Do you ever get told you’re quiet as if it were a problem? Do some people continuously expect you to contribute what’s on your mind so that you can prove to them that you’re worthy of respect? Do acquaintances tell you you look “angry” or tell you to cheer up when you’re busy thinking about what you’ll have for supper? Then you might be a sufferer of Chronic Bitchface.
Now I will be the first to point out that Chronic Bitchface is a choice, to some extent. I don’t smile as much as people want me to because I’m generally content with my present situation and my happiness does not take the form of joy. It means I’m feeling serene. Joy is what I feel when my present situation is better than what it normally should be. I’m pleased when I’m feeling serene, but I don’t smile.
Here’s another reason for my few smiles: since I spend quite a bit of time in my head, my smiles frequently reflect what’s on my mind, not what’s in front of me. The only times my smiles relate to you are when we’re having a pleasant conversation. Else, I’m likely thinking of something that amuses me, like the idea of Zeus being a judge on a reality show singing contest. Or Camus’ biting description on the city of Oran in the 1940s. Usually I catch myself before I smile at the empty space in front of me (don’t want witnesses who will later testify to my being mad) but I’m sure I lost a few smiles in the wilderness of public spaces. I know I have odd tastes and I’ve talked about it before.
Here’s another: in North America, smiles are considered an invitation for conversation with strangers. If I’m in a setting where I want to meet new people I will smile, but there are only a half-dozen settings in which I want to meet new people. Even at these settings, I don’t talk to everyone unless it’s a small group. Everywhere else is off-limits, either because odds are higher we will not click or it’s too loud for me to hear you. (I’m not the only introvert who feels this way. If you want to bring an introvert somewhere, here’s a short list of ideas for quiet public places.)
It also does not help that, as a woman, my smiles may be misinterpreted as flirting by the men around me. A few times I’ve ended up having to make narrow escapes from creeps who followed me over several hundred meters just because I was thinking about something and smiling in public. It’s an unfortunate part of the experience of being a woman. (For the record, if I were single again and wanted to flirt with someone, I would do more than just smile at them; I would approach them and try to engage in conversation.)
Just know that ultimately, it’s not about you whether I smile or not all day. “This introvert wouldn’t have broken into the meeting to speak, for it would have seemed a disservice to her ideas to shout them out above the noise of the others.” One person’s fleeting emotions should not affect you this much. Ask yourself: is it really up to other people to regulate your “positive attitude”?