The Best Thing to Wear

Bill Abbate

What is one thing you can wear every day, wherever you are? It is always available, but you must put it on so others can see it. It is indispensable for living your best life.

What is it? Read on to learn more about this essential thing to wear.

The sting of honesty

Before divulging the one thing you can wear anywhere, anytime, let me give you a little background on how I happened upon this subject.

I had been researching facial expressions when Jane, my wife, came into my office. Different studies indicate when we smile, it changes how we feel, and when we smile at someone, they usually smile back.

I started experimenting by forcing a smile at different times during the day to see if I could feel its effect. Wouldn’t you know, it worked! Every time I smiled, despite forcing it, I felt better, and it lifted my mood.

I thought I would try it on Jane and see if she would smile back. Unfortunately, I was unprepared for what resulted.

Jane came into my office, and I looked at her flashing a big, slightly exaggerated smile. I remember thinking she would think I had gotten some great news or had lost my mind! Just as the studies predicted, she immediately smiled back. But I was not ready for what happened next,

Jane asked me why I was smiling, so I explained my little experiment. Then the shocker came. She said, “I don’t see you smile very often, so it was disorienting.”

Ouch! That hurt! Especially when it comes from my best friend, my wife! I always thought I was friendly toward others, and while that may have been true, I seldom smiled at them. I had never realized how I might come across to some as unfriendly.

I learned an important lesson that day, one I hope I never forget. It is impossible to overstate the value you gain by doing something as seemingly insignificant as smiling.

To ensure I never forgot the lesson, I started telling myself, “I need to lighten up and smile more!”

Time for some self-reflection

I have almost always considered myself happy, especially in recent years. Yet, I had given little thought to how others see me.

Having my first reported social security earnings in 1970, I worked several decades before retiring. I’m sure others saw me as a no-nonsense, pragmatic, get to the bottom-line and get-it-done kind of guy. Perhaps business was responsible for conditioning me to develop my stoic expression. At least that was my excuse! Yet, there was no excuse for me not to smile on the inside but not on the outside. Unfortunately, that smile was not making it to my face.

It is up to me to take that smile on the inside and put it on my face! The responsibility is entirely mine. No one else can do it for me. However, I have enlisted my wife to nudge me when she has the opportunity, which is often!

It’s hard to believe it has taken me decades to discover the face I wear most of the time. I would rather people see me for who I am now, not who I used to be. I have changed a great deal since retiring. I am happy and grateful for my life, so it’s about time I wear it on my face!

Why smile?

“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” William Arthur Ward (1921–1994)

Try it now to experience the power of smiling firsthand, even if you have to force it. Put a big grin on that beautiful face of yours! Don’t worry if anyone else is looking. Just smile. If someone sees you smiling, there’s a 99% chance they will smile back.

What did you notice when you just smiled? Did it make you feel good inside? Did it affect your attitude? If it did not, try it again. I noticed it the first time I did it, even though I forced it, and almost everyone I have coached has had the same experience.

Did you know smiling, even forced smiles are good for you? When you smile, you release endorphins and other hormones that improve how your body feels head to toe. Smiling reduces your blood pressure, strengthens your immune system, and creates many other benefits for your mind and body.

The great thing about smiling is that it costs nothing, and you can do it anywhere. A great way to look at smiling is that it is exercise. It helps you become healthier and happier. Who couldn’t use more health and happiness in their lives?

What expression do you wear daily?

“Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.” Janet Lane-Claypon (1877–1967)

Lane-Claypon wrote those words nearly a century ago, and they still ring true.

How aware are you of the expression you wear around other people? You wear an expression of some kind wherever you are. It can be at home, work, the grocery store, church, school, or anywhere else. As the old saying goes, “wherever you go, there you are.”

Why not experiment by smiling at somebody to see their reaction? Better yet, find a good friend or someone who will speak honestly to you and ask them how they see the expression you wear most of the time. Insist they are brutally honest. You can even offer them suggestions such as frowning, stoic, frustrated, serious, smiling, and any others you think up to get them started.

Imagine what you can learn from doing this. You may find out something about yourself you were utterly unaware of, as I did. Wouldn’t you rather know? Of course you would!

“Always wear a smile sometime during the day — it makes you feel happier and look younger.” Kylie Bax (1975-present)

Final thoughts

I wish I had stumbled on this idea many years ago, but better late than never. Since our expressions affect how other people perceive us, this is critical for any of us who value our relationships. Relationships are the substance of life, and to go through much of it with people misunderstanding you is not good. At least now I know and am working to correct it!

I challenge you to do a little self-examination, check your expression in the mirror occasionally, converse with others about the subject, and smile as often as you wish.

Always remember:

“You are not fully dressed until you wear a smile.” Evan Esar (1899–1995)

May you forever wear a beautiful smile on your face!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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