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How My 'Resting Bitch Face' Protected Me As Someone With Anxiety

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For many years, I have been told to smile more. I’ve been told to look friendlier. Growing up, I was told by countless people I looked like I had a bad attitude or I was too intimidating. I was told I looked like I thought I was “too cool,” or I didn’t want to be there. It happened in school with teachers and sports coaches, and it happened in my workplaces with multiple bosses. And it always annoyed me. How can you make an assumption based on someone’s personality or work ethic based on how their face looks? But it’s true. Seven percent of what is communicated is via what we say, 38 percent is via tone of voice and the majority 55 percent is body language. But what a lot of people don’t realize about those like me with “bitch face,” is that it became my suit of armor that protected me from the world. I clung to it like a safety blanket, and eventually the wind changed like people always teased it would, and it just kind of stayed that way.

What a lot of people, including my closest friends, don’t know about me is that growing up, all I ever wanted to be was an actress. But by the time high school drama classes and plays rolled around, I was so frightened and anxious to the point of physical sickness about embarrassing myself or people laughing at me that I sat at the back, with a face like a slapped ass, and never participated in anything. Looking back, there was a lot I missed out on because of it. I would overthink every situation and every possible embarrassment that could happen to me, and my brain would play it on a loop like a constant nightmare. Scared about making a fool of yourself in a social situation? Scared that no boy will come up and flirt with you at the party? Scared to dance for fear people will laugh at you? Scared to eat in front of people for fear of them thinking you’re fat? Scared to talk to new people? My solution was always to sit in the corner with a sour look on my face and pretend none of it mattered to me and I couldn’t care less. My friends saw me as confident and fearless, when the truth really was, I was just the kind of girl who guarded her feelings by pretending that she didn’t have any.

It was a terrible habit, which in my mid-20s I am still trying to break, and luckily I don’t always have those crushing fears anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with terrible anxiety, and I still constantly overthink absolutely everything, but I have grown and learned so much. A lot of those anxious thoughts that debilitated me for so long have slowly begun to fall away. I am becoming that confident person people always saw me as, but this time without any false pretenses. Never be too quick to judge those of us with “bitch face,” most of the time we are more scared of you than you are of us.

Unsplash image by Alex Hddife

Originally published: October 22, 2019
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