We all know the saying: “to wear your heart on your sleeve.”
Let us agree that there is a time and a place for this.
Sometimes wearing your heart on your sleeve is admirable and honest, while other times, it’s vulnerable and terrifying.
Sometimes, wearing your heart on your sleeve is unintentional or accidental. Some of us are simply more prone to this “let-your-guard-down” sort of behavior and that’s perfectly respectable.
In my case, I manifest this “let-your-guard-down” sort of behavior through my facial expressions.
There’s not a moment out of the day when someone couldn’t look at me and guess exactly what I’m thinking or what my internal reaction to a situation is.
Many would read this and think that my biggest problem here (or saving grace, depending on how you look at it) is that the game of “poker” will never be for me.
Those of you who thought this would be 110% correct.
If facial expressions could form sentences, mine would equate to paragraphs.
One time, when I was 14, I found myself in physical therapy due to a cracked growth plate and snapped tendons in my right ankle.
Yes, I was involved in sports at the time but this accident was a result of anything but athletics…
I am reluctant to share with you that I received a cracked growth plate and torn tendons because in a moment of fury, I decided to start kicking an air mattress that a friend was trying to hide beneath. At the time, there were a mass number of people in my room and I was quickly becoming overwhelmed.
The friend was hiding because they knew I was getting anxious wanting them out of my space but they insisted on not listening.
I mentioned how my facial expressions reveal my inner thoughts but it seems that my physical response to this situation might have served the same purpose…
I admit, this response was incredibly rash and immature but at the time, I felt that it got my point across. However, my point wasn’t the only thing that was being projected in this moment. As my foot hit the air mattress, my 14-year-old body became an object in motion. I knew a little something about this because as I was learning in science at the time: “a body in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
Before I could complete my projectile curve across the room, my ankle became that unbalanced force and broke my fall (and my growth plate).
Anyways, back to the physical therapy appointment. I was already embarrassed enough about the situation but my mom insisted I share with the doctor the real reason for my injuries. Clearly, she knew that the doctor saw through my lie when I said “I’m not sure what really happened…I tripped and fell down my stairs somehow!”
As I sat on the examination bench with my mom to my right and the doctor towards my feet (holding my right ankle in preparation to be taped) my thoughts grew increasingly more transparent across my face.
The doctor began taking the tape roll and going around and around my ankle in a “figure 8” fashion. As he went around and around the tape got tighter and tighter and my face got redder and redder. My eyebrows furrowed while my nostrils began to flare. This was one of those times when I felt that at any moment, the heat of my breath would warm up enough to become fire and prevent the doctor from wrapping my ankle any tighter.
My mom recounts that I began “glaring holes into him” and “he was clearly getting uncomfortable” as this 14-year-old girl was giving him the same soul-burning stare an infuriated reality T.V. show wife might give to a scripted and disappointing spouse: purposeful, terrifying and full of meaning.
However, in this instance, the meaning I was trying to convey was: “Sir, you’re wrapping my ankle so tightly I think it might explode.”
Nonetheless, my mom made me go outside and wait in the car while she went back and apologized to my physical therapist who was only trying to help me and do his job.
Needless to say, the next appointment was achingly awkward and I left with a very loosely taped ankle and a shattered sense of self that no amount of tightly wound tape could repair.
This instance has always stuck with me (no tape pun intended) because it was one of the first times I realized the fault behind the saying: “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
I suppose in all my years of hearing this advice, I never processed that “having something to say” might also mean what you choose to say with your facial expressions.
After all, were we not raised with the understanding that actions speak louder than words?
I’m here to tell you that they do and occasionally the act of facially expressing yourself is the biggest culprit of them all.