As I passed by the cute guy from the mailroom, he called me by my nickname and gave me a high five. I couldn’t help but smile even wider.
He nodded once, winked, and then continued down the hallway. I had been working at my first “real” job out of college for only a month, but I was already known as the girl who smiled a lot.
I was Smiley, but I’d soon be known for other attributes: for quickly getting promoted, for always getting holiday bonuses (even when the department supposedly had no money for bonuses), and for increasing book sales at conferences where I staffed the booth by so much that I was asked to be “the face of the company” at all future events.
You might be thinking that I used sex appeal or outrageous flirting to get noticed. That idea makes me giggle because I’m such a conservative dresser and my attempts at flirting are more bunny rabbit than Jessica Rabbit.
Nah. I just learned a secret that has improved my career, friendships, marriage, and every aspect of my life:
You wouldn’t know it by looking at all the smiling photos of me on my website, but I didn’t always have such an open and inviting look about me.
As a teenager and young adult, I had an affliction commonly known as bitch face.
It’s when a woman’s resting or relaxed facial expression makes her look angry, snobby, tired, or…bitchy.
Like other oblivious sufferers, I couldn’t understand why I had such a difficult time making friends or why people assumed I wanted to be left alone. But I should have known: I remember looking at my relaxed face in a mirror and being amazing at how my lips made a perfectly straight line.
It was like looking at a mannequin’s face.
Some women have no idea they have bitch faces. They can’t understand why people assume they’re stuck up or why strangers on the street yell “Smile!” at them all the time.
They’ll get really defensive about it too. Who wouldn’t get defensive when it seems like the whole world is pressuring you to be happy?
I don’t think women should have to play a part or act like hyper cheerleaders to get ahead in life. That would be another false mask to wear.
But wearing a bitch face is like having food stuck in your teeth. It doesn’t give off a good first impression and it’s completely fixable.
Recognizing Bitch Face
Before you can fix your bitch face, you gotta know what you’re dealing with. Try one or more of these activities to see what kind of impression your face is giving off.
- Hang a mirror in your office or keep a compact one on your desk. Casually check your reflection several times throughout your work day. You might be surprised by how grumpy you look when you thought you were simply relaxed.
- Ask a friend to take a photo of you without warning you first. A candid photo when you’re not expecting it is a helpful way to get a glimpse at how the world sees you.
- Keep a tally of how many times someone hints that you look upset during an average week. Listen for clues like, “Are you tired?” “What’s wrong?” “Did you have a rough night?” “Are you mad at me?” Also, notice if someone seems as if they want to say something to you but then they quickly look away. This could be a sign that they were intimidated by your expression.
Once you understand the extent of your bitch-face-itis, it’s time to make a change.
To those of you who think it’s stupid to worry about your facial expressions, you won’t think it’s a waste of time when you realize all the wonderful things you’re missing out on because of it.
Here are 4 crucial things your bitch face is costing you, plus easy tips to give your face a makeover.
It was no coincidence that I was promoted before my peers who had been with the company longer. And while I think I’m a hard worker, I know my skills weren’t what pushed me over the top.
As my manager explained to me, I got it because of my positive attitude and how I smiled warmly at everyone including our clients, the CEO, vendors, and the custodial staff. People WANTED to be around me because I looked like I wanted to be around them.
Do you look happy to be at work every day? Do you look like you’re having fun and that you believe in your company’s mission?
Friends and Invitations
There’s a great quote from Maya Angelou where she says you should make “your face light up” every time you see your kids. I believe that’s true whether it’s your kids, partner, family, or friends…or even potential friends!
Friendships are precious and you have a better chance of attracting and keeping friends in your circle if you make them feel like you want to be around them. No one wants to hang out with a Debbie Downer.
When you’re at a party, bar, or other event where you meet people, do you smile at whomever you meet? Are you more likely to make pleasant small talk, or stare vacantly off into space?
This one’s a real no brainer, right? Attracting a partner is a hundred times easier if you smile and look like you have a happy life already. Photos of people with genuine smiles on dating sites get more views than bizarre “duck faces.”
First impressions count (as much as we wish they didn’t) and people make assumptions about you within the first 10 seconds of meeting you. If your bitch face is all they see, what will that do to your chances of being included in a conversation let alone being asked out on a date?
If you’re already attached, smiling can deepen your connection with your partner. As mentioned before, your face should light up when you see the person you love. Don’t let the spark fade by being complacent about your expression.
You’ve heard the expression “fake it ‘til you make it.” It means that if you pretend to feel a certain way long enough, you’ll ACTUALLY start to feel that way.
That’s what happened to me. After many weeks of consciously making my neutral face slightly happier and more inviting, I discovered that I didn’t have to think about doing it—I naturally looked “smiley” at rest.
When you make yourself smile, you’re making your brain think that you’re happy even if it’s not true at first. Training yourself to smile will slowly change your disposition and cause you to attract more positive things, people, and experiences to you.
Don’t push away abundance by appearing bitchy. Open yourself up to how good you can feel and how rich your life can be.
So what’s a bitch to do?
Haha, I know you’re not really a bitch! It’s time to bring out your inner beauty and let it shine on your face for everyone to see.
Your Bitch Face Makeover Plan
Take time to study your face in the mirror every morning. First, make your regular relaxed face. Let’s rate this face a 1. Then, try the biggest, goofiest smile you can make. This face is a 10. Finally, relax your facial muscles into a very slight smile. The corners of your mouth should be barely turned up and your eyes should have a tiny sparkle. This face should be about a 3 on this scale.
Hold your new pleasant face for 5 minutes and notice how you facial muscles feel. Close your eyes and see if you can recreate this face without looking in the mirror. Practice this face for the rest of the day every time you pass a mirror.
Set an alarm on your phone to go off 3 or 4 times a day (perhaps morning, lunchtime, afternoon, and before bed). When the alarm goes off, immediately check yourself and what type of expression you’re holding. If you can, try to look at your reflection right after the alarm rings.
Do you look pleasantly relaxed? Or did you slip back into your bitch face? Take a breath, think of a happy memory, and adjust your face into a slight smile. You’re training yourself to make this new expression your default.
It took me a few weeks to master my new relaxed expression, but it could take you more or less time depending on how ingrained your bitch face is. You’ll know you’ve made the change when people stop asking if you’re tired and you don’t have to consciously think about what attitude you’re projecting.
I don’t work at the company where I was known as Smiley anymore, but my sunny grin is still my natural expression.
I’m so grateful I conquered my bitch face—and that’s something worth smiling about!
Do you have bitch face?
In the comments below, share your thoughts and any tips you have for using your facial expression to your advantage.