I have a confession to make (which won’t come as a surprise to those of you who know me well or have worked with me). I have the condition known as Resting Bitch Face. This is an affliction which is more noticeable in women than in men. How do I know this? I read an article about a study that was done which revealed what causes this condition. The most concerning part of this article was that it said “women have more pressure on them to be happy and smiley and get along with others”. I want to know: why is there more societal pressure on women to appear happy than men? (If you know the answer please enlighten me!)
When I was twenty I came across the mantra “happy people are attractive people” and for a while I tried to practice conscious smiling (I was single at the time and thought this would increase my chances of finding a boyfriend, turns out it did and years later he married me!).
The first time I became aware that I had this condition was at work, in a simulated learning environment. I was selected to participate in a management challenge in a mock executive team. We spent months practicing our management skills together through mock challenges before competing with other organisations. One day we completed a mock management challenge while being observed by an ‘expert’. After the challenge the expert provided feedback. To this day I will never forget his feedback for me – I needed to smile more. He even suggested I make a point of taking smile breaks. What he really meant was I have Resting Bitch Face which makes other people uncomfortable. So when I want to make people around me feel comfortable, particularly at work, I try to smile more.
I even remember one night in my twenties being out drinking and dancing with friends and although I was having a good time my face said otherwise. I wasn’t ‘happy and smiley’ enough for my friends who put in considerable effort to try and cheer me up, mainly by buying me more drinks (I just found a silver lining to the condition – free drinks!!).
I imagine there are times when Resting Bitch Face is an advantage, like when I’m trying to win a negotiation with my toddler/husband/colleague.
Plenty of successful people have the condition including Queen Elizabeth, Victoria Beckham, Kanye West … the list goes on.
If you have Resting Bitch Face, or know someone who does, don’t worry about it. There are enough real problems to worry about as a working mum. Just because someone has this affliction do not assume they are unhappy or passive aggressive. I am happy most of the time and if I’m not happy I will tell you about it rather than rely on my facial expression alone. If I’m not smiling don’t worry, I’m probably thinking about something totally boring and mundane like whether I hung the washing out to dry or if it’s still sitting in the washing machine.
In summary smile when you want to and don’t let society pressure you into smiling constantly. Sometimes you just need to rest your face.
If you want to find out more about the cause of this condition read this article.