What I Know About Smiling

The other day, the birthday boy in my daughter’s first grade class said to me, “You smile all the time.” I hear this a lot. Basically, it’s my nature, an emotional set point of sorts.

I remember, however, a more awkward time in my life when this wasn’t yet true. In about 8th grade, I was paging through my American Girl magazine and came across an article about how to make more friends. I took notice, because although I did have friends, my best friend since age 3 was choosing to hang out with other girls (and boys) rather than me, and I was feeling rather blue. The only thing I remember about the article was that it mentioned smiling – “people would rather be with someone cheerful, so smile a lot.”

It felt a little foreign at first, but I remember consciously practicing, smiling throughout the day. I didn’t tell anyone about it, and aside from that few days of “working”on it, I didn’t think much about it for nearly two years. It wasn’t until I exchanged school pictures with a cute friend who signed the back of his senior picture for me and mentioned that he appreciated my (frequent) smile. I realized in that moment that I had internalized the advice in the article. Smiling had become my habit, a part of my personality.

My next experiment on smiling came my junior year in high school French class. My classmate and I were bored. We were tired of conjugating verbs and reading French literature, and somehow came up with the idea of smiling for the remaining 20 minutes of class. From this place of boredom, we set out with wide grins on our faces. We poked each other now and then when we thought the other was slacking. What I quickly learned was that this “fake” smile tricked me into believing it was real, and it started turning into a true smile. I could sense my spirits rising to meet that smile and could feel the happiness and joy bubbling inside of me. Smiling became easier for the remaining time we had left. It quickly escalated into laughter. Trying to stifle the laughter in order not to be noticed by Madame made us laugh even harder. Our cheeks were hurting and we were holding our stomachs, relieved and overjoyed to hear the bell ring. I may have learned more in that 20 minutes than I did the entire rest of the school year.

Years later my husband was reading Tony Robbins and trying out his suggestion of smiling in the mirror for 2 minutes to start your day. It was fun to watch his mood increase while grinning into the shiny glass in front of him. Remembering back to high school French class, I gladly joined in.

Fake it ’til you make it, and enjoy your day! C’est magnifique!

Jeanie Stewart

Jeanie is a writer and a smiler, living in Maui, Hawaii. You can reach her at: jeanieonmaui@gmail.com

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