Someone once told me, “you should smile more”. In fact, more than one someone. The line usually went something like this, you’re such a pretty girl, but you should smile more. And for some inexplicable reason, I would. Smile on command. Like a well-trained circus performer. Initially, I was only slightly bothered by this comment. But, as the years went on, and it kept on coming, I started to get angry. I wasn’t sure why. I just knew that each time I heard these words, they got under my skin a bit further. I hid it well from the comment deliverer. But inside, I was steaming. Why should I have to smile for you? Who even makes such requests? Then, rather miraculously something incredible occurred to me, I could continue to let this comment fester like a blister after a night of Louboutin’s, or, I could take control of the situation and ask myself one simple question. Why wasn’t I smiling? And, just like that, I realized, I can choose to smile. Or, I can choose not too. Either way, it’s ok. As long as I own it.
When I think of the countless times I’ve received these words, it’s astonishing. In my 20’s it felt like a minor annoyance, by the time I was in my 30’s, it had become enough to push me right into full-on rage. My whole day would be disturbed as those words reverberated in my head. Distracting me from work and leaving me in super-bitch mode. Until, one day, I snapped. I made sure this comment would never be uttered to me again. I finally responded with something other than a smile. “What makes you think that I should have to smile on your command? I mean really. Do you think your mere presence should fill me with such joy that I should be wearing an ear to ear grin?” The comment deliverer shrunk away. Success. The message would get out to cease and desist with “you should smile more” comment. Or so I thought.
Honestly, I’ve never been able to figure out the intentions of these comment makers. After years of thought on it, I’ve got nothing. I’m sure there was no malice there. Didn’t feel malicious. Felt, like an uncomfortable piece of advice. But, to me, these words were like poison. Coca-cola on the hood of a car. They ate away at the finish. What bothered me most, was my visceral response to them. This statement did precisely the opposite of the request, it made me refuse to smile. In fact, for a full day or two after receiving them, I was miserable. Was this my innate resistance to any form of control, or something else?
As much as I despised them, at the time, I needed them. These commenters had pushed me to look inside and really focus on my own happiness. Or lack thereof. For a long time, I wasn’t happy. Not depressed or unable to function, just sort of low-grade fever unhappy. These words lead to a cherished journey of self-discovery. In which I learned I have a choice. I have much more control than I thought. I can choose to smile. Which is a wonderful indication of happiness. And a great place to strive to be. But, in life, we are not always happy. Or smiling. And that’s perfectly ok.
I never did check with the deliverers of these words to find out if my self-imposed definition and their’s matched. I figured it didn’t matter, these words belong to me now