I have no idea what my face is doing.
Many times, people have asked me what’s wrong when I’m feeling fine.
Other times, people have asked me what I’m smiling or smirking about, when I wasn’t aware that I was doing so.
One time when I was a teenager, my mom snapped at me in the mall that she was embarrassed to be seen with me because I always looked miserable.
Another time, a woman at church told me I always had a huge smile on my face whenever she saw me.
A friend once joked that my smile was so big and lopsided that I looked deranged.
I often felt annoyed and frustrated because of all these comments, but then one day I was a passenger in a car on a road trip, and I was having a fantastic time and felt like I was smiling, but I caught a glimpse of myself in the side mirror and saw that I looked unhappy and nauseated, like I was about to be sick. It truly hit me then that my facial expression at any given time does not necessarily reflect what’s going on inside.
Because of this, at some point in my adulthood I started to have anxiety about what my face was doing. I hate being misunderstood, and I also don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by doing something inappropriate with my face. Like I don’t want to sit in the front row at a concert or a lecture, lest the singer or speaker think I’m scowling at them and not enjoying their performance or talk.
I tried talking to my former counselor about this, but he totally pooh-poohed my concerns. He started making faces at me and getting me to interpret them, showing me how a neutral expression can look hostile just because of the lack of a smile. He said that’s the case with everybody, not just me.
I’m also now aware of the humourous concept of resting bitch face (or bitchy resting face, as they call it in this video), which I can totally relate to.
So perhaps it’s not just me, but I doubt that everyone has this problem like my counselor insinuated. If they did, society would have no awareness of the meaning behind facial expressions at all, because they would be completely random and wouldn’t be assumed to correspond to any particular emotions or intentions. That is clearly not the case.
I have started deliberately stretching my lips slightly horizontally when I’m in the presence of others, not to the point where it’s an actual smile (which apparently looks weird when there’s no noticeable reason for it), but just to ensure that my lips aren’t scrunched up into a little ball like they’re normally inclined to do. I probably look stupid and dippy, but at least no one asks me what’s wrong when I’m doing that.