To the girl with the resting face:
If you don’t know who you are, a hint is that people are telling you to smile more. And it’s not because you have such a beautiful smile (although you might), it’s because your other face looks unapproachable. Our faces all say different things, from sadness to anger. Mine tends to say “I’m arrogant” and it comes with its own assumptions. When I don’t smile, people take the worst of my attitude. When I smile, some people assume I’m doing it out of condescension. It can be a no-win situation and difficult to deal with, but there is nothing wrong with me, just as there is nothing wrong with you.
Please believe that you are a likeable person. I didn’t realize I was struggling with a resting jerk face (as it’s also known) until my first job when coworkers told me. It was a shock to realize that my face scared people off, but a relief to realize it wasn’t my personality.
You are a valuable person. I know it’s hard to make friends. I know people feel uncomfortable talking to you, even if you change their expression. As a person with a resting, jerky face, your perception of your expression is on a different scale. A good way to test your scale is to pause in the middle of an activity, decide what you think your expression is, and look in the mirror without changing it. You may realize that what you thought was a hearty smile is a slight upward sweep of the lips, or that a compassionate look is actually saying, “How could you think that would work?” Some of your expressions may say the exact opposite of what you really think.
Over the years I have theorized and tested approaches to accurately express myself. Some are terribly inconvenient and others terribly exhausting. As a 20-year-old and introvert, I have found these two techniques yield the best results and are easily sustainable:
- Tag team your words and your expression. If you’re compassionate, say something like, “I’m sorry this happened to you,” and if you’re interested in what the other person is saying, say something like, “This is really interesting; tell me more!” This goes a long way. You basically describe your expressions to people, which may sound stupid, but after a few conversations, your friends will be able to recognize your expression and read your mood accurately. You do have to stick with it when you meet strangers, but it eventually becomes a habit and others will appreciate the clarity. You will notice that your relationships around you will improve.
- Think about smiling. Our faces don’t smile spontaneously and so if we don’t think about smiling, we often don’t smile. Train your mind to respond to a pair of eyes by smiling at them. It will soon become a habit. I know it’s hard when they don’t return the gesture (usually I think, “Great, I just wasted my energy on that person. Now I don’t even want to smile at someone who is doing smile back!”), but remember that they may also have a resting face.
Something important to remember is that you can’t win others over every time. I know you can’t always subtly describe your facial expression to someone and you don’t always think about smiling. You will get discouraged from time to time if someone just doesn’t respond to your methods, but perseveres. Remember that it is not you. You have a unique personality that others will cherish if they take the time to get to know you. Your smile just lets them know you won’t bite if they try.
Your friendly member of the RBF sisterhood