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The Permagrin: Being Forced to Smile

Not long ago, I wrote an entry on how powerful it is to smile.  Today, I’m going to discuss how important it is to allow yourself to not smile.  Smiling is great…I’m all for it.  It has a lot of great benefits and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.  But let’s face it: there are times when you just don’t want to smile.  It doesn’t matter what the reason is.  It is human.  It is natural.  And there is no reason for you to feel bullied into smiling if at that very moment, you just don’t feel like it.

This morning I was perfectly content in my own world, deep in thought about all the things I had to get done today, and BAM, I hear someone say, “Brett…SMILE.” My co-worker obviously assumed that my not smiling implied that I was unhappy.  As a result, he jolted me out of deep thought and tried to command me to smile.  What is that? Where is it written that if you don’t smile there must be something wrong with you?  Aren’t we past the ‘Beaver Cleaver’ days of society?  The ‘I must smile and look perfect all the time’ era?  People…no one should be expected to smile 24 hours a day!

I remember a similar time when I was in college.  My father was very sick, and one evening I was on the pay-phone with my mom getting an update on his condition.  At some point during the conversation, my classmate who I barely knew, passed by and told me to ‘SMILE.’  It actually made me feel worse.  I felt it was completely insensitive.  I was obviously having a serious and private conversation (as private as one could possibly have at a public pay-phone), listening intently to the details about my dad, and this stranger, who had no idea who I was talking to or what I was talking about, imposed his permagrin expectations on me.  Maybe I should have been ‘touched’ by this person’s supposed concern about my state of mind, but he didn’t even know me…he didn’t even understand the situation…he didn’t know what was going on inside of me.  He just had it in his mind that I should be smiling.

There are times that being reminded to smile can be a good thing.  It can help us gain perspective.  But it shouldn’t be demanded of us.  If someone needs some deep thought time…is having a bad day…or just doesn’t feel ‘smiley’, they should have the right to not smile.  Moreover, making an individual feel self-conscious about how they look when they are unhappy…are having a bad day…or are receiving not-so-great news, isn’t helpful.  An individual has every right to not smile…whatever the reason.

Has anyone told you to smile?  How did it make you feel?

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Posted in Brett's Blog, Mind-Body Tagged with: , , ,
  • Unfortunately, that obtuse classmate didn’t read your other posting (which I realize didn’t exist yet) because if he had he would have read point #2: Smiling is Contagious. If he really was interested in getting other people to smile, then he would have simply flashed one of his own…

  • Soooo important to Beee rather than conjole others into ones chosen way of Bee-ing..I was raised in the type of home where I always had to smile and hated it. Made me realize how phoney my parents were and society as well. Sad. We all need times to just let down and reflect, be real without pressure to look a certain way.

  • I love this post. This is something that really drives me nuts, and other women I’ve talked to really get upset too. It’s because , at least in my experience, it’s always a guy who says this to a female. Because if a guy said this to another dude, he’d likely get flattened. A male, gay friend listened to us girls talking about it and remarked that it’s like they expect us to be entertaining them or something like that. Anyway I just ran across this and had to chime in. I’m glad I am not the only one that has been annoyed by that.

  • I honestly thought I was the only one who went thu this. Let’s Just Say no to Bully smiler people! 🙂

  • John

    I’m a guy, and I feel the exact same way. There are women at my work who sit in an office during the day. When I return from my deliveries I go through the office where they are sitting. By this time I am usually tired from driving, or thinking about what I need to do to finish up so I can go home. I always get comments that “I need to smile”, well do I? I mean, what if I don’t feel like smiling. Am I required to smile? Does the expression on my face really look like I am that pissed off? I mean, I say hi, and will shoot a quick grin. Isn’t that enough on a bad day. Sure I smile and laugh it up when I’m in a good mood. But aren’t I allowed to not smile if I don’t feel like it. Just makes me feel really awkward sometimes. Doesn’t help that I am generally a shy person to begin with and have anxiety issues. Anyway, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Yusuf

    Thank you for your service to humanity through your publications.

  • Jess

    I’m one of those people who tell others to smile. I think it’s really selfish of everyone who doesn’t smile to others, because sometimes people are just feeling a little down and need others to smile to cheer them up.

    Or maybe I’m just selfish too. Who knows? Everything that you say, and I say, is tinted with bias.

  • Jade

    I hate this too. If I’m at work and it’s a hard day, I just cant muster it to smile. It pisses me off so much when people tell me I should smile, I’ll smile when I please!

  • Gracie

    Sometimes I AM smiling, happy as can be, and still get told to smile… Apparently it isn’t enough to smile; we have to do it with the most toothy, fake-cheery grin we can manage, because our own natural smiles aren’t adequate to cheer up those people who consider their moods to be our responsibility.

  • TAO

    I’ve never heard a man tell another man to smile. It is inherently dismissive and demeaning, which is why it’s always a man who says it to a woman. Even total strangers. It’s demanding a response you haven’t earned. They’re demanding you pay attention to them and stop acting like you’re acting, doing what you’re doing, feeling how you’re feeling. It’s like a random act of narcissism.

  • Nikki

    Feh. I work at a Friendly’s restaurant in the Northeast, and while I love my job, we ARE required to smile ALL THE TIME. It can be kind of a pain in the ass, but alas–it’s part of the job.

  • Alex L

    Only one word for your apparently angry self… “SMILE!!!”

    Now THAT one was insensitive brett.. get over it man. The guy showed he cares, even if he was ignorant, and you shud still feel grateful. Imagine had he said “CRY!” instead. sheesh, get over yourself kid.

  • elyce

    When I recently told my mother that some of her comments were hurtful to me, she told me that if I didn’t want my feelings hurt that I shouldn’t wear them on my sleeve. I have always been made to feel by her that I am oversensitive. When people have the attitude like my mother that genuine, authentic feelings are things that should never be displayed, but instead should be repressed and hidden from the view of the public, there really isn’t much you can do to change their minds. You just have to know that you are always better off being a real person in touch with your authentic emotions than a phony person who couldn’t locate a raw emotion in themselves if their lives depended on it.

    • zenlife

      I agree with this. I don’t like it when people sometimes calls this as “sensitive”. Does that mean the other person is “insensitive”?? Just because you are aware of your feelings, it just makes you a human being. We’re not all made of teflon.

      • brettblumenthal

        I’m highly sensitive. So I TOTALLY agree…it doesn’t feel good when people think your sensitivity isn’t appropriate. If we had more sensitive people in the world, the world might just be a better place 😉

  • Ryan

    Jess, if you want to see others smile, then may be you should simply smile at them first.

  • dg91

    JOKE-Please do not do this at home or work!

    Here’s what I think the “suggested” response should be:
    A. Thanks! I always feel better when someone tells me what to do. It’s so hard to know when to smile!
    B. You’ve got a point-let’s BOTH smile…ok! 1-2-3-… (say it BRIGHTLY!)
    C. You are SIMPLY AMAZING-I was just thinking about SMILING! How did you know? Simply AMAZING. (and then laugh-AT them!)

    (Please SMILE when you IMAGINE them falling, screaming into a smiling EARTH!)

    Just kidding—– people are just plain stupid-thoughtless-and self-centered sometimes. Consider the source-and remember-ALWAYS SMILE!

  • Just found this place and I like it. I know this post is a bit old but I thought I would comment anyhow. I’m glad I’m not the only one who does the ‘last in thought’ thing. It drives me crazy when people do that. I’m usually thinking of something very complicated and interesting too, that gets completely washed away.

    From now on I will explain that to them, I think. It is the best way for it.

  • sheera

    be positive, say thank you for reminding me. and give your sweetest smile.