“Life is serious business and not meant for frivolity!”
I remember hearing that as a child and I bought into it, hook, line and sinker as they say. I can still see the wrinkled firmness between my father’s brow, and frown on my father’s face when hearing those words in my head. What ever happened to “life is that men might have joy?” Oh, that’s right, only men were supposed to feel joy, a discrepancy that never sat well with me, but still I unconsciously bought into it. I took that misperception with me into adulthood. Even when life had been truly fabulous and I appeared to have it all, I did not allow myself to really feel it inwardly or show it outwardly, at least not often. Enjoying my life too much would have given off the appearance of idleness and frivolity. God forbid I actually be delighted with myself and my life, and really, according to my parents, God did forbid it. Life was serious and the seriousness of my life was painted on my face.
I was completely unaware that by not smiling, or worse, laughing, I was creating a barrier that kept me from enjoying my life as fully as I could.
In essence I was being selfish. By not smiling and sharing my smile with others, I was unknowingly creating resistance to the very things I desired. One day during my mid-life turmoil, as I stood in line paying for groceries, with both children in hand, the man in line behind me commented about my grumpy frowned-face. “You should try smiling sometime; I bet you have a beautiful smile.” “What does he know?” I thought to myself, “He doesn’t’ know how hard my life is.” But then his words sat with me for a moment and reminded me that I once was very proud of my smile. I had paid a dentist a lot of money in my twenties to create a beautiful smile and repair the damage that 20+ years of poor childhood dental care had left behind. As that stranger walked away, I managed to dig up a smile out of the depths and forced it onto my face. As I smiled, I felt it lift my spirit, and for a moment the sadness was gone. It was then that I began to understand just how powerful a simple upturn of the lips could be. Stepping outside I sat on a sidewalk bench with my babies beside me and a groceries still in tow, I grabbed a notebook from my purse and wrote a note to myself that would change my life.
The expression you carry on your face is an indicator of how you feel on the inside and vice versa.
Smile, even if it hurts, even if it feels your are dredging it up and it doesn’t feel real. Smile at everyone you meet. How you appear on the outside begins to reflect on the inside. It is impossible to feel anger and worry when you have a smile on your face. As happiness radiates out through your smile, it is reflected back to you in the faces that you see throughout your day. When others respond to your smile, it creates a positive shift within you. When life has you down and you find yourself surrounded by chaos, it may seem impossible to smile and pretend that everything is okay. Everything will be okay and you will survive. Life has a way of working itself out if you stay open. Be particular with whom you share your personal story. Share it only with people who will uplift and support you and help you find your smile. Sharing your story with others who are in a negative space will only drag you down further. As you compete for “who has the worst story,” the combined negative energy will counteract all of your efforts to stay grateful and positive. When you smile, you are open and approachable. The people, opportunities and ideas you seek will have an easier time reaching you because your defenses are down. Smile, pretend that everything is okay, focus on the positive aspects, and you will begin to see your life turn around. What you receive is in direct response to how you feel, and how you feel is in direct response to the words you use and how you portray yourself.
With that message came the blaring awareness that not only was I unconsciously telling the world I was miserable and no fun to be around. I had also been sharing my predicaments with the wrong people. It’s no wonder my marriage was stressful and I didn’t have many friends. In what I thought was communicating I complained about my problems with people I barely knew. I commiserated with other moms in the Mommy and Me classes and on park playgrounds, and I gossiped on the street with women in my neighborhood. I was perpetuating my problems by announcing them to the public, all the while thinking I was having “girl bonding time.” I had an unconscious fear that if I did not participate in the gossip and complaining, I would not have any friends. In reality, no one really wanted to hear my problems except to help them feel better about their own strife. The truth was that no one wanted to attend my pity party, not even me.
I decided to stop complaining and start listening.
I started listening to the voice within that was teaching me how to fix my problems instead of listening to and internalizing everyone else’s problems as though they were my own. The once toxic associations drifted away and new friendships emerged that were based in loving mutual support and personal growth. As I let go of the relationships that did not serve me and found new ones that did. I found my true smile as it bubbled up from within me and lit up my face. The more I smiled and shared my positive energy, the more people wanted to be around me and share their positive energy with me. Which was so much more fun and rewarding than commiserating with negative people who just wanted someone else to commiserate with. New friends, ideas, people and opportunities began to easily find their way to me because my defenses and the blocks I had built around my heart were coming down. As they did, my smile widened and the heaviness in my heart lightened.
As I lightened up I began to see that most of what I saw in my life as serious business, was really nothing more than a series of totally irrational beliefs. Beliefs that had held my joy hostage and dimmed my laughter.
Life is that ALL people might have joy, and most of it really is pretty darn funny once you stop crying over it.
(The above story is a snippet from my book Transcending Fear)