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“Smile. It’ll make people wonder what you’re up to” – I have no idea who said this.

It’s been said that you can gain insight into yourself by noting the characteristics you most deplore in other people. That’s an interesting concept and one in which you can utilize if you’re really honest with yourself.

In the past, I’ve observed how a smile can be my default facial setting when it comes to approaching life. I’ve known people who go around with both middle fingers raised and that doesn’t seem to curry them much favor with others.

Alternately, sometimes it’s exhausting, having to put a smile on your face when your inner feelings don’t align.

Let's get happy!

Let’s get happy!

I was sparked with the idea about smiling as an act of dishonesty by my fellow blogger Better Not Broken. When is having a smile on your face a disingenuous act?

Perhaps we need to back up. Why do we smile? Marquette University magazine did a piece about this, which you can find online:

“Smiling, like most facial expressions, communicates to those around us what we are feeling… . It has not been resolved whether expressions are learned or innate, but it does seem that all humans use the same expressions to communicate basic emotions. We also know that we manipulate our expressions to have control over what we communicate. You do not have to be happy to smile, and you can smile and not be happy … at least not initially.”

We’ve all been around people who smile a lot, are cheerful and upbeat. Present a change in how you react to them and sometimes things can get decidedly less cheerful and upbeat. I was in such an encounter recently. I, however, have been around the block enough to recognize the duplicity. I don’t have to fool around with cognitive dissonance anymore with certain individuals.

It got me thinking though. How often do I smile and then go and do something passive aggressive towards another person to show covert hostility? How often do I paste on a smile while I silently grind my teeth? I can see these traits in other people. I don’t like those traits and I sure as heck don’t want to emulate what I don’t like in others.

I thought, wouldn’t it be better just to be honest, speak how you feel and not have things sag under the weight of aggravation and false pretense?

Wouldn’t we all be more peaceful and more of a pleasure to be around? Wouldn’t it be more honest?

This is something I have to work on.

More and more, I’ve come to see certain people as “lessons.” I say to myself, what does this person have to teach me about myself and what insight can I take from their own behaviors?

So, I’m not going to start scowling at people. A smile will continue to be the expression I wear when I meet most people. But I’ll think about the emotions behind that smile and try to figure out if I’m being the most genuine person I can be.