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Breaking the Smiling Pressure: Empowering Women's Mental Health

Smiling Pressure
Breaking the Smiling Pressure: Empowering Women's Mental Health

In this episode of “Breaking the Smiling Pressure,” we take a deep dive into the societal expectations and gender stereotypes that put pressure on women to smile. Join Randi Owsley, LMSW, and Jessica Bullwinkle, LMFT, two licensed psychotherapists specializing in women's mental health, as they discuss the effects of smiling pressure and offer practical coping skills and self-care strategies. Whether you're seeking mental health resources, feeling alone, or struggling with self-identity, this episode will provide valuable insights to empower and uplift.

Are you tired of the harmful consequences of constantly being told to smile? Discover valuable information about the mental health repercussions of smiling on command, enforced femininity, body dysmorphia, and self-esteem issues related to smiling. Explore coping skills and tools that can help you navigate these challenges and redefine femininity on your terms. Learn how to unlearn patriarchal standards and find resources to manage the traumas associated with forced smiling. It's time to break free from the pressure and focus on your authentic happiness. Let's stop telling girls to smile and empower them to embrace their true selves.

In our upcoming podcasts, we will be delving into a range of important topics that are relevant to women's empowerment and mental well-being. Join us as we explore the intricate relationship between self-esteem and smiling, and how society's expectations can impact one's confidence. We will also discuss the often overlooked issue of smiling traumas and provide tips on how to stop the harmful practice of telling girls to smile. Additionally, we will explore the connection between not smiling and happiness, as well as the critical task of redefining femininity and unlearning patriarchal standards. Stay tuned for these thought-provoking episodes that aim to provoke meaningful conversations and promote positive change.

Sure! Here is a list of 10 frequently asked questions about “stop telling girls to smile” along with their answers:

Q: Why is it important to stop telling girls to smile?

A: Telling girls to smile reinforces harmful gender stereotypes and undermines their autonomy. It contributes to the objectification of women and can have negative impacts on their self-esteem and mental health.

Q: How does being constantly told to smile (smiling pressure) affect girls' self-esteem?

A: Constantly being told to smile can make girls feel like their worth is tied to their appearance. This can lead to self-esteem issues, as they may feel pressure to meet unrealistic beauty standards and may struggle to develop their own authentic sense of self.

Q: What are some effective ways to communicate the importance of not telling girls to smile?

A: Open and respectful communication is key. Engage in conversations about gender expectations, consent, and respectful behavior. Educate others about the negative impact of telling girls to smile and encourage them to be mindful of their language and actions.

Q: Are there any practical tips to help parents and educators address smiling pressure?

A: Lead by example and avoid smiling pressure. Teach children about consent and the importance of respecting personal boundaries. Encourage girls to express their emotions freely without feeling the need to put on a constant smile.

Q: How can we promote positive self-expression in girls without emphasizing smiling pressure?

A: Encourage girls to embrace their authentic selves and express their emotions in a way that feels natural to them. Focus on qualities beyond appearance and value their thoughts, ideas, and contributions.

Q: What can individuals do if they find themselves being told to smile in certain situations? Smiling Pressure.

A: It's important to assert personal boundaries and communicate your discomfort. Calmly express that smiling pressure is not appropriate and that your emotions should be respected.

Q: Is there any research that supports the campaign against smiling pressure?

A: Yes, numerous studies have been conducted on the impact of gender expectations, objectification, and their effects on mental health. These studies support the campaign against smiling pressure and highlight the need for respect and autonomy.

Q: How can society redefine femininity in a way that doesn't involve constant smiling pressure?

A: We can redefine femininity by valuing and celebrating a range of emotions and expressions. Encourage the acceptance of a variety of personality traits and interests without perpetuating the smiling pressure to constantly perform happiness.

Q: Can not smiling impact a person's happiness?

A: Happiness is a complex emotion that cannot be solely determined by whether someone is smiling or not. Forcing oneself to smile when they don't feel like it can actually create feelings of inauthenticity. True happiness comes from within and is not dependent on external appearances.

Q: How can we create a supportive environment to help girls feel comfortable expressing their emotions, whether through smiling pressure or other means?

A: It's crucial to create a safe and non-judgmental environment where girls feel empowered to express their emotions freely without the smiling pressure to meet societal expectations. Encourage open dialogue, active listening, and validation of their experiences.











Ways to Unwind and Relax

Meditative, Relaxing, Mental Health Coloring books developed by licensed psychotherapists Randi Owsley and Jessica Bullwinkle – Available on Amazon Today!

Transcript Smiling Pressure

[00:00:00] Randi: Welcome to the Women's Mental Health Podcast with Randy and Jess's two licensed psychotherapists, where we talk about mental health, wellbeing, and strategies for coping with life's challenges and

[00:00:10] Jess: how it is all normal. You are in the right place. All right, so don't tell us to smile

[00:00:17] Randi: anymore. Yes. We need to stop telling girls to smile more, and we're gonna talk about why it's harmful to women and young girls to keep telling them to smile more. Smiling Pressure.

[00:00:27] Jess: so Today's podcast episode, we're gonna tackle the harmful social norm of policing women's emotions. We're gonna deep dive into this common occurrence and work towards dismantling it once and for

[00:00:37] Randi: all. And if you guys have more questions or need more resources, please, please, please check out our website, women's mental health

There's a ton of free resources on there. All

[00:00:48] Jess: right. Have you

[00:00:49] Randi: ever thought, why do we tell girls to smile more?

[00:00:52] Jess: I hate hearing you have such a pretty smile. You should do it

[00:00:56] Randi: more. Does a smile really make a woman more attractive? And to who is it making them more attractive to?

[00:01:02] Jess: Why do we joke about R B F?

Are we doing the opposite of telling them to smile if we're joking about R B F?

[00:01:09] Randi: Because then you're basically saying oh, you're. Not smiling.

[00:01:13] Jess: Right. You're not smiling. So now you've got rbf and, and for those who don't know, it's resting bitch face. Yes. But still. Okay. So the expectation for women to smile more is so deeply ingrained in our society and it undermines us as women.


[00:01:27] Randi: And it. Smiling Pressure Makes us feel like, why am I not allowed to show my emotion? Yeah, like when it comes down to it like, is this really affecting you? The look on my face, why is this making you feel uncomfortable? And why should I carry that burden? why is It so common for. People to tell women and girls to smile more.

[00:01:49] Jess: And I'm not talking like there's a camera. Let's smile. I'm talking about , somebody walks by and goes, oh, you should smile more. And you're like, fuck up.

[00:01:55] Randi: Yeah. Oh, you look so pretty when you smile, like, why Aren aren't you doing, I got that my whole life. So don't get me started. Okay. So where does it come from?

[00:02:03] Jess: So it, it comes from this, it's like this expectation of going way back into gender stereotypes. Where we used to place our value on women by their appearance. , and like the emotional labor they gave,

[00:02:16] Randi: right? Oh yeah. And I kind of like comes to women and children, I feel like they should be seen and not heard.

Oh God. And so it's like you are just, or like what they say, like a side piece or like an , arm candy, or you're just a visual property, right? You're just a visual representation or you're an extension of whoever you're with. Ew. She just said,

[00:02:37] Jess: Ew, ew. Okay, so think about it. ? Smiling Pressure Over hundreds and hundreds of, , years mm-hmm.

Women were thought they should be pleasant and accommodating and emotionally nurturing.

[00:02:47] Randi: So basically it was like you were what is like a Stepford wife. You're like a robot. Like you're, you're a pretty picture, that's social conformