“You’re never fully dressed without a smile…” I started singing to myself.
It was my senior year of high school, and I was making (or so it seemed at the time) one of the biggest decisions I would make that year. No, I was not submitting a letter of intent or finalizing my post-secondary plans. I was selecting my senior quotes and felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.
Was I being a bit too dramatic and placing too much pressure on myself to pick the quote by which my successors would remember me? Definitely. Was it still important? Of course.
Growing up, I frequently was told that I was always smiling. In fact, I had friends who found a challenge in trying to make me frown.
Initially, I did not know whether to acknowledge these comments from teachers, friends, and strangers by responding with appreciation or by pursing my lips to create an image of indifference. For those who knew (and know) me best, neither indifference nor apathy was in my vocabulary. Ultimately, however, I truly believed that I was “never fully dressed without a smile.” Aside from the dancing and singing, something in Annie resonated with me. While I was blessed to be surrounded by family who encouraged me to lift up others around me through my words, actions, and expressions, I realized others may not have had similar situations. At an early age, I resolved to use the accessory that was always with me–my smile–to serve others in a simple way. By smiling, I felt I could encourage others to do the same.
Fred McFeely Rogers, host of the beloved television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, once said, “From the time you were very little, you’ve had people who have smiled you into smiling, people who have talked you into talking, sung you into singing, loved you into loving.”
Can you think of individuals in your life who have “smiled you into smiling?” How did they make you feel at the time? Have you had someone who has “loved you into loving?” Wouldn’t you like to do the same? Have you told these individuals how much you appreciate them?
If you truly think about it, smiling comes at no real cost and presents a high return on investment–both personally and for those “receiving” the smile. While a recent meta-analysis in Psychological Bulletin reports a “small” effect of facial feedback, it notes the effect of such feedback to be “significant” (Coles and Larsen, 2019). It may be inferred from the facial feedback hypothesis (FFH) that our own facial expressions will affect our emotions (Davis and et al., 2009). Various theories and studies suggest that smiling can be the stimulus for more positive feelings. For even the most altruistic individuals seeking to use their smiles for the good of those around them, there are personal benefits that should not be minimized.
As 2020 begins, let us resolve to be individuals who use our smiles to lift up others in this simple manner. There’s a great chance you’ll reap the benefits for your overall mood, too. Finally, don’t forget to take pride in the ways your smile is unique and differs from those around you. To borrow from one of my favorite Broadway musicals again, “[i]t’s what you wear from ear to ear [a]nd not from head to toe [t]hat matters.” Although we may forget to put on a smile, thank goodness it’s pretty difficult to leave a smile at home!
- Coles, N.A., & Larsen, J.T. (2019). A meta-analysis of the facial feedback literature: effects of facial feedback on emotional experience are small and variable. Psychological Bulletin, 145(6), p. 610-51. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/bul0000194.
- Davis, J.I., Senghas, A., & Oschsner, K.N. (2009). How does facial feedback modulate emotional experience? Journal of Research in Personality, 43(5), p. 822–29.