I am sadabout something.”
“Errr nope. Look, look at the screen, the camera doesn’t lie. That’s what you look like when *starts talking in a sing song voice*you are just working, or watching tv, or driving, or listening to someone or…”
“What the fuuuuuuuuuu….no, stop right there. Never mind that. Let’s talk about this side profile…”
“Oh yes, look, it looks like Doby”
“Doby, the house-elf.”
“From Harry Potter?”
“My side profile reminds you of Doby…the house-elf…with the socks…from Harry Potter?”
I contemplated the similarities between my facial features and those of Doby.
Somewhere during this conversation I must have temporarily traumatised myself. I spent the evening trying to block out what my eyes had witnessed, only to find myself peering in my mini three-way dressing table mirror, studying it in a way I hadn’t for a long time. The two side mirrors are magnified and the whole thing can be tilted.
'Resting bitch face' appears to happen when the mirror is titled facing upwards and my face is looking down. The mirror should win an award. It shows off the ageing process with a precision of epic proportions. Laughter lines, what a fucking cheek. I’m not laughing now when I look into my award-winning mirror on tilt. Tell me this, is there not some kind of irony occurring when laughter lines result in 'resting bitch face', defined as an expression that appears unfriendly or bad-tempered (yes I did look up the definition)?!!
And then Rob, who found the whole thing hilarious, in between trying to get my face constantly at a side-on angle, commented that most A-list celebrities don’t like seeing themselves on camera. That seeing your side profile on film can take some getting used to. It didn’t make me feel better. I secretly googled 'celebrities with ugly side-profiles'. I pondered if my behaviour was healthy at this point, but I decided that as I mostly operate on an even keel, if ugly side-profiled celebrities made me feel better tonight, then so be it.
And it did. Not because they looked particularly ugly, because they didn’t. But they looked average and imperfect. And when I woke up, I told Rob (much to his amusement) about googling the celebrities and I showed him. “See nice photographer making her look stunning, mean photographer making her look shit. Clearly it’s the photographers fault. You need to work on your filming skills ha ha.”
The next morning after my shower, I spent a long time studying my face again in the mirror, pulling skin back, lifting up my eyelids, making funny faces. And then I just looked.
I actually quite like my face. Could it be better, sure. Do I hate it? No. I think I just have moments or a day or two where I really dislike it. And that was when I realised. It seems there are two categories we fall into. And they seem so far removed from each other, one extreme to another. Either we have to be super smiley 100% happy, super confident. Embrace our bodies, our faces, the ageing process. Love the skin we are in.
Or we have to learn how to because not doing that equates to insecurity and ‘insecurity’ is still considered such a dirty word.
But that morning after doing my imaginary facelifts and realising that actually my face is good, that yes I’m getting older and yes there are things happening that I cannot control (unless I get a plastic surgeon on board), I honestly learned the true of meaning of being kind to myself.
Not to lie to everyone that I just love my body and my face in the style of the Lego song “Everything is Awesome” but rather to say “Yes there is room for improvement, some of it I could do myself, some of it I won’t (plastic surgery). And while I am happy on the whole, I have days where the ageing, the tiredness, the laughter lines (wtf…laughter!) do shock me, they do shake my confidence. But that’s okay.
My kindness to myself means I give myself permission to have those days. I give myself permission to be insecure sometimes. I give myself permission not to have to slot into a box. I give myself permission to see that sometimes it’s too hard to try and be perfectly fine about not being perfect. It doesn’t take away from my strengths. Rather I feel it reassures me that I have balance in my mind.
And of course that it is okay to google celebrities looking ugly now and again!