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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#17 – Behind the Mask – Sam


Smiles are my shield

“A smile can mean a thousand words, but it can also hide a thousand problems.

The worst kind of pain is when you’re smiling just to stop the tears from falling.

Sometimes the person who tries to keep everyone happy is the most lonely person. 

Behind my smile is a hurting heart Behind my laugh, I’m falling apart Look closely at me and you will see, the girl I am… isn’t me

Smile it’s easier than explaining why you’re sad.  

Sometimes we smile to hide the sadness, sometimes we laugh to hide the tears.

The prettiest smile hides the deepest sadness. The prettiest eyes have cried the most tears, and the kindest heart has felt the most pain.

Why do I smile like nothing is wrong? And how does not one single person notice that I’m not okay?

It’s often the biggest smile hiding the saddest heart.

Sadness is…. When you pretend to be happy.

She doesn’t show it. She feels it. She doesn’t share it. She went through it. She doesn’t confide in. She oppresses it. She is hiding tears behind the smile.

I hide all my problems behind my smile. Behind my smile is a world of pain. You think you know me. But you have no idea.

We put on a fake smile on to hide the pain. Yet we wish someone would look closely enough and see how broke we really are inside.

Just because her eyes don’t tear doesn’t mean her heart doesn’t cry. And just because she comes off strong doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong.

She hides in her world of laughter and friends, but when shes alone the pain never ends

She’ll continue to smile no matter how hurt she is.

I smile all the time so that nobody knows how sad and lonely I really am.

We can hide things away but we can’t forget.”

– Emily Heidemann (, 2017)

Sam has suffered from many issues over the years that have caused her much stress and sadness. The words on her mask indicate some of what she may have experienced – “try to please people” and “cry a lot on my own”. Sam does a magnificent job of hiding these things from everyone who meets her. She has an amazing and infectious smile. Her sense of humour is wicked and whenever you spend time with her, you feel happy.

I have photographed Sam in the past. She applied for a casting over a year ago and I have photographed her several times since (including an art nude shoot that I was privileged to have done). When she came to this shoot she was nervous at being in front of the camera and being so exposed, but she was wanted to take part to raise awareness and as part of her own healing process. It makes me sad to see the things she has written on her mask.

Sam works as a nurse and has witnessed death and immense sadness as part of her job. Yet, she continues every day with a smile on her face, making the lives of her patients more bearable. Family troubles only add to the mask she wears. Being let down in relationships has deepened her sadness.

To everyone who meets her, Sam is someone who appears to be a strong, confident and happy person. So it is heartbreaking to read that she suffers from a lack of confidence and always hides behind her smile, and to realise that she is very sad inside.

During the session, Sam talked to me about the things she has dealt with at home and work and still has to deal with. It made me so sad to think that this wonderful lady has suffered and is still suffering so much in silence and isolation. Her smile hides the sadness and pain. The shoot offered her an opportunity to not cry alone for once and to share with another person. The more of these sessions I do, the more I can see the therapeutic benefit of not holding things back and the release given by talking about them. This was very true of Sam’s session.

I am grateful to Sam for sharing and for being part of the project. Her message is a powerful one and should be shared so that others can start to feel that they are not alone.

REFERENCES (2017). Quotes to my heart – Smiles are my shield – Wattpad. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Nov. 2017].

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