Do you have a loud face?
This year I was given the most accurate, clear, and correct diagnosis that I’ve ever been given in my whole life. I’ve come to process my feelings around this identification, even coming to accept it. You see, I have a loud face. It is almost humanly impossible for me to hide my feelings, because my face gives me away: every time. Annoyed by something someone says? My face will show you my displeasure. Happy to see someone but want to play it cool? Too bad, my face holds my truth. Sad? Everyone instantly knows. I cannot hide anything. My face simply will not allow it.
I was first told I had a loud face indirectly back in 2016. I had bought myself this cute mood ring and proudly showed it off to one of my bosses at the time exclaiming “now you’ll be able to tell my mood all the time!” to which he replied nonchalantly and without hesitation “that’s just your face”. At the time I thought it was funny and didn’t give it much thought. After all, I’ve always been expressive but I thought I was good at hiding what I really felt, especially at work when things got tough. So I tucked that comment away as a funny story to tell every time I wore the ring, but didn’t take it seriously.
When I joined the team at Altus Assessments in late 2019 I joined a team of kind, compassionate, and feedback driven humans. Altus is a team like no other that I’ve ever worked on. I quickly found people I trusted, valued and connected with. I’ve become friends with many of my coworkers and honestly, truly value their feedback both personally and professionally. Because you know you’ve had coworkers where you say that, but you do not mean it. But at Altus, I’ve found “my” people and I mean it.
One of those people, who I talk to regularly even though we don’t work together super closely, was the one who told me about my condition. It went something like this: “Hey, you know you have a really loud face, right?” like it was something I should have known, like my name. He didn’t mean it in a mean way, he meant it in an agreement sort of way.
Excuse me?!?!? MEEEEEE??!?! I’m calm, cool and collected always. Sure, there was that one time I can think of where everyone knew something was wrong, but that happens to everyone. I do not have a loud face. No sir, not me.
I realized he was really, really, really right when we went into isolation because of COVID-19. Suddenly all our meetings are via video platforms like Google and Zoom. The joy of the video squares: we’re connected, but we also see a lot more of each other in meetings. Gone are the days when we’d be looking at only one or two people directly during a meeting, like whoever was presenting, or the back of your bosses head in front of you. Now, we see everyone with the scroll of a mouse. And so, everyone sees my loud face.
Heard some unsettling or sad news in a meeting? My face shows how I’m feeling about it. Don’t like a statement someone said? Or worse, get called out for doing something right and I want to die of embarrassment? My face shows all of that, in all its video conferencing glory. My slack will ping, someone asking if I’m ok, or my friend with the text: loud face. I cannot hide my inside emotions it seems, my face will not allow it.
And I see myself screaming my emotions back at me. This is the worst part of this realization. It was unsettling in the beginning and I felt ashamed. I would feel the facial change and think “oh no! Who’s seeing my face? Stop reacting!” and try to blend back in (which likely made some difficult emotions harder to disguise). The amount of times in a day that I remind myself of my loud face is likely unbelievable to non-loud faced people. But I have made a conscious effort to control my facial reactions when on camera. And it’s hard. Like really hard. Because now I’m hyper aware of it. Like when you remember your body regulates your breathing, and so then you suddenly become aware that you can also control it, so you try to regulate it but you can’t. You just thought about your breathing right? #sorrynotsorry
But as I sit here and I think about it, I realize that the part exhausting me the most, isn’t the awareness of my loud face, but in trying to conceal that part of me. And the thing is, no one asked me to do that, except myself. No one has once said “you should control your emotional reactions better” — in fact, it’s been the opposite. Because when I allow myself to react, and respond, I show vulnerability, which in turn allows other people to be vulnerable with me. And I’m *super* lucky in the fact that I have a boss who reads my emotions well, and can check-in without jumping to “control yourself”. He isn’t asking me to be anything I’m not. Same goes for my coworkers. I was thinking I had to “fix” myself, when really I just have to tweak it and be aware of it.
Do I still have to watch my reactions when someone talks about something I think is gross? Absolutely. Am I aware that if I come into a meeting super upbeat that other people piggyback off my energy, and the same goes for if I come in stone cold? 100%. But I’m coming to find that sometimes my loud face is what others are feeling and can’t articulate just yet, and by seeing someone else’s reaction, their uncertainty in also being upset or sad is validated and amazing discussions come from that. And that I’ve found a place to work and grow in my career where I can bring my whole being to my job and be accepted. AND — I’ve found people who can give me this feedback and I don’t immediately think they hate me for saying it. Big Becka win!
My name is Becka, and I have a loud face. It will never go away. I will never be good at poker. I will always smile when my favourite people come on camera. I will cry when I’m frustrated, whether or not I’m on camera. And I will always be here for others with loud faces, loud emotions and tender hearts.