What a dangerously ambiguous title, I know.
Today, I had the nostalgic experience of looking through a batch of my headshots that were taken for a website I’m supposed to be listed on (no, it’s not Forbes).
I thought about yearbook day as I panned through 18 photos of myself. Each one slightly different than the one before it. Looking to find the most suitable photo I began assessing:
My eyes aren’t open.
My nose looks too crooked.
My mouth looks too crooked.
This one has a double chin.
I’m smiling too much.
This one looks like a mug shot.
Why the fuck do I care?
I have never been good at faking a smile and it clearly shows when I’m doing so for a photo.
I prefer a neutral expression. Not smiling but not frowning. It’s more me.
I don’t smile unless I’m happy. I don’t laugh unless something is funny. Why do I need to fake it here?
For your career: You’re supposed to look clean, professional and approachable.
On Instagram: You’re supposed to look adventurous, filtered and appear effortless.
In grade school: You supposed to look cool. Your outfit, hairstyle, and smile will dictate this.
Our classmates might decide whether we are cute or dorky or an outcast based on this photo.
In 8th grade, I had bleached hair and earrings. In 12th grade, I had a faux-hawk.
You didn’t get to see those photos until they were printed, packed into a large envelope and chopped up into different sizes for you and your family to have.
Those wallet size photos were like a currency. For us to give out sparingly to our closest friends and our crushes.
In return, we hoped to get a photo of theirs to carry around in our wallet as a form of social validation.
It was a quality vs. quantity game.
Sounds a lot like Facebook before there was Facebook.
If you or your parents didn’t like your photo you could do a re-take. Usually just one.
After all, this photo would be immortalized in your school’s yearbook. Anybody with a hard copy could have it as long as they held onto their stash of yearbooks.
Today, when you add a headshot or photo to the internet it can be impossible to take back. As long as the internet is alive, your photo will remain available to the public.
Headshots, like resumes, are used as a filter to determine whether you make it to the next round. They provide social proof for those who want to assess you on paper.
For people to determine whether you’re smart, attractive, kind, or professional.
You are not your headshot.
“You are the trail you’ve left behind, the people you’ve influenced, the work you’ve done.” – Seth Godin
Your photos are just a small part of your footprint, on the trail you leave behind.