RBF. Resting Bitch Face. It’s become part of modern society’s vocabulary, and it’s one of those terms that makes me cringe a little whenever I hear it. Now I’ve got another one for you: RSF. Resting Sad Face. That’s the one I’ve been cursed with. No matter my mood, my neutral face always looks like I’m terribly, terribly sad, or deep in a depressing thought.
I’ve had friends poke fun at it over the years, and have experienced more than my fair share of strangers telling me to smile walking down the street. Don’t think it’s a problem? When I studied abroad in Florence senior year, it was even shouted at me in Italian. Mamma mia.
But it’s not just annoying. It’s not just uncomfortable. It’s perpetuating a real problem that we as a society still need to overcome: mental health stigma. This may seem a dramatic leap, but let me break it down from my perspective. As someone who’s lived with depression and anxiety for years, I am always on some level conscious of whether my internal struggles are noticeable to the outside eye. So when you tell me to smile – even on my best day – what I hear is: you’re not fooling anyone.
Now, let’s break it down even further. What if I actually am sad? What if I’m processing bad news, or even just desperately attempting to silence my negative self-talk? Telling me to smile is essentially suggesting that it’s not okay to feel sad or down, regardless of the reason. And that’s a problem.
I’m a firm believer that we as humans need to experience the lows in order to recognize and appreciate the highs. Everyone’s “low” is different – and for those struggling with mental health issues, they can be more frequent and harder to shake. But regardless of what your “low” is, no one should ever feel guilty for feeling it. The more we shame others for experiencing sadness, the less likely they’ll be to reach out for help when it’s really needed.
Mental health aside, telling a girl to smile insinuates that who she is and what she naturally looks like is, in some way, not good enough. Instead, let’s celebrate and empower our women whether they’re feeling up, down, or somewhere in between. And maybe start to erase those “Resting [insert derogatory word] Face” terms from our dictionaries moving forward.