I'm Not Mean. I'm Not Angry. Nope, That's Just My Face.
A few months ago, I received some feedback about my facial expressions that ticked me off! You see I've always been a serious person. When I was younger that seriousness was seen as a sign of maturity. However, as an adult, I'm perceived to be mean, angry and often told to "smile" more. Why the hell should I smile? Because softening my expression makes you feel comfortable? Puts you at ease? Why is my seriousness getting a bad rap? I'm not mean or angry, why can't people understand that's just how my face looks?
There's a clever term I found on social media used to describe women like me...us mean and serious types, it's called the "resting bitch face". Resting bitch face or RBF is defined in the Urban dictionary as a person, usually a girl, who naturally looks mean when her face is expressionless, without meaning to. I personally don't care what term is used to describe the expressionless look on my face; what bothers me is the perception that anyone who isn't smiling or jolly all the time is mean or angry.
Here are some thoughts that pop up in my head, when my RBF is brought up in conversations:
- My face has NOTHING to do with you. If you think I'm mean, guess what? You don't have to talk to me. Don't engage with me. Just let me continue to look angry wearing my RBF expression.
- My face in no way means that I don't like you. Do you know why this statement is true? It's true because I'm not thinking about you! Anyone who feels that an expression on my face revolves around them has issues that go way beyond me.
- I'm not in a bad mood. No, there's nothing wrong with me. I'm not angry or upset but if you keep asking me about the look on my face I will be.
- Often times, I'm just thinking. I'm an introvert. I love being an introvert more than anything because we are highly introspective and reflective people. When I have a serious look on my face, I'm just thinking maybe about stuff, good or bad, personal or professional. Sometimes, I'm just daydreaming about how I wish I was alone in my cocoon and not having this insipid conversation with you about a look on my face.
I realize that I need to maintain a certain demeanor in a professional setting to exude approachability. However, if you find my facial expressions off-putting, shouldn't you be reflecting on what your projection of me says about you instead of forcing me to adhere to a standard that makes you feel more comfortable.
I know I'm ranting...thanks for bearing with me!
Now, we all know I can't say the things I listed above to the people giving me this feedback; no matter how much I'd like to.
So how do I balance being myself with being approachable? I'm happy you asked, here's how...by changing nothing. I took this tactic not because I'm a jerk or mean but because I can't make anyone believe something about me they don't want to believe. If you think I'm mean, you'll always see me that way until you decide to change your perception of me. In my teens or twenties, I would've immediately modified my facial expressions to ensure people liked me better. But as a thirty-something-year-old woman, I have the benefit of some life experience and I know that changing to please others is a slippery slope. You will end up changing your hair, weight, smile, speech, the way you dress to satisfy them. As long as you aren't purposefully being mean, condescending or just a plain old jerk, there's nothing wrong with you!
I still hear this from time to time but I'm less likely to respond to it because I love me just the way I am! So there's no need for me to be defensive. I guess the moral of my story is listen to the feedback but don't personalize it or overthink it. Be yourself, the world will adjust.
Have you ever received feedback about your facial expressions or body language? What do you think about the term "resting bitch face"? I would love to read your thoughts on the subject!