A letter to my friends with RBF about understanding your own face and helping others deal with it.
To the girl with resting b**** face:
If you don’t know who you are, a hint is that people tell you to smile more. And it’s not because you have such a beautiful smile (although you may have), 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 host of assumptions. When I don’t smile, people assume the worst about my attitude. When I do smile, some people assume I am doing so out of condescension. It can be a no-win situation and hard to deal with, but there is nothing wrong with me just like there is nothing wrong with you.
Please believe that you are a likable person. I didn’t realize I struggled with resting jerk face (as it is also known) until my first job when coworker peers told me. It was a shock to realize that my face was deterring people, but a relief to realize that it wasn’t my personality.
You are a valuable individual. I know that it’s hard to make friends. I know that people seem uncomfortable when they talk to you, even when you’re matching their expression. As an individual with resting jerk face, your perception of your expression is on a different scale. A good way to test your scale is by pausing 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 upturn of the lips, or that a sympathetic look actually says, “How could you think that would work?” It could be that some of your expressions say the exact opposite of what you’re actually thinking.
Over the years, I’ve theorized and tested approaches for accurately expressing myself. Some are horribly awkward and others terribly exhaustive. As a 20-year-old and an introvert, I’ve found that these two techniques generate the best results and are easily sustainable:
- Tag-team your words and your expression. When you’re feeling sympathetic, say something like, “I’m really sorry this is happening to you,” and when you’re interested in what the other person is saying, a comment like, “This is really interesting; tell me more!” This goes a long way. You’re basically describing your expressions for people, which may sound dumb, but after a few conversations your friends will be able to recognize your expression and accurately read your mood. You do have to keep it up when you meet strangers, but it eventually becomes habit and others will appreciate the clarity. You’ll find that your relationships all around will improve.
- Think about smiling. Our faces don’t spontaneously smile and so if we don’t think about smiling, we’re often not smiling. Train your mind to react to a pair of eyes by smiling at them. Soon it will become habit, too. I know it’s difficult when they don’t return the gesture (I usually think, “Great, I just wasted my energy on that person. Now I don’t even want to smile to someone who does smile back!”) but remember that they just might have a resting b**** face, too.
Something important to remember is that you can’t win others over every time. I know you can’t always subtly describe your expression to someone and that you’re not always thinking about smiling. You will get discouraged from time to time when a person simply doesn’t respond to your methods, but hang in there. Remember that it is not you. You have a unique personality that others will cherish when they take the time to get to know you. Your smile just lets them know that you won’t bite if they try.
Your friendly member of the RBF sisterhood