Ever since I was a toddler, I’ve had people tell me either directly or say behind my back that I "look mean" or “like a bitch.” And my best friend, whom I first met in my late teens in a dance program, felt no different. “Not even gonna lie, dude. I thought you were a complete bitch when I first saw you,” she told me, probably while we were both stuffing our faces because, honestly, we love to eat.
“Yeah,” I said, “I get that a lot.” And that is true; I really do get that a lot. It’s almost to the point where I expect people to think I’m mean before they even talk to or get to know me. (I should probably preface everything I'm going to say in this post with this: I don't always look mean in public when I'm by myself, just the majority of the time.)
But expecting this perception of who I am upon first glance doesn’t mean that I’m OK with it. I really hate giving off the vibe that I’m unapproachable, because nine times out of ten I want people to approach or talk to me. Not only does that alleviate some of the anxiety I get when meeting new people, but it also is a clear indication that people think I look nice enough to just start a conversation with.
Sure, there are times, although rarely, when I look super uninterested and irritated because, well, I just am. As people, we all get annoyed and rubbed the wrong way in certain situations and sometimes it’s just impossible to conceal it.
As years have passed, though, I’ve realized that my cold countenance–which in today’s modern world has been coined “Resting Bitch Face” (RBF)–is a part of who I am. Does it suck that most people who first lay eyes on me think I’m cold-hearted and stuck-up? Of course. And as much as I’ve tried to alter my facial expressions in everyday life (i.e., walking down the street, going shopping, getting on and off public transportation) on a continual basis, it’s not that simple for me.
Maybe it’s a defense mechanism. OK, it most definitely is a defense mechanism, at least in certain situations, anyways. When my anxiety is acting up and I feel as if I'm not in control of it, my RBF is in full effect. (For some background, you can read more about my anxiety here.) But because I've been mean-mugging since I was rocking knockers in my pigtails (read: since I was a toddler), it's a little difficult to just stop.
And then that begs the question: Should I change? And if I do, would I be doing it solely because I don't like what people think when they first see me, or would I be doing it for myself? Well, I know that one obvious benefit of changing would be that I would interact with strangers more often, especially in places that I frequent, like train stations and coffee shops. (I mean, what single woman doesn't want to meet a cute guy in Starbucks and strike up a conversation about the CDs on display near the register while you both wait in line?)
On one hand, I think I should learn to accept my RBF simply because it's been a part of me for so long. Also, because it is a part of my personality, depending on the circumstances. But on the other, I think I'd be doing my well-being a disservice if I just became complacent with perpetually looking mean or sad. After all, when you radiate happiness and smile often, you attract positivity and good vibes from others.
And that's what I desire most–to exude true joy even in the most adverse of times and then transfer it to those around me, even to people I don't know. And I really have been smiling a little more lately, partly because I want to seem approachable, but mainly because I witness a positive shift in mindset when I do.
Now, I'm not saying that I should just go around talking to random people all day just for the hell of it. But I do believe that when you have positive interactions with strangers, especially in the morning, it can improve your day. Besides, sometimes talking to strangers is just fun.
So, to all you passerby that I’ve come across–whether it be in the street, on the train, or in a bar–I’m not a bitch, I just look like one.
Header image: via T.R.G./Flickr Creative Commons