Everyone does it…and everyone fakes it. A smile is a natural expression of how we are feeling, as well as a facade for how we want others to view us. A smile can be both disarming and deceiving. So how can we learn to trust one?
Smiling is an impulse not just reserved for expressing delight. The corners of the mouth can turn up when feeling frustrated or in certain instances of pain, for example. However, paying attention to more than the shape of the mouth can reveal how a person is really feeling. A smile in the midst of frustration will leave quickly, and a pasted-on, “Say cheese” smile will look unnatural on the face. But a genuine smile will build up gradually and be accompanied by the contraction of an involuntary muscle at the corners of both eyes. This full expression cannot be forced, as the muscle moving the outside corners of the eyes is only initiated when experiencing delight.
So real happiness triggers a real smile…but real smiles may also do the same job in reverse. In a study comparing grins (and non-grins) in old yearbook pictures with levels of happiness years later, those captured with a genuine smile had the highest levels of satisfaction with life. So stop forcing the smile and focus on whatever motivates a real smile…and we’ll learn to trust others and ourselves in the process.