we all do it. i know i have definitely been guilty of it. i have one of the world’s best game faces.
whether it is at work, with family or with friends, sometimes, i just find it easier to keep a game face on. when i thought about why i do this (and used to do it more frequently), i think it mostly stems from wanting to appear as put together as possible as often as possible.
at work, i wanted to appear to be put together to be viewed as reliable, stable and someone who could be utilized in any given situation. i also wanted my students to feel a sense of calm while they were in my presence.
with family, after the passing of my grandmother, having a game face seemed like the easier choice. she was the person i would call when i was actually having a meltdown so once she was gone, i could feel myself starting to clam up a bit.
in the bulk of my friend groups, i am typically the one people go to when in need. why would they want to reach out if i was a fucking wreck?
but here’s the thing: while i have no plans to violently cry at work in front of my boss or my students, i have not found a way to bring back grammy aka my meltdown supporter, and i will likely always be the person people in my friend groups go to when in need, i also owe it to myself and those around me to be authentic.
part of authenticity is breaking the fuck down.
“it’s not healthy to keep a ‘game face’ on all the time…it’s ok to have a meltdown. as leaders, the best example we can set is how to recover.” -danielle weisberg & carly zakin
around this time last year, i had to have surgery on my uterus which i dove into on my post about why you shouldn’t ask women when they are going to have kids. during that time, i was not always able to maintain my game face. i thought i was still good at it but when a student who typically comes in and is silent for the first several minutes of our sessions that she initiates immediately asked me what was going on with me, i knew i did not have my game face together. she asked with genuine concern. now, my rule about self disclosure is that i only do it if it is beneficial for the client/session. i did not think sharing about my uterus surgery would be beneficial, i thought it would just scare her. however, i did share that there was just a lot going on for me in the upcoming weeks and that i was looking forward to spring break and a new month. she said, “i totally get that.” during our session a couple of weeks later, she thanked me. when i asked what for, she said, “when i saw you last, it was the first time i realized that even the people i look up to most don’t always have it completely together. but what i appreciated is that you were still able to hold space for me. and now, you look bright the way i am used to seeing you.” what she didn’t know was that in that two week gap, i had the surgery and it was confirmed that there was no cancer. i was breathing deeper. from then on, i felt she was more comfortable having her own meltdowns because she knew that perfection was not my expectation, unlike many of the other adults in her life. not wearing my game face made me more relatable.
after my grammy passed, i more or less stepped into her role of caretaker, confidant and planner for our family. from writing her obituary and speaking at the funeral to late night calls and visits with family members where they share their secrets to organizing and cooking christmas eve dinner, i have had some incredibly big shoes to fill. because everyone has been dealing with their grief in their own way (and it was all consuming), i was not truly feeling like i had space to grieve with my family without burdening them. something i realized was that my godsister was someone who could truly empathize. she was someone who didn’t just see her granny for the holiday season, her granny was so much of who she was. and with my godsister, i had multiple meltdowns. meltdowns when things were taking a turn for the worst. meltdowns immediately after it transpired. meltdowns some months afterwards. and while i have found each meltdown to be utterly exhausting, i have felt significantly lighter after each one.
the monday before my birthday, i met my gorgeous friend, christina, for dinner. gorgeous is the word that i had to use to describe her because her smile is so big, bright and sparkly that it literally looks fake and she has the most gorgeous spirit. immediately upon me walking into dinner, she mentioned that something was off. she said it was all over my face. once again, that game face was off. i had a meltdown over two glasses of pinot noir. i felt heard and more importantly, understood. work was insane. my love life was not going as planned. i was wondering how my birthday was going to pan out if this was the start to my week. but here’s the thing – christina did not criticize me for not having on my game face. she created a space for me to just be. there is nothing better than that.
now, what does recovery look like?
at work, it was addressing the shift in my disposition from session to session and thanking the client for noticing and caring while reminding her that i am here for her and every single one of those 50 minutes belong to her. it also looked like looping in my boss and principal so they were aware that of what i was juggling. it is no one’s expectation that i am superwoman.
with family, it looks like creating healthy boundaries with my family members. it looks like seeing my godsister weekly and creating space for one another. it looks like being the strong enough to admit that i cannot handle it all.
in my friend groups, it looks like being vulnerable and not pretending like everything is bright and shiny. it looks like keeping it 100. it looks like being able to reciprocate the same for christina, or any other friend, if they were in the space i was in.
i am a leader at work, with my family and in my friend groups. i am also a leader who has meltdowns. most importantly, i am a leader who recovers because my ability to persevere is unparalleled.
where do you wear your game face most? what would it look like to take it off?
let me know in the comments below.