The Effort of Smiling


Folded up between duvets this morning, sweltering and unwilling to budge, I suddenly wondered if everyone understands how much effort it takes to stay this positive?  I was crying a bit, thinking, how am I meant to smile, and say how OK everything is, when it’s not.  I was being a bit dramatic and overstating; at the moment, things really are quite OK.

But what about those times when it’s not?  The times when, averagely-low, emotionally drained, I wriggle into my smile and stretch it out to please?  When I hide inside it, trying desperately to please everybody else?  People comment on my smile, they think it’s nice.  What about the times it’s a real effort?  I bet it doesn’t look as nice then, all faded like that.

At Citizens’ Advice, being given really disheartening advice about benefits, I was so chirpy it was actually commented on.  Until I crumbled and cried.  The same happened in hospital- being told I needed anti-biotics for a cut, I quipped and grinned my way through it, then sobbed behind the scenes when they were finished.  I find it easy to smile because it’s what I do.  It makes people think I’m not that unwell or, worse, that I don’t care that much, that my flippancy is a sign that I’m not bothered by certain things.  I am bothered, I do care, sometimes I am unwell.  But I’m also too polite to get angry, or upset.

I think from time to time everybody has the feeling that they’re “putting a face on things”.  Everybody.  Not just people who are unwell, not just people who are having a rough time, even.  I know.

But this morning, creased, unwilling to fake, I just didn’t want to.


6 thoughts on “The Effort of Smiling

  1. It’s tough, isn’t it? I don’t have any advice, I’m afraid, because I’m as guilty as you of keeping on smiling when inside I’m crying. I guess I don’t do it with Lovely Boyfriend and I’ve learnt to not attempt so much with my family either. But it’s horrible, admitting you’re weak. I suppose what we have to try and remember is that it isn’t weakness, however much it feels like it. Perhaps we’re actually stronger if we admit we can’t smile today?

    • Very true. It’s good that you don’t do it with Lovely Boyfriend, important to be able to trust somebody that way. It’s not a weakness… I wonder if “well” people feel that more, or less, than “we” do.

      • I sometimes think “we” notice it more because we’ve trained our brains so hard, in order to garner control of our lives. My psychologist (before she released me) said I’m one of the most self-aware people she knows, mentally ill or otherwise, purely because I’ve spent 4 years learning how my mind works. I think “well” people don’t think so much about their reactions to things because those reactions aren’t so extreme. Or they simply don’t care….something I should probably try!

  2. I really understand what you mean. You have to put on the happy face and then become really good at wearing that mask. But, after all the motivational and self-esteem boosting games have been put away, in the quiet of the day, when you are alone and won’t frighten anyone, the tears finally fall.

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