We deserve to see you smile

My initial thought when I looked at this selfie was, “Wow. I look like a bitch. I should have smiled. I really should delete this.”

Then I wondered, “What’s wrong with not smiling?” and thought of all the posts I’d noticed in the last few years about how most societies (often instigated by the request of a man) expect women to smile in order to make them feel better (see links below for videos and articles on this topic).

This train of thought led me to recall how I’ve often wanted Byongchan to smile when I’m pretty sure he’d rather not. Maybe we’re at the dinner table after a long day of me teaching and him making in his studio. He’s quietly eating, and I look at him with a smile. He smiles back. Faintly. Then I wonder, “He seems annoyed. Did I do something wrong?”

And when I thought of this, I remembered the time when I was a teenager and my mother asked me why I rarely smiled. What teenager does, really? I was totally invoking my inner Darlene Connor.

Then that made me think of the talk, Speaking with Authenticity, where Kim Eng starts by telling a story of how as a little girl she was often told to smile because if she didn’t smile, she looked sad. This caused her to fake smile through a lot of her life.

“We take on these roles because people may have said something. Then, when I take on that role, I actually lose that authentic self of me that might be this person that just looks sad but I’m not sad. I was trying to please somebody else — make somebody else comfortable because they told me it wasn’t nice. They weren’t feeling good because I looked the way that I looked, which it appeared in their mind — in their interpretation — that I was sad. So I learned to keep smiling. (…) Wow. We just got to be ourselves.”

And that’s the point, isn’t it? There’s some notion behind this idea that we deserve to see others smile. As if we have some inherent claim to their inner lives, or that they owe us something. When I looked at my thought patterns, I noticed I wanted Byongchan to smile to make me feel more at ease. I interpreted his non-smiling face as a projection of his experience of me. If he could only smile, I would know that I was okay. If he could just smile, I would know he was happy with me.

I realized something similar about how I used to observe my students. If I didn’t see my students engaging in a certain way, I got down on myself. I’d try to control the situation to create a certain outcome. I’d fixate my energy on the student who wasn’t behaving how I wanted them to be, and if they didn’t change, I’d blame myself for not doing a better job, or I’d blame them for not trying.

In my post, 40 things I learned this year, one thing I learned was:

11. Letting people have their own experience, and relinquishing control over others or outcomes, keeps me from feeling stressed and anxious.

But it’s not only about me. It’s also about them. Sure, it’s important to let go of expectations for my own wellbeing, but what about theirs? Why shouldn’t they be allowed to experience life the way they want to?

How have you projected your expectations on to others? Would you like to change this perspective? If so, leave a comment below or send me a message. Let’s work on this together.

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Articles and videos about the expecting Women to Smile
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#iTDi Summer Intensive for Teachers

When teachers find a space where they can shine, something amazing happens: they find their voice. This voice resonates passion, curiosity, and love. It is a powerful voice with the potential to transform lives.

The space that fosters this is found in a community where each teacher is honored and celebrated. This is the space the International Teacher Development Institute creates, and for the next 10 days, 22 voices will shine via the iTDi Summer Intensive for Teachers. To let your voice shine through, click here to sign up for any or all the free webinars your heart desires.

iTDi Summer Intensive 2015

iTDi Summer Intensive 2015

I am very grateful to iTDi for this opportunity to learn and to grow. If you have the time, I’d love to see you at my inaugural webinar. We’ll be exploring something new I’m working with and I would love to hear your thoughts.

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August 6th, 12 pm GMT (Check your local time here)

You may have heard of S.M.A.R.T. action plans when it comes to creating lesson objectives or teaching goals. Although “smart” in theory, these action plans may leave teachers feeling dissatisfied to the point of inaction. One way to change this is to turn S.M.A.R.T. into a S.M.I.L.E. Based on research in neuropsychology and personal development, S.M.I.L.E. is an approach to action planning that can relieve the weight of overwhelm or perfectionism, and enhances our sense of satisfaction. During the session, we will examine this approach in order to develop the type of teaching practice we desire.