Behind a Smile

I know that the need for connection is universal and runs deep. What i came to realise this weekend, is that simply smiling goes beyond the human response to connect.

This weekend I attended a silent retreat. The retreat was to be held in an unfamiliar environment with complete strangers, so I felt a little uncomfortable and slightly nervous.

By the time I arrived the room was already one third full. The chairs were laid out in rows and the delegates were scattered amongst them in silence. As I sat down I sought the eye of a fellow learner sitting two chairs away. I smiled at him. He acknowledged my smile with a slight nod of the head and then immediately turned his attention back to his own inner world.

I was surprised by the rush of thoughts and feelings this simple gesture evoked. He wasn’t rude or dismissive in any way, but I was struck by how much I needed him to smile back at me. In the moment I told myself that I simply needed him to acknowledge my presence because I was in a strange place amongst strangers, but the truth was I not only felt lost, and insecure, I also felt inadequate.

What I realised is that I often use my smile in an attempt to cover up a feeling of deficiency and inadequacy. It appears that behind my smile I am actually attempting to get my need to feel ‘good enough’ met!

So this week why not audit your smiles, particular those in strange or new settings, you might find that you use your smile to be liked or loved, to feel good enough, or even to feel safe and secure in someone’s presence. Ask yourself ‘is there anything behind my smile and if so what need is my smile trying to get met?’

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