Friday 28 October 2016

Here's presenting a new face to the world

All his life he's been told to smile more, now Brendan O'Connor is promising to grin and bear it for the month of November

Published 02/11/2015 | 02:30

Say cheese: Brendan O'Connor gets in some smiling practice. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Say cheese: Brendan O'Connor gets in some smiling practice. Photo: Tony Gavin.

I am not expecting a good reaction to the smiling. I've tried it out a few times and people seem to find it vaguely threatening. One person accused me of being passive aggressive. Another response is "What? What? What are you smiling about?"

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It's only going to get worse because today I am going to start smiling for a month. Change is possible. And I don't think it's always possible from inside either. You can try and will yourself to change and think about it and intellectualise about it. But sometimes you just have to do it. Sometimes you have to just fake it till you make it. So I am going to rewire my brain, create new neural pathways and new habits by smiling all the time. If I smile, it will be contagious and everyone else will look different too. My experience of the world and of people will be completely different. I am literally going to change the world by smiling.

And you might think I am taking the easy way out here, that I should be doing something difficult, like taking up a new hobby or a new challenge that would bring me out of my comfort zone. But I would argue that this is going to be far more challenging and has the potential to change me far more.

A little bit of background might be helpful at this point. I have, it has to be said, an unfortunate face. I tend to look a bit grumpy even when I'm not. I have a heavy brow and a kind of frown line across the top of my nose. I have, you could say, a form of bitchy resting face, or resting bitch face, or whatever we are calling it this week. My face in repose does not look happy. This is probably not helped by the fact that I am possibly a slightly grumpy person, though grumpy could be the wrong word. I can maybe tend to be a bit serious, a bit intense. All of this is further exacerbated by the fact that if I force myself to smile, it can tend to look more like a grimace, or rigor mortis.

And all of this has defined how the world sees me, and how I see the world, because how the world reacts to me is dictated by my face.

People have felt free to comment on this all my life. I am often told by complete strangers to smile. Obviously when someone says that to you, you feel like telling them to fuck off. But of course that would only be playing into their hands.

So I'm going to change everything by presenting a different face to the world. Initially the smile will be forced, and I imagine people will find me vaguely sinister, or think I'm a bit simple. But a new habit is created in three weeks. So by week four of this I will be smiling all the time without even thinking about it. And that is when true change will be possible.

I should add that I haven't started yet. I felt I should take the opportunity to broadcast it here first so at least some people have an idea what's going on. Because as weird as this is for me, I feel it will be even weirder for other people.

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