I held a number of jobs whilst I was a school. One of my favourites was the time spent as a Giraffe for a Theme Park local to my University.
I had a few duties, but mainly I had to spend 30min intervals waving, signing autographs and having photos taken with families whilst in costume. Visibility was poor – especially with sweat in the eyes, movement slow and restricted and the only rule I was given, was absolutely no talking.
Sorry to shatter the illusion, but the foam head of my character was nearly as tall as me by itself and went over my head and around my body on a harness. My eyes peered out of one of the brown camouflage giraffe markings at the base of its neck. I had huge hoof feet and a tail on a g string to stop it falling off. The tail then passed through the hole in my trousers, as naturally my character would not be caught out naked in public. The whole thing was finished off with a very padded body covering the harness, yet unfortunately not dissuading some park visitors from pointing out that Mr Giraffe was probably a Mrs.
Now there are many stories I could regale you with, culminating with the time a coach load of Boy Scouts swarmed me whilst I was out welcoming visitors at the front gate and ended up on my ass after one of the little darlings tied my tail to the railings. Yep, g string elastic, ouch.
Yet as I’m recounting this for the learning and personal growth, I need to focus upon my constant jaw ache.
You see, for the first few weeks I would come back to my shared house scowling at everyone. My poor cheeks needed a good massage and proper rest after the amount of smiling I had done throughout the day. Honestly, it felt as though I had put a coat hanger in my mouth after the number of poses I can gone through for one photo after the next.
It was only when one of my housemates looked thoroughly perplexed at my injury that the penny dropped:
” …but surely Sarah they can’t see you, so why are you smiling?”
You would of thought that was enough to save my poor face, but no. Every time someone raised their camera and shouted cheese at the kids hugging onto my knee caps, I felt compelled to comply. It was too weird not to grin. I would just smile involuntarily until the pain reminded me not to.
So what can I draw from my behaviour? That I’m a little crazy? Given. Yet also that I love to put on a good show.
I often do what I think is expected of me and performing my first go to response. The show must go on.
Must it? It has served me well up to a point. I’m a confident public speaker, I don’t take myself too seriously on stage and of course I can play hurt.
Yet sometimes I believe for me, it’s just as important that I don’t always put on my game face. Pasting on a smile can just as easily shut people out and rarely goes undetected as a defense mechanism.
What do you do involuntarily? Do you always say sorry when passing another person at a door? Are you always the last to take a seat or first to arrive? Do you talk yourself up when meeting new people or use self depreciating humour to make yourself smaller? Are you constantly checking everyone is OK or using a well worn phrase such as “Do you know what I mean?” ” I must admit…” “Kinda like…” “It’s fine”
Where do those habits come from? Why do you do it? What can you uncover about yourself?