FACE it

Willem Dafoe by NicolasGuerin

Willem Dafoe by Nicolas Guerin

“I never act. I simply bring out the real animal that’s in me.” – Willem Dafoe

I absolutely love this portrait by Nicolas Guerin of Willem Dafoe. What a brilliant photographer and what a great subject! That face! It exudes character! It’s one of my favourite faces. When I see that Willem Dafoe is in a film, I’ll watch it, not just for his face, but that is part of it, because he brings so much character to his roles which makes them seem real. And the realness of that character inspires me to be real.

You’d think being real was something easy, natural which everyone does without a thought. However being ourselves is something which is thought about to an extreme degree. There are businesses built upon it which make those who sell us to ourselves very wealthy.

We all learn fairly early on in our lives how to pretend to be different from who we are, and hide who we are because… well, it just seems to bother others when we are ourselves, and it appears to bother them less when we are not ourselves. And them being bothered by us bothers us.

Faces are strange. We have them but we can’t see them. We’re just a pair of floating eyes. With some body parts attached somehow somewhere.

Sure we can look at our faces in a mirror or a photo, but that’s not our face that’s a facsimile of our face.

In a photo it is a frozen moment. That’s not our face. Our face moves all the time, changing expression, perhaps minutely, it is in constant flux. People who think they are expressionless are not no matter how blank they try to make themselves appear. A vacant expression is not vacant. It may briefly appear to be so, and some people are very convincing that they are not there in their body behind their face, but someone is home even if the windows and door is boarded  up.

In a mirror it is a reflection, and it gets plenty reflected onto it. Different types of mirrors give us different views of it. No matter how precise the mirror or how sharp the light, we still never see our face. The reflection is the opposite of us and even if it was us, it is seen through filters of thought and feeling. In some ways how we see ourselves in a mirror gives us a clue as to how others see us. They don’t really see our face either, they see what our face means to them.

We use faces to decide whether we like someone or not before we even get to know them. We judge people based on their face. On how we perceive their face and what that which we see means to us.

There was an advert many years ago which had the tagline – Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. You may have heard that tagline even if you missed the advert. It was silly and many people took the piss out of it. But it wasn’t as silly as it came across.

We do sometimes hate people just because they are beautiful. Or too beautiful. We like beauty, it pleases our aesthetic eye, but someone who has what we consider to be too much of it annoys us, especially if they have the kind of beauty we wish we had. We might even have that kind of beauty, but we can’t see it. And neither can the person whom we are judging as being too beautiful. When very beautiful people say they see themselves as ugly, they are not lying. They may know they are beautiful because they’ve been told it many times by everyone else, they may even catch a glimpse of it in the photos taken of their beautiful face, but do they believe it behind the face?

When someone tells you what you look like to them, it’s odd isn’t it?

Someone once told me I looked like Meryl Streep. They thought they were giving me a compliment because they adored Meryl Streep. I knew they thought it was a compliment, and I was trying to give them a thank you for the compliment face. But shortly after the comparison they apologised. I guess the expression on my face made them regret their words. I guess my true reaction took over the muscles of my face and I lost control of my expression. Or perhaps it was my eyes, they always cause problems for me with other people.

I love my eyes, I especially love being able to see, but I can’t see how they seem to others when they are looking at others and others are looking at them. I do know from the reactions people have to my gaze that my eyes are rather intense and make other people nervous. Stop looking at me like that and variations of that are common things people say to me. I wish I knew what they were seeing me seeing, because usually I’m just staring with not much thought attached to the stare. I don’t blink as often as perhaps I should. Yet if I think about breaking my stare with a blink, I’ll start over-blinking and then they’ll think I’m sending morse code messages.

It’s not that I didn’t think Meryl Streep was attractive, I just didn’t want to have a face like hers. Being compared to someone else, especially when it is couched in terms which imply that your face is a clone of someone else’s can be more of an insult than a compliment, because we would all like to be original. Our face is our logo, our identity, we’d like people to remember it and not just because it reminds them of someone else. But our faces aren’t what define us, it’s our character, and a face with a lot of character is unforgettable.

Who we are, our character, that makes the features of our face ours, because our features are inherited, our character is our own creation, whether we are expressing our real self as is, or pretending to be a modified version of ourselves. It’s still us, it just has more thought applied to it.

Face it, we can’t escape being ourselves even if we can’t see what we look like when we are being us.

