I was traveling for business recently, walking through the airport, when a really happy memory played out in my head. Naturally, I started to smile. The gratitude and positive energy the memory brought up in me was so pervasive, that I kept on smiling as I walked.Little did I realize, I was causing a scene.
People literally were staring at me. And they weren’t looking at me smiling back, they were looking at me like, ‘what’s wrong with this person?’ When you’re with another person it tends to be okay to have a smile on your face—one of you either said something funny or brought up a happy feeling for the other. Sharing joy with someone else falls neatly within our societal norms. In this case, I had the audacity to walk alone through the airport smiling. Was this mere fact enough to turn heads? Is it not acceptable to find joy within yourself?
I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Is our society really an environment where we’ve come to expect people to show their hurt and pain all over their faces, but not their joy? Are we suffering so much that we can’t find the happiness in the little things or even remind ourselves of the good things in our life enough to smile in public? Are we that cynical that smiling to yourself seems out of place? And don’t even get me started on sharing a smile with people that you don’t know—there are all kinds of misconstrued notions that could entail.
There’s that saying, “let your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile.”
I don’t want to be the only one who lives by this principle. Yes, there are plenty of reasons not to smile. Our world can feel like it’s chaotic far too often. There are many stressful and anxiety- inducing issues occurring all around us. We’re either fearful, worried about the next thing or dwelling on the past.
But what if we can flip this script? Even if it may seem like there’s no reason to smile on the outside, we can always find a reason on the inside. Stay present and you’ll see. For once, try just being instead of doing. It’s these moments of simply being where space opens up for good feelings and happy memories to flood in. And it’s in that space where we can let joy permeate our lives.
I have learned, and on some level believe I have always known, that there is so much power in a smile. When you share that confidence or positivity—whether it’s with your coworker or your barista—joy spreads. Just imagine how our world would feel if smiling, joy and kindness were the norm, rather than the exception. Life, after all, is what you make it. It’s about connection, and kindness goes a long way towards deepening connections. Every meaningful connection I have in my life started with a smile.
Which brings me back to my joyful—and apparently disruptive—walk through the airport. What was I thinking about that made me grin so unabashedly, despite being alone? I had just gotten off
the phone with my husband and I was thinking about how lucky I am to have him. I recalled when we first met and how we connected. And I felt those feelings again. I felt so grateful. I couldn’t help but smile.
I sincerely hope you will too.
Next time you’re out and about, remember, you have permission to smile. What’s the worst that could happen? Sure, someone could look at you funny. Or maybe you change someone’s day for the better. Maybe they then pay it forward. If you believe it, your smile really can change the world.