You Don’t Have to Smile. You Don’t Have to Feel Happy.

You can just be.

Jessica Wildfire
6 min readMay 16, 2023
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There’s one thing a teenage girl can always count on, and it’s some rando telling them to smile. It happened to me all the time. One guy was fond of saying, “You look like a lost little kitten.”

Every day, I looked forward to going home and listening to sad music. Americans have names for that. They describe it as pouting or brooding, something you’re supposed to grow out of. As it turns out, pouting and brooding are extremely good for you.

Yes, I’m serious.

Years later, it occurred to me what was going on. When someone walks up and tells you to smile, they’re not doing it for you.

They’re doing it for themselves.

Here’s an interesting study:

Psychologists in Spain asked people to put their hand in a bucket of ice water. They told one group to accept the pain, and another group to try their best not to think about it. Guess who kept their hand in the ice water longer? Nope, it wasn’t the people who tried to ignore the discomfort. It was the people who acknowledged it.

They lasted way longer.

There’s another study that introduced a concept known as the white bear problem. In 1987, a sociologist named Daniel Wegner asked a…