“It wouldn’t hurt to smile,” my coworker said to me as she walked past my cubicle. It was a rough week – both at work and in my personal life. To say I was drained, physically, mentally and emotionally was a complete understatement.
I’ve always been a happy-go-lucky individual. While my life was a little challenging growing up, you’d seldom see me without the biggest smile on my face. On top of that, I’m one of those rare young folks who still acknowledges everyone I pass by: “Hi, how are you, good morning, “hope you have a good night.” I’d consider myself an extroverted-introvert. I can start a conversation and get along with anyone, but there are moments where I prefer to enjoy my own company. I’m an observer – I’m curious of people’s actions and love to understand their stories behind them.
You can say I’ve sort of “spoiled” those who don’t see me outside of a professional setting, with my overly nice and optimistic attributes. So much so that when I come into work not chatting up a storm, or lacking my “signature smile,” it completely shocks anyone who passes me by.
A little bothered by that comment, I focused all my attention to my desktop monitors and proceeded with completing my work for the day.
What’s interesting about this entire incident is the phenomenon of people constantly branding others into an image of what they perceive is their “norm.” . i.e, If someone is always smiling, their life is perfect. Or, if someone is constantly posting photos depicting a fun time with friends/family, the relationship they have with them is all positive.
We often forget that we’re all humans. While we may come from different backgrounds, hold different morals and possess different colors of skin; what we all have in common is the ability to sense all kinds of emotion. So why do some disburse a specific emotion to one person and they expect them to uphold that emotion?
For me personally, it makes me feel like I cannot transmit any emotion aside from “happiness.” And honestly, causing someone to feel that way is just the most horrible thing. The reasons? Because if a person who usually transmits “happiness” transmits anger or sadness, the receiver of this message interprets it as being the end of the world. They interpret it as not being acceptable – as if you’re a person often happy, positive, smiley; it’s you’re responsibility to remain this way… everyday, hour, minute and second.
As I continued on with my work, and my 2nd cup of coffee, I began taking more offense in that comment.
Instead of commenting and encouraging someone to physically show their “normal” emotion, why not just acknowledge the emotion they have at that moment? Why not be more empathetic about it? Why not offer to better understand or accept that everyone should have a right to let out how they’re feeling.
Why does society treat emotion as sort of this stereotypical concept in which we judge a person’s life by the aesthetics they provide? What people should focus on is understanding people – listening to their stories before deciphering a conclusion. Simply telling someone to smile is not going to change how they feel. Personally, it would only make me feel worse.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” certainly is the best example to use. A book’s cover can be made with the highest quality leather, bound by gold or have the most attention-grabbing photo; but at the end of the day, the cover of the book may be what carries the story. There’s nothing interesting behind it. Inversely, a book that appears quite dull to the eye, is enclosed with a story inside that is intriguing, entertaining or contains a life-changing message.
We don’t know what lies behind a sad face so as much as a face with the biggest smile in the world.