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10 thoughts on “FACE it

  1. I adored this. The premise seems simple. All one has to do is “be themselves.” But it’s never that easy. That one passage in particular where you wrote:
    “You’d think being real was something easy, natural which everyone does without a thought. However being ourselves is something which is thought about to an extreme degree. There are businesses built upon it which make those who sell us to ourselves very wealthy.
    We all learn fairly early on in our lives how to pretend to be different from who we are, and hide who we are because… well, it just seems to bother others when we are ourselves, and it appears to bother them less when we are not ourselves. And them being bothered by us bothers us.
    Faces are strange. We have them but we can’t see them. We’re just a pair of floating eyes. With some body parts attached somehow somewhere.
    Sure we can look at our faces in a mirror or a photo, but that’s not our face that’s a facsimile of our face.”

    This spoke to me the most. My friend recently mentioned the oddity in the fact that we will never actually see our face. We will only have our own biased impressions of it, and stills of it from one moment in time. I really liked how you articulated that even when we are trying not to be ourselves, even when we are projecting someone else, our face betrays us.
    I have unquestionably experienced discomfort with who I am in the past. I’m sure at some point. But now, as a freshman in college I’m more secure in who I am than I’ve ever been. It’s a very good feeling. Even if everything else is a bit of a mess, I have confidence and awareness about myself. It’s very anchoring. Thank you for posting this. It was a good read.

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    1. Thank you very much!

      One of the things which I love about the internet and social media is the fact that we can choose anything we want as our internet ‘face’. And we can change it according to what sort of social media we are using. Okay I use the same image for all my social media outlets, but that was a logical choice based on previously using a different image for each one. I was confusing myself. I also use my own face which I didn’t before. I know why I do it, it’s a challenge to myself and I love challenging myself, but it does make me wonder, apart from the anonymous element, if when we choose an image which isn’t our actual face, if that image to us is our actual face? I mean who says our true face has to be a face?

      The confidence which you now have in yourself will grow. It will also get knocked about a bit by experience, but confidence is a muscle and it likes a good workout. As you get older, the confidence becomes richer in quality and will be located deeper inside. Everything else will probably always be a bit of a mess, a tidy life is really very dull. Chaos is fun once you stop thinking of it as chaos 😉

      Self awareness is brilliant as long as it remains flexible and open to change.

      Good luck with college, it’s a wild experience! Enjoy the ride!

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  2. Now that you mention it, I haven’t been myself around anyone except myself…and even then, not always. Of my 42 years, I have been a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife, a lover, a friend, a colleague, a leader, a follower, and more…It’s not that I haven’t been genuine, but when we learn people, we learn what they like and don’t like, and therefore, usually act accordingly. I wish I could just go off alone to a cottage in a meadow, near a body of water, with nothing but books by my favorite authors, a stash of nice wines, paper, and my writing pen…I think then, I could finally learn more about who I really am.

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    1. If you think about it though, people are doing the same with us, they know what we like and don’t like, or what they think we like and don’t like, and adjust to it. Now if we are not letting our real likes and dislikes be expressed, what are other people giving us? Are we all just pleasing each other but not pleasing each other because no one is saying what they truly would like just what we think others would like us to like to please them so they will like us? Confused? That’s relationships for you 😉

      One thought about the dream retreat… if you’re taking books with you, you’re taking people with you, and you will be infused and influenced by those people, by the thoughts and feelings of the authors of those books. So you won’t be alone.

      Have you ever noticed that the style of an author whose work you are reading affects the style of how you write while you are reading their work? And it changes when you change authors? To truly find your writing voice, your own true inner voice, you have to quieten the voices of others, especially if you are empathically inclined.

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        1. Thank you. Haha! I would make an atrocious coach. I’m an introvert, so I tend to sit back and observe, then I bluntly offer the results of my observations, which is often followed by an awkward silence 😉

          Speaking of introverts. I did a Google search after reading your post on INFJs and the connection with Narcissists and ended up on an MBTI forum. INFJs discussing NPD. So then I checked out my MBTI – INTP – and Narcissists. There was also a thread with INTPs discussing NPD. Comparing the two made me chuckle. The INFJs were discussing it from a very personal experience point of view. How they felt and how it affected them, mostly from inside, feelings and emotions. The INTPs were breaking it down logically, seeing it from an external, detached, intellectual perspective. Fascinating. Both threads were trying to decide if there was an MBTI predisposed to having NPD rather than attracting Narcissists. Both agreed that there was not. Which reminded me of a site I came across a while ago which linked disorders with MBTI.

          Anyway, I think you could expand on your original idea, see where it leads. There are a lot of people who are very interested in both MBTI and NPD. NPD is trending and MBTI is always popular.

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          1. I can definitely see your “Perceiving” trait. In fact, I’m glad we’ve connected because you’ve given me several new outlooks on various subjects and concepts.

            I’d be interested in knowing if INTPs are affected by Narcissists differently than INFJs, and what their thoughts are regarding Narc origins and behaviors. Good topics for research. I’ll put that on my to-do list , thanks.

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