Monday 26 September 2016

Smiling all the time is actually ludicrous

Published 23/11/2015 | 02:30

Smile: Brendan O'Connor
Smile: Brendan O'Connor

I have to admit it's not going as well as I expected. It's hard, the smiling. And it's not really me, in a way. But then, that's the point of all this, isn't it? Change is possible. But you have to be patient with change. I was talking to one of my fellow changers, John Greene, and he was pointing out that his swimming is a longer-term project than just this month. And I reflected on my own swimming project, which I have now accepted is a lifelong thing. I will be learning to swim until the day I die. I'll never quite get there. And anyway, what would I do there if I did get there? I'd just get bored then.

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So I think I have to accept too that the smiling is a long-term project and that there will be ups and downs and frowns. I am unquestionably smiling more than I used to. But life gets in the way, doesn't it? Hence my new motto: Don't let life get in the way of smiling, let smiling get in the way of life.

And it does. Smiling changes you. It changes your attitude to everything. At the beginning, I worried that the change would be a bad one, that I would become one of those inane, inoffensive, positive, happy-clappy people. But I am discovering that is not who Smiling Me is. Certainly Smiling Me is at times, a warm, open person. But mainly Smiling Me is smiling because I am not taking things too seriously. And that, I feel, could be the great breakthrough here, reconnecting me with my true self. I am finding also that smiling helps with boredom. I'm a martyr to the boredom. And I worry it shows sometimes. But I am discovering that smiling is a far better way of disguising your boredom than my usual trick of furrowing my brow and pretending to be interested. I'd go further and say that once you are smiling, no one will question anything about you. Smiling is, you could say, the best way of marketing and spinning yourself in this world. Instead of trying to be right all the time and instead of trying to have any kind of intelligent interaction with people, you're better off just smiling. And they will all walk away from their encounter with you feeling good about themselves and about you. Smiling is the default position for an easy life.

If only I could remember to smile. I'm still trying to develop more triggers for smiling. Greeting people is a good one. Indeed I am finding that the smile is coming more naturally now when I greet people. A few people have even commented on it. That's the beauty of making this project public. People feel free to say what they want to you, using the excuse of being supportive. So they say things like, "The smile is getting more normal looking. It was like rigor mortis or something there at the beginning." They also expect you to smile over nothing. They're like, "Come on. Smile!" And I'm like, 'Give me something to smile about then.'

That's another problem with admitting that you are professionally engaged in trying to smile all the time: people seem to expect smiles for free. They don't want to work for it anymore.

Overall, I think I am coming to a realisation that smiling all the time is slightly ludicrous. Ocasional smiling is best. Now I just need to find more occasions to do it

TIP: try adding a bit of eye contact to your smiling. It helps with the sincerity. Not too intense or you'll freak people out.

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