In our society, there are socially acceptable “norms” for how the face should look during difficult conversations, at a funeral, or when working through a challenging math problem. It makes sense that being uncomfortable would show in our facial expression, tone of voice and body language. But what if you’re one of the gazillon people who have what is commonly referred to as Angry Resting Face?
Have you interacted with someone who always looks a little pissed off and you wonder why she’s always angry? She may not be. She may just have ARF.
It’s safe to say we all carry a little (or a lot) of anger with us at times. Life can be hard. But for most of us, our facial and body language reflect the balance of joy and sadness and we present what could be called a pleasant expression.
For people who have ARF, their default is furrowed brows, pursed lips, and squinting eyes. Often they have a condescending tone of voice and crossed arms posture. It’s annoying to interact with someone who has ARF, but imagine being the person with ARF! You realize your looks are turning people away, but you don’t know how to change it. The feeling of powerlessness can be overwhelming and paralyzing.
There are people who will tell an ARF person that she has to change to not upset others. I see a dramatic problem with this. Focusing on changing who you are to please others distracts you from being present. Instead, you’ll be walking around all day twisting your face into a fake and unnatural expression which will likely lead others to wonder if you’re no longer angry but instead going cuckoo. To focus on changing yourself to please others is a recipe for never pleasing anyone.
I propose a different approach.
Own your ARF. Name your ARF whenever you sense the need to put others at ease. Naming it with self-confidence and a sprinkle of laughter will put you and the others at ease. Here’s a scenario:
You’re in a meeting and you realize that you have ARF in facial, tone and body language. You take the next appropriate opportunity to laugh at yourself with compassion and say, “By the way, this is my angry resting face. I’m not upset; I’m just processing the information.”
The more we deny our true selves and try to twist ourselves into a pretzel, the more our true selves cling desperately for dear life – which keeps us stagnant and does not allow for true, healthy and lasting evolution.
By accepting who we are, we allow ourselves the freedom to evolve. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the more we accept our flaws, the more they release us and we can naturally and authentically evolve to be whom we want to be.
The greatest gift we can give ourselves, and others, is to be present. Fully present. During the good, the bad, the hilarious and the ARF moments.