I am seen and everything is rosy, or is it?
I have spent the best part of my life ensuring my struggles and pains are tucked away, and what is seen is a PAINTED SMILE
You would be surprised as to how many of us do that.
In order to keep those around me safe and to not let them see that there is a different story going on, the smile is painted on. This was done for so long that even now when my life is so much different. It’s a life full of love, and blessings, but when the past rears its head in one way or another, my default is to put that painted smile on. Why do we do that? Why do we hide behind our smile? Why do we say we are good when we are horrible? Well because that is what society expects us to do. So, we paint a face of joy to others when we feel everything but joy on the inside.
I’d lock myself in the bathroom to take a break, but the silence would bring me back to the ticker tape inside my head. ‘What’s your problem?’ the voice demanded. ‘Pull yourself together. You are here with friends. What is wrong with you?’ I’d take a deep breath, plaster the grin back on my face and get back out there. I put on an Oscar-worthy performance.
To bring back a smile that is reality is to express yourself, to relinquish the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences that do not serve you well. Fear in the past stopped convinced me that I could not trust anyone, and my deepest secrets would at some point be used against me. I understand now that much of what I was feeling was due to the indoctrination and shame I endured. Freeing myself and letting it all go allows you to have a better perspective of things and bring back that real smile.
Behind my smile is sometimes pain, but behind my smile is also a story. A story of growth. A story that is mine. A story of resilience. A story of pushing forward. A story of finding my voice. A story of learning my power. A story of letting go, giving myself grace to start again, from ground zero, not knowing what this version of my self-love journey will look like, but ready for it. It is that story I want to bring out.
I feel strengthened every time I tell my story. It can be uncomfortable at times, I often question myself, in many ways I feel exposed, but I know it is so important to continue on this path. Telling your story offers courage to someone else who is in a similar circumstance and may be searching for inspiration to keep going. I will continue working on myself and believing in my power to inspire and encourage others. I have no reason to feel ashamed and I am worthy of all the love and support I receive today. My vulnerability is my superpower.
I was silenced and developed a poker face. A face that no one could detect what is going on. Showing emotion can put you in a vulnerable place, and it’s pretty normal to want to avoid exposing vulnerabilities to others. It is OK to show emotion, you do not need to put on that painted smile.
Here are some ways to not default to a painted smile
Know that a painted smile is a learned behaviour that kept you safe when you were little. Your body and mind did what it was programmed to do for emotional survival.
Know that a painted smile is not your fault, even though our voices, tells us it is.
Know that as adults we can handle rejection better and come out of hiding.
Know that you can surround yourself with friends and partners who can feel the way you do, such as proud when you are proud and happy when you are happy.
Practice changing your habitual reflex to putting on a painted smile. Give yourself permission deeply to feel expansive feelings such as joy, pride, interest and excitement when they arise.
6. Coming into the open and expressing feelings is safe now. If you persist in
allowing yourself to be seen, it gets easier.
I know from my own situation that even in recent times I have defaulted to putting that painted smile on. The difference now is that those close to me are on to me they know when that is happening. I am able to regroup and self-care and put in place the steps needed to bring myself back into the room and peel that layer of paint off to reveal the real smile. YOU CAN TOO.