Zoom meetings and Teams meetings and all of the online video conferencing software has me doing something all the time now: looking at myself.
It isn’t narcissism. I’m not in love with what I see. Far from it. The meetings start and my camera picks up my face, and it’s there in front of me along with everyone else’s. I can’t help be see myself.
My hair is thinning. I look tired. My face is easier to look at when I smile.
I can’t be certain that people are seeing me the same way. It’s my face, so I’m going to be hypercritical of the flaws, which stand out to me. If there is beauty in my countenance, I do not see it. If someone were to find my ever-punchable mug attractive, I cannot fathom why. Yet it’s there every work day in front of me, ready for me to judge in the harshest terms. Harsher than I would ever be with someone else.
My cruel judgement is not reserved my appearance alone. In fact, I am more for critical of my voice, personality, and abilities. I wonder sometimes how anyone can stand to be in meetings with me, or take me seriously when I offer suggestions.
If you ask Melissa, it’s not a lack of confidence. She will tell you that I’m brash and cocky, which is more or less true. I think I’m just tired of my living in my own head, putting up with all of my own bullshit, and feeling trapped inside myself. Have you ever met someone that you just can’t stand, and you’re not sure why? That’s me putting up with myself.
In spite of all that, I’m doing the work. I pretend I’m as good as everyone around me need me to be, and no one seems to see through it. I roleplay as a version of myself that is competent, and somehow tasks get done. Maybe not as fast as I want them completed, but that’s a matter of time management and energy levels. I don’t ever have enough time, and some days it’s hard to get anything done when on the inside, I’m spending so much effort trying to ignore myself.
This all feels too personal. Too honest. Too much self-reflection.
Like I’m staring at myself in the Zoom call again, wondering why eyes keep getting drawn there, wishing I could look away.
Tomorrow, my critique group will meet again, on Discord this time, and we’ll go over the next 10,000 words in my story and Mike Baltar’s. My image will be up on the screen again, and I’ll put on my best smile and try to be as present as possible. It might be a good day, and I might be all there. Or it might be a bad day, and it’ll be one of those meetings I get through rather than enjoy. I’m not sure. They’re good people that I enjoy and respect very much, so I want to be present for them.
They will have things to say about my story that my ears will hear correctly, but my mind will twist into barbs. The words might be “I liked this, but I wish it was…” and my ears will capture their voice but my brain will be interpret it as “If you were a better writer, you would have done…” I’ll spend a significant amount of energy focusing on the words, trying to translate them back to reality, rather than allow the suggestions to become fuel used by my cruel inside voice.
We’re all going through this, aren’t we?