Whats the first thing you think of when you hear that word? If you’re like me, you cringe because it brings up uncomfortable memories! (To be discussed later). Do you maybe picture some of your favorite smiles that belong to your loved ones? The eyes are a big part of what makes a smile so appealing, so if you’ve got a killer smile and some nice eyes, I think you have a lot going for you already.
Have you been complimented on your smile? Do you smile at strangers for no reason other than to be friendly? Or do you dislike your smile? Do people tell you to smile more often?
Babies learn to smile between 6 and 12 weeks of age (real smiles, unrelated to gas). So basically we’ve been smiling for as long as we can remember, and then some. Smiling is such a social gesture, and society tells us that our smiles should be straight and white.
It’s so adorable that most kids seem to lose both of their front teeth at the same time, resulting in that cute little gummy smile. It’s precious on babies and kids to see missing teeth, but as we age, we have things like veneers and dentures to make sure we don’t scare anyone away.
A smile is a universal sign of friendliness. It signifies to others that we’re having a good time (I guess that’s why we smile in pictures, right – to remember the good times?) But even the Bible reminds us that “even in laughter the heart may feel pain.” Sometimes a smile hides a broken heart. Appearances are not always what they seem.
Sometimes a smile from the right person can warm your heart, brighten your day and keep you going. Can you remember the first time your significant other smiled at you? Or can you remember the first time your baby smiled at you? Those are moments you probably will remember and treasure forever. (If you don’t have a significant other or a baby, maybe you have a dog that smiles – SO cute!)
Recently, I was having a conversation with one of my favorite 5 year olds, and when we reached a lull in the conversation, we made eye contact and she flashed me a huge, spontaneous smile. It was such a natural reflex for her that of course I couldn’t help but smile back – at both the sheer cuteness of her smile and also the fact that she is being raised to be so polite and sweet. Her smile melted my heart and made my day like nothing else could. Kids can be so precious.
When many of us reach adolescence, we are left with a crooked smile that often needs some form of orthodontia to correct. (Sorry if headgear made an appearance in your life; I’ve been told that times have changed) Many times this is purely cosmetic; other times it’s medically necessary. This, during a time in our lives when many of us desperately lack confidence. Having something “wrong” with our appearance only intensifies those feelings of self-consciousness. We suffer with a mouth full of metal for years so that we can have a perfect smile when it’s all over with.
Growing up, I had braces and shyness. I also had(have) what I’ll refer to as “resting grumpy face” (it’s most often called something far less kind, which I won’t repeat here). I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time people had said to me any of the following:
“Smile!” (thanks, I’ll move these muscles around in my face just because you told me to)
“Why are you so quiet?” (Why are you so loud?)
“What’s wrong?” (Nothing til you came around)
“You’re so quiet!” (And you’re so loud!)
“You’re so much prettier when you smile!” (Thanks for the tip! So sorry I’m disturbing you with my hideous face)
I know people mean well when they say such things (but teenage Stefanie took it pretty hard, so I say this for anyone who can relate) – It’s their way of saying they would like it if I spoke up more, smiled more, or made more of an attempt to be social. Ugh.
I’m an introvert. Socializing and conversation (especially small talk) are two things that come harder for me than you may know. I KNOW that I need to work at being more social. I really want to run away from you when you point it out to me, however.
Here’s a bit of unsolicited advice that I firmly swear by: Never, under any circumstances, instruct another person to “smile!” unless you are behind the camera and they are your subject.
If you see someone who is in desperate need of a smile, why not give them yours for starters? Then maybe gently engage them in conversation and try to see why they need a smile that day. If they feel like sharing, they may just open up to you. As a shy, awkward teenager, I felt very comfortable around extroverts who accepted me just the way I was and didn’t pressure me to be more like them. Even as adults, I know a lot of people are self conscious about how they look or about how other people are viewing them. To be told to “smile” is just further pressure they don’t need and creates a new thought that oh great, now someone IS focusing on me and finding me deficient.
One habit I’ve gotten into is that of smiling at myself in the mirror every time I wash my hands. I know it sounds cheesy, but it does several things – instantly lifts my mood even if for just a second; verifies that I don’t have anything stuck in my teeth; and most importantly, gets me in a frame of mind to more readily give that smile away to the next person I see – which could be you!
Let me know your thoughts below! Even post a smile if you like ;)