Stop Telling Me To Smile More

Stop Telling Me To Smile More

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One of my biggest pet peeves is being told to smile more. I hate when anyone makes this comment. I used to laugh it off, but I can't even pretend to find it humorous anymore. I wish I could force these behavioral busybodies to do something they detest as payback for the condescending remark.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a grumpy old troll living in isolation. Nor am I attempting to shield myself from optimism or happiness. Smiling just isn’t my default setting. I don't walk around grinning from ear to ear, nor do l intend to. That's just not me. I'm a serious and highly introspective person. 10 times out of 10, my face reflects that seriousness; even when I'm happy. Yet people think my seriousness means I'm angry, mad or that I need to hear their sage advice about virtues of smiling more.

In my 20’s, men would often say to me…“Smile beautiful. Why do you look so mean? Are you having a bad day? I was scared to approach to you because you looked so mean.”

While I was flattered by the attention,  I was also confused by their comments. 1) I wasn't angry or upset and 2) how can someone make such huge assumptions about my emotional state because I chose not to walk around with a smile.

Another comment I received a lot was “I thought you were a snob.” I primarily heard this from women after they got to know me. Apparently, not smiling gave off an “I’m better than you" vibe. Seriously?

Here's a tip for behavioral busybodies: sometimes a look is just a look. Your interpretation of that facial expression  creates unnecessary drama. 

To appear approachable, I would immediately start smiling more in hopes of putting others at ease. (FYI: Fake smiling hurts like hell.) All the while I would ask myself, ”am I mean? Is there something wrong with me that I'm not aware of, but other people can see? Should I change so people aren't afraid of me?”

I over analyzed my behavior trying to figure out what these behavioral busybodies saw in me, that I failed to recognize in myself.  That's the thing about youthful inexperience, you will forsake your instincts and intuition just to be likable.

Now as a woman in her 30’s, comments about smiling more don't affect me as much. My gorgeous yet serious face is still bothersome to others, especially in the workplace. I can't tell you the number of times someone asks me if something's wrong. “Are you doing okay today?  You seem like you're in a mood.” This even came from a former boss.

My prepared response for such occasions is…"I'm fine. I'm just focused on the project, task, presentation, stats"; whatever I’m working on at the time. And truthfully that's what it is. I get caught up in my work and my thoughts; the intensity you see on my face isn't anger, its focus. Can't I just look focused?

Sadly, women seem to be the only ones subjected to the “smile more” request. Focus, intensity, seriousness - these qualities are revered in men. I'm just as driven, intense and focused as my male counterparts. Where we differ is I'm expected to smile often, exude warmth and approachability. I'm not always warm and fuzzy. I don't have to be and I won't apologize for being myself.

Image from Colorstock  

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