What does it take to make you smile?
Have you ever walked down a busy street and noticed the expressions on the faces of strangers?It amazes me how many people walk around with a frown, spreading negativity into the world unknowingly. I became aware of the ripple effect that our facial expressions have in the Master’s program in Spiritual Psychology when Professor Dr. Ron Hulnick of the University of Santa Monica reminded us to set our intentions to “add to the sum of peace in the world” by being conscious of how we show up out there. He taught us that every time we “resolve an issue inside of ourselves the whole human race steps forward.” This is what Gandhi meant when he said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It all starts with a smile.
So much can be said without ever uttering a word. What is written on our faces translates to all of the passers-by. It is not that we should hide our true feelings, but more to become aware of how our feelings, our expressions effect others.
Smiles are contagious!
I recall when I was a young girl of 16. I moved from sunny California to the New York City winter to further my modeling career. I packed my bags, drove across the country and I brought my sunny smile with me. On my daily rounds, I would hit the pavement with my 11 x 14 portfolio in hand and “go-see” potential clients. I would walk down 5th avenue smiling at everyone, and I couldn’t help but notice how people kept their heads down, guarded, trying not to make eye contact with anyone. But if ever they caught my eye, and saw the smile on my face, they would instinctively smile back and that made my whole day.
As models, we used to joke around that we were being paid to smile and since smiling came easily to me, I was ok with that. I felt sorry for the models I would pass on the street who never smiled back at me as if I were the competition and so why be nice to me? I figured we were all in the same boat – so why not just be kind to each other. I practiced my smile all the way into the job interviews and I know for sure that many of the jobs I booked, I got because they simply liked me. I really didn’t think I was the prettiest girl at the auditions, in fact back then I felt pretty insecure about my looks. But I knew if they liked me, they would book me, and many times they did. I am pretty sure my smile opened many doors for me because when people were planning a photo shoot on some desert island for a week or more, they wanted to be around people who smiled. This translates into any field especially when people are hiring. First impressions last forever. People may not remember what you say, but they remember how you make them feel and a smile makes everyone feel better.
“Travel the world with a smile and you will be understood in every language.”
Fast forward, I was sent to Milan to make the rounds for the runway shows and the advertising agencies. I found my way around that city with my Falk plan map in hand and asking directions in my broken Italian. I didn’t have the luxury of a GPS in my hand back then – thank God I knew how to smile.
The first designer I met in Milan was Nino Cerruti. Cerruti hired me to shoot the press photos for the summer collection which then led to being booked for their runway press show. I remember being so green, so nervous, amongst all the other top runway models of the time; Jerry Hall, Pat Cleveland, and Iman, not to mention the press and editors waiting for the show to go on. Just before I was sent onto the runway I looked at Cerruti and said: “what do I do out there?” Nino looked at me smiling and said, “just go out there and smile Lorelei, your smile can sell a thousand dresses!” So, I did. I slid down that runway grinning from ear to ear, the whole way down and the whole way back to the sounds of applause and camera shutters flashing. Backstage upon my return, I asked him, “how did I do?” Cerruti replied, “bellissima Loredonna, but maybe you smiled just a little too much!” Then he grinned as he pinched me on the cheek. I never forgot that moment in time. I became the model who smiled on the runway when few others did.
“A smile is a frown turned upside down.”
On of my favorite slogans in the 12 Step program is; “bring the body and the mind will follow.” This is true of a smile too. Sometimes we may need to remind ourselves to smile, even when we are feeling down. That is why one of the first things they teach you in the 12 steps is to write down the things you are grateful for. This practice encourages and uplift’s you from a place of darkness and grief so you don’t wallow in self-pity. It is an action step for the greater good of all concerned.
There were many times I showed up at my modeling jobs unhappy about something. Perhaps I had my heart broken, lost a big client, or got bad news from back home. I didn’t have the luxury of wearing those sad feelings to work. I was hired to do a job, to promote a product, not to bring my problems along. This is where the stiff upper lip rule applied. I learned to “act as if” things were ok. At least until later that day. Then I would go home and cry on my pillow until my tears dried up.
Use the 90 second Rule to find your smile:
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained and published neuroanatomist and author of My Stroke Of Insight experienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain in 1996.
Taylor, actually observed herself experiencing a brain aneurysm and timed her emotions as they passed through her mind. She counted 90 seconds on her watch. According to Taylor,” if we are aware that emotions take 90 seconds to surge through our systems we can simply allow them to naturally pass and flush out.”
If we judge our feelings as bad or wrong, we hold onto unnecessary anger and sadness. In those 90 seconds, we have the power to choose our response. When we love ourselves through them we may end up with a smile. Ever noticed when a child throws a tantrum, if you let them be, they’ll cry it all out and within about a minute and a half – then they’re done – and back to playing with their toys.
Larry Shay, Mark Fisher & Joe Goodwin 1928.
10 Smile Tips:
- Write a list of what you are grateful for.
- Think of something, or someone, you love.
- Count to 90 and breathe.
- Don’t judge your thoughts or feelings
- Look for beauty, a flower, an animal, or a child.
- Smile when you meditate.
- Smile at your Self in the mirror.
- Make a playlist of songs that make you smile.
- Brush your teeth every day and night!
- Set an intention to smile even if you don’t feel like it.