Authentic smiling as a coping mechanism

By | Sat October 28, 2017

In doing my PhD research, one of the things I noticed is that I took many pictures of myself smiling. This was done in part because I wanted to make sure my family and friends had lots of pictures of me smile (in the event that I didn’t make it). It was also done as a way to show my family and friends that I was doing OK.

The thing about smiling is that when it comes from the inside, it does help you feel better. However, it isn’t something that should be ever forced on a cancer patient. Being asked / forced to smile doesn’t work. The positive effects of a smile work when it is something that comes from inside the person, not when it is a facade put on to benefit others.

This week, I’ve seen many reports on this smile mirror – a mirror that forces cancer patients to smile. It is an example of a technology gone wrong. The forcing of a smile won’t help. Doing something that helps the person smile does help. Like how humor can help you feel better – nothing better than a good laugh – but forcing someone to smile just makes them feel worse. It makes them feel like their real feelings aren’t valid – that they need to put on a show for the benefit of everyone else – it just isn’t authentic.

The creator missed the point – authentic smiles make people feel better – forced smiles make them feel worse.

For me, smiling worked as a coping mechanism because it was me choosing to smile. Even when it was me putting on a smile for a photograph, it was still me making that choice. It wasn’t some stupidly expensive mirror app thing trying to force the smile on me – it was something that came from inside of me. That is why it worked.

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