Facing Reality

My employer keeps an archive of portraits of all employees for identification and promotional purposes. They recently decided it was time for all portraits to be updated. It's been 10 or more years since mine was originally taken so I suppose it was time.

When my turn approached, I took a seat in front of the backdrop and presented my forced smile. There isn't a more unnatural feeling for me than smiling for the camera. The photographer took about a half dozen shots with my head at various angles. When done, he motioned me over to the laptop the camera was connected to so I could view the results. When the first image was called up I was quite literally taken aback. I immediately and inadvertently verbalized my thought by saying, "Oh god." I was stunned at the face gazing back at me. It looked tired, aged, droopy, washed out, even contorted in a subtle way. The forced smile looked exactly like a forced smile. The very first shot was the worst. I pleaded with him to delete it. He chuckled not realizing the seriousness from my end. I was in disbelief as to how I become less photogenic as the years pass. Reluctantly, I chose the best of the worst and left the room completely deflated.

That evening I shared the experience with my wife who, of course, completely disagreed with my assessment and dismissed it.

I realize we're all our own worst critics and I probably took it all way too literally, but I can't shake that initial reaction I had to that first image. It struck me hard. This is what everyone sees daily.

I can't speak for most people, but for me, I guess I don't realize how my facial expression appears to others. Whenever I see photos of myself I usually look pretty downtrodden but don't remember feeling THAT downtrodden at the time the photo was taken. I'd like to think I conceal my grief but even an artificial smile can't hide the toll that's been taken. I apparently wear my inner sadness on my face for all to see.