June 26, 2011

Personal Display Rules: Alex's Personal Journey...

Normally, I post as John's admin, but given this week's subject matter (Personal Display Rules), I thought I could illustrate the point better by letting you know a bit more about me and how I (Alexandra McDougall) got into studying this topic.

Photo credit: (from my summer Circle in the Square Theatre School, back in 2003…)

This was my first real headshot; my facial expression in headshots has changed little since I first started acting, despite the fact that I have changed the way I try to present myself to the world. As a senior in high school, one of my quotes was “The robb’d that smiles steals something from the thief / He robs himself that spends a bootless grief” from Shakespeare's Othello. I was basically telling everyone that no matter what they did to hurt me, piss me off or otherwise agitate me, I’d stay stone-faced, or smile…just to spite them.

This may explain a lot about the facial tension that I have been holding for years, and thus, the way that I have been presenting myself to friends colleagues and potential collaborators. Part of it started because I have a jaw problem, called TMJ, that hurts (especially in winter, and I am from Boston), so I generally hold a lot of tension in my jaw and mouth.

I tend to smile from one side of my mouth. I never thought this was a really big deal; sure, it ticked off my family something fierce, whenever there was a family fight, but they have to love me.

One hour after meeting John Sudol for a free class on Mastering the Reaction Shot, my mind was reeling with the understanding that I have been projecting contempt, for years, to all of my loved ones. Contempt, of all things! Apparently, smiling from half of your face means that one half of your brain is experiencing something while the other side is thinking about that experience, and judging it. Well, that sent me trying to:

  • figure out how this has been affecting my relationships
  • understand what this does to my marketing efforts, as I thought I was presenting myself as “bright, warm and vivacious"
  • study with John, at all costs.

Later that day, I sent him an e-mail and I have been trying to remain conscious of my facial reactions ever since.

It’s been a long journey so far, and my facial muscles definitely need a work out, specifically my eyebrow muscles, but I know that studying this has helped me to communicate better and audition with more confidence.