Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fake it 'til it's real

I had a student last week tell me that when I wasn’t smiling, I looked mad.  I was floored.  The surprise her comment generated caused me to reflect on the person I show people, which apparently wasn’t what I thought.  Instead of an easy going, congenial look, I wear a serious, you better not mess with me face.  This is not what I want.
Since then, I have worked to be aware of a smile on my face.  Even if I am not full out beaming, I still make sure the corners of my mouth are angling upwards, hinting at the amusement I feel within.  I am like a walking Mona Lisa.  This way, someone who sees me understands that I am not an unapproachable person, that I am nice and gentle and pleasant.  This is the face I want people to see.
I often notice and make assumptions about what people are like simply based on the posture of their mouth.  I see people whose mouths seem to have a natural curve downward and I can’t help but think they frown often.  I think my logic makes sense - if a person frowns more than they smile, the frown muscles are stronger, keeping their face framed by a perpetual frown.
The same works for a smile.  If a person always smiles, their face will always carry that same look when at rest.  Those muscles will always turn the very tips of their smile upwards.
Based on what your face shows me, I feel that I can accurately guess at how you react to and approach life.  I should be able to guess if you are a pessimist or an optimist.  Try it - go look in the mirror and see if you are a smiler or a frowner.  Show yourself the person others see.
One of the lessons Mary Kay teaches (I am a student of MK as much as my wife) is the concept of “faking it until it is real.”  If you aren’t feeling happy and excited, fake it.  If you aren’t feeling congenial and personable, fake it.  If you don’t feel like smiling, fake it.  The results are based in behavioral and physiological science.  As you fake your attitude, your brain will start to gear the rest of your body towards the attitude you are acting.  When you smile, even if it is faked, your body releases serotonin into your blood stream, creating the sense of happiness, peace, and euphoria you were missing before.  The end result being that the behavior your were faking becomes your reality.
If you find that you are a frowner, as I seem to have been lately, you can turn that frown upside down.  You don’t necessarily have to be in the best of places mentally to make this happen - you simply have to invest some effort into re-imagining your circumstances.  Start out by faking the smile, this will help your body.  Fake a good mood, your brain will pick up on it.  Fake being polite, do this enough and it will become natural.  Fake everything.  Eventually, the old adage loved by mothers everywhere will take place - the face you are making will stick.  People will see you and witness your smile.
This has been my battle the last week or so.  In the car on my way to work I run a happiness and peace mantra, thanking the universe for my peace and happiness (no matter the circumstances).  I practice my smile, not in the mirror, I am driving after all, but on my face.  I make sure I feel like I am smiling on the outside and on the inside.  I prepare myself to show the world the person I want them to see - a happy, peacefully, smiling Frank.  It is hard work, and I constantly have to readjust my face (I just reminded myself to smile), but I think it is worth it.  After all, first impressions are the hardest to change, and for many of us that first impression starts with your face.  Do you want to be a smiler or a frowner.  It is up to you. 

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