“If Beauty is power, then a smile its sword” by John Ray are very potent words and very true but perhaps these words of wisdom would have served us better if he had added “genuine” before the word smile.
The hype continued and famous quotes were coined, “Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone”; or “Wear a smile, one fits all”; and the pressure was on us, both in the work and social environment -- we had to smile or be branded as sad, depressed, not a team player or, the worst, a party pooper. And so the genuine smile, something that happens by nature to benefit the body and mind, was laid to rest and replaced with the “new and improved” smile that could be pasted on to create the illusion of an all-around happy successful person; such a smile open doors for you and attracts the right happy people to you.
Beauty pageant contestants are taught how to create a genuine smile, continuously; to look positive, full of energy and as if they are enjoying themselves, even when they are actually highly nervous and exhausted.
I have a friend who is a TV presenter and she is often in the public eye; we were having a photo taken together at a function and she leaned over and very sweetly suggested that she has smiling down to an art and would teach me how to have a genuine smile; all I needed to do is repeat the word “Hi!” slowly over and over again until the photo was taken.
Now I understand the origins of her odd horse-like smile and why her top teeth always protruded over her bottom ones in photos, it all made sense now. I think I am safe to say that copying anything genuine somehow does not give us the same satisfaction as the real deal.
People with constant cheery dispositions make me weary. Before I go further, I do want to say that there are some, very rare though, people that are genetically predisposed to smiling, and they themselves are uncomfortable that they cannot always control it. But mostly people that are continuously smiling use it more like a mask to cover up what they are really thinking. Occasionally, someone with acute observatory senses can pick up on the defensive or condescending truth behind their smile, but mostly, these people have the world fooled and this suits them just fine. When I am face to face with a constant smile, especially in a meeting, I always try and ignore the smile and focus on the eyes, which usually gives me a better indication of where I truly stand with the person.
Research has shown that constant smiling can be bad for your health, especially, if you’re forced to do it as part of your job, for example, as a flight attendant, waiter or shop assistant. The stress caused by having to flash one’s teeth at customers can lead to depression, high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems. I am not surprised at all.
Sadly, excessive use of insincere smiles has had a backlash and today many people see all smiles as insincerity; even when you flash a genuine smile full of warmth and emotion, its “authenticity” is questioned.
It has actually become difficult to be just nice, without having any motivation or wanting something in return. If beauty is power then a “genuine” smile, can most definitely, cut through insincerity and negativity, to lighten the mood and fill a room or a heart with beauty. Something pretense can never do, and this is how to tell the difference.
(Basra Haider covers the beauty business. She can be reached at: email@example.com)