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I Don’t Need A Game Face, I Want To Wear My Emotions Freely

When you have got straight A’s all your life, not having your game face straight can turn out to be a bigger disappointment than you think.

 I learnt that in the seventh grade. I was waiting for our class teacher to announce the term results (and I secretly knew that since P__ had been moved to my class, the odds of topping the class had slimmed), but lo, there she was. And the topper was… no, not me. Not P__ either. Someone else altogether. The anger on my face must have been really strong, for the classroom turned a rich shade of red. I think it remained that way that day, for each moment that I was in it.

hate your friend's so_New_Love_times

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A dear friend must have seen me clenching my fist, my jaw ajar, shooting invisible missiles in the direction of this ‘new’ topper (where the hell did she come from anyway- was she retched up by the sky- what was the deal) in a not-so-secret manner, because she caught up with me after school. “Everyone in the class could tell you were upset, hon,” she said. I was upset. So upset that I didn’t hear much of what she said after this. Except that when she finally walked off home, she told me I should put my game face on.

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There was no admonition in it- of course, I had skipped hearing most of it, so I wouldn’t know even if there was- but it made sense. To a girl in the seventh grade who was committed to being the best at everything she tried (hey, I was young and didn’t know any better), it made sense.

I needed a game face.

And as you would expect of me-in-my-teens, I looked the darned thing up.

woman looking serious

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A game face is a neutral or straight facial expression, as displayed by a sports player or gambler.


As someone whose emotions have always dwelled close to the surface, ready to spout at the slightest chance, this was a toughie.

A straight face required me to keep my emotions buried. Zipped. Locked.

It was hard. Harder than math! Harder than anything I’d ever done.

A serious face would have been easier. It is close enough to angry or upset, so you only have to turn the regulator up or down (mostly down)- and all you have to do to get that right is imagine that your headmistress is doing the rounds. You wouldn’t want your steaming smog of rage to float about and reach her, so you simply keep it low.

But it wasn’t my choice. Not really.

My thirteen year old self was duped. She believed that hiding her hurt, anger or sadness would make her come off strong. That it’d help her win. So, she buried those emotions inside. Deep. Deep down.

It didn’t always help her win. So, she picked bits and chunks of fake emotions- like dignified appreciation, happiness etc on the way.

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Years later, when she got tired of crying soundlessly in bathroom stalls, she realized how weak her game face made her. How defeated she was, at the game of life. How far behind.

She realized how her buried emotions had murdered her soul and buried it further inside. How her locked emotions had left her too weak to dig in and find herself.

So, she made a choice. The choice a grown up woman would make. The choice her thirteen-year self would possibly still scoff at. The choice that was right for her.

She decided that she’d ditch this emotionless husk of a woman, single, alone albeit successful and proud owner of a killer game face for the real her.

Today, I am so glad she did.

woman sad_New_Love_Times

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Here’s why- my first major meltdown happened when I was at a business school. I was drowning since the first week- and not because I couldn’t don that game face, or let anyone see me break a sweat, get that coveted ‘serious’ degree and bag a job that paid big, fat wads of green- but because I was an educator, a dancer, a writer. What the f*ck was I doing there?

As time passed, I kept on gluing my game face back on whenever it came unstuck, until its constant use made it expendable for all practical purposes. I should have been worried but I felt relieved. Like some weight I’d been towing around for years was finally off me.

When my numbness came undone in a bathroom stall, I felt free.

A feeling I hadn’t felt in a long, long time.

So, I shook off my a*s-in-the-chair time for a degree I wanted to get. I entered the world of writers and artists and dancers- everybody who wore their emotions like badges of honor, no matter how uncomfortable, unsettling or effusively exciting they were! It was a gorgeous, glorious world of authenticity. Real-ness. LIFE.

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It took me time to catch on. But once my game face was off, I became the quick-paced learner I’d always been. Of course, I rolled my eyes when a certain ingenious idea didn’t come from me or feigned ‘seriousness’ when getting book deals required me to pose and all- but my angry, anxious, fearful, excited, overjoyed, scared versions were all acceptable. They never turned into ‘negative’ emotions I had to hide.

Someone’s success pushed me to strive harder. Someone’s creativity sparked in me a desire to learn more. Someone’s ideas reminded me of dreams I wanted to pursue as a kid and someone, who wrote ‘something way off topic’ got me to impart him a lesson or two. Yeah, I was strict.

woman smiling_New_Love_Times

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But here’s what happened because of all of it. I learnt to develop an expressive game face- a face that expressed just what it felt, without being ungracious. It took years to hone this ability to channel your emotions in a productive, healthy way- because emotions, per se, aren’t good or bad. Only what you do with them.

And maybe that’s not what they call a game face at all. But whoever said we couldn’t change the definition? Heck, let’s change the game altogether!

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Article Name
I Don’t Need To Put My Game Face On, I Want To Wear My Emotions Freely
Do you put your game face on, or do you wear your emotions freely?
Sejal Parikh

Sejal Parikh

"I'm a hurricane of words but YOU can choose the damage I do to you..."