The Dirty Secret of Your Mind: Are You a Failure?

And also about fear, barking, and human faces.

Kristyna Zapletal
5 min readOct 31, 2017

The short definition of the word failure is a lack of success. The long definition refers to the list of self-flagellating judgments about our own worth that we ourselves maintain in our heads.

Has anyone ever warned you that a dog may smell your fear and bite you?

Dogs do not possess any superpowers that would allow them to read your emotions. When we perceive threat, we enter the fight-or-flight mode, which makes our body sweat, our muscles stiffen, and our eyes widen. Also, our glands release stress-related hormones, our breathing rate increases, and so forth. Dogs merely detect some of the physiological changes we go through when we’re alarmed.

The sense of smell in humans is not as advanced as that of our canine friends, but we’re still pretty good at spotting even minor modifications in the body language of other people. When you are afraid, people can tell. When you feel like a failure, people see failure. When you have doubts about yourself, others doubt you too.

Our brain knows and understands much more than we consciously realize. Have you ever talked to your partner, simply “knowing” that he or she was lying to you, without being able to explain how exactly you know? Or have you ever entered a room with other people in it and spotting right away that something was wrong, again without having the slightest idea why it felt that way?

Sometimes such predictive feelings can be driven by our intuition or even our preconceptions. But most of the time our mind and body only detect the numerous signals people give away, which provide a range of useful information on what is happening within their inner worlds.

In 1978, psychologist Paul Ekman and his collaborator Wallace Friesen published a manual to measure any facial expression a human face can make. They found out that the number of combinations of various muscular movements on a human face amount to around 10,000. Some don’t mean anything, but the researchers identified more than whopping 3,000 of them that actually do. Various faces we make are easy to tell, but many of the micro expressions are rapid and not easy to spot for an untrained eye. Yet they…