How I fixed my face and stopped crushing dreams

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09 May How I fixed my face and stopped crushing dreams

Some days at work, I have to massage my face because it hurts from smiling so hard. It’s only when I get an ache in my jaw that I realize I’ve been smiling like a doofus (I mean, more than usual).

But other days, smiling is the last thing on my mind—and it’s those days that my expression matters most.

I first encountered this phenomenon with a former colleague. Whenever I pitched an idea that was a little out there, it was clear that he didn’t believe it could happen. I wondered why I left those meetings feeling deflated. Over time, I was able to pinpoint the exact moment that my excitement faded. As I began to explain my idea, he would raise his eyebrows skeptically, his mouth twisted into a small “I’m humoring you” smile. When I was done talking, his response was lukewarm at best and dismissive at worst.

Well, on one of those days where I didn’t feel like smiling, I realized I was doing the exact same thing! The young person I was talking to began pitching their idea—and then their face fell and their words faltered. My lack of enthusiasm about their idea (which I thought I was hiding) instantly registered on my face, and then theirs. It was the worst kind of domino effect.

Since that day, I try to think positively anytime a new idea is pitched, no matter how unrealistic it may seem. Working at Rêve Academy, I’ve learned that youth are highly perceptive readers of body language. They can sense insincerity and doubt, so it’s up to me as an adult to not just hope they can succeed, but believe deeply in their ability to do so. It’s incredible but true: a tiny shift in my attitude can lead to huge gains in their creativity and confidence. I don’t have to—and shouldn’t—fake excitement, but I do need to keep an open mind.

So whether you work with young people or seasoned professionals: keep smiling (just not so much that it hurts), and be the face you want to see in the workplace.

Eliza Wright
Eliza Wright
eliza@reveacademy.org

Eliza is Rêve Academy's Director of Strategic Advancement.