(Source: Tribune News Services)
(Source: Tribune News Services)

I don’t smile enough. At least, that’s what everyone has told me since I was young. I never understood why people wanted me to smile as I read a book or had my hair done. These simple activities are not unpleasant. In fact, I enjoy both of them, so why don’t I smile?

Women are expected to smile more than men, because supposedly it makes them more attractive and approachable. The women who don’t smile are seen as intimidating and aloof, because there is an inherent expectation in society for women to look warm and inviting.

This expectation doesn’t just mean smiling when you’re happy, it means smiling 24/7, whether you’re on the train, at the grocery store or buying a cup of coffee. You never know who might see you and be offended by your serious face.

My hatred for the sentence, “You’re a pretty girl, but you should smile more,” runs very deep after several years of having it thrown in my face by countless people, including complete strangers. Their words start as a compliment, and then there’s that proverbial “but,” which turns my lack of smiling into something that makes me aesthetically flawed.

I am even more frustrated when someone says, “You should smile more because men like that.” First of all, who cares what men like or don’t like? We’re not on this planet for the sole purpose of pleasing the opposite sex. Our happiness is not dependent on how attractive others find us. My sense of worth is certainly not based on whether a man finds me attractive or not.

Secondly, how can anyone be an authority on what men like? Everyone is different and attracted to different things. There are people who are generally attracted to those who smile often, but there are just as many people who are not put-off by a more neutral, serious facial expression.

Smiling is often used as a coping mechanism for someone who is dealing with grief to hide their real feelings. Recent research suggests that smiling to deal with negative emotions is not a healthy strategy and may make someone feel worse.

Putting on a fake smile and trying to force yourself to be happy prevents you from dealing with your negative emotions. Though this is unpleasant and painful, these emotions need to be faced in order to cope and healthily move through the unhappiness you’re dealing with. You’re going to feel terrible for a long time if you bottle up negative emotions by hiding them with fake happiness.

When I smile, it genuinely means something to me, because I save it for times when I am truly happy or amused. I can’t use smiling to mask other emotions. When I am sad or angry, those emotions will show on my face, and it will be obvious that I am upset. My day-to-day serious face doesn’t mean I am angry or depressed, it just means that I only smile when I feel like it.

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