Smile and Say Goodbye to Your Victim Self

20 May 2020

Smiling is a personal practice to embrace your joy at all times.

Simple as it is, the practice of smiling no matter what is happening in life, is an act of self empowerment. It is a choice borne out of your own belief that nobody can take your joy away from you, unless you allow them to. At least so in my personal experience.

Years and years ago, my sister had to drill it into me, because I had a nickname in University, and it was "Chao bin". That meant grouchy face or 'smelly' face in my dialect Hokkien, a phrase that made its way into the Singlish vocabulary . While it was a fun jib at me from my friends, it certainly wasn't funny when my sister got word of it. She told me that I had to smile more, and that I had to practice until it became natural. She made me stand in front of the mirror and look at myself. It was awkward, it felt forced; my face twitched a few times before my lips finally did a lame curve.

Much as I was resistant, I was also curious. Since when did smiling become so difficult?

As I flexed more smiles in my personal face gym in front of the bathroom mirror over the next weeks, I began to understand that I had become fearful of smiling, or rather the possible repercussions after smiling.

I was very sensitive as a child, and it was stressful for me if I were happy while others were not. It bothered me greatly whenever someone was upset or frustrated. It was terrible when I came into a room smiling and happy to find my joy wiped out instantly by an icy cold stare or tears of frustration on someone else's face. Not that it was my fault, but I began to make a misaligned connection that maybe my joy had caused someone else's pain, or that it was just not ok for me to be happy.

My coping mechanism was 'to freeze'. It was easier, yet the cost was great. Over time, I lost my joy. I also lost my liking of myself. I was frequently frustrated and didn't even know why. I found that as I started smiling at myself again in the mirror, I began to like myself a little better again. I felt more relaxed. I felt even excited slightly whenever I looked into the mirror. As though there was an expectancy of "hey, so what's up next?" "You're looking better, babe." I thought that maybe I could be happy again for once. That was a good six years.

Then it happened again. After a series of stressful life events and dynamics at work, my smelly face returned. This time, it didn't truly leave until ten years after. Those were hard times, where I hardened again and felt like a victim of circumstances. No matter what I did then, I was always misunderstood and under-appreciated. At the same time, many things were out of my control and I felt overwhelmed. My life turned topsy-turvy as I went on a journey to reclaim my sense of self, searching for answers, healing and learning there are so many wonderful tools that I can use to help myself.

Many of them are already innately within us. It is all about becoming aware and utilising them.

Smiling is medicine for the mind, body and soul.

When we curve our lips up, our body memory automatically registers that a happy event has occured, and generates the usual happy hormones that immediately helps us feel relaxed and at ease.

Next time you are feeling stress and worry creep up, smile. When the old negative emotion kicks up and rakes up an unpleasant memory, smile. When the creep at work starts the usual gaslight, smile. See how it changes your response when you refuse to give in.

It was only four years ago that I dare say that I had fully embraced my smile no matter what was happening in my life. I smiled when I was happy. I smiled when I was sad. I smiled when I was upset and hurt. I smiled even when I was angry. I smiled through it all.

In my darkest and most difficult days, smiling was my personal spiritual practice.

It was my challenge to myself to keep embracing my own joy and my own light no matter how dark and bleak it seemed. I had to choose empowerment over being a victim. I had to choose to see that there are always silver linings in the storm clouds. I had to understand that life continues to roll whether I smile or not, so it is better to smile and feel good anyway and anyhow.

Through the practice of smiling no matter what was going on, I began to feel freedom. Not a wildly exhilarating exuberance-in-a-moment kind of freedom, but a silently-slowly-surely-enveloping my entire being kind of freedom. This freedom brings hope and joy that is difficult to take away because it is borne from years of heartache and a repeated choice to smile and embrace all of life, come what may.

Have you said goodbye to your victim self though smiling too?

​Share with me if you did, I would love to hear about your experience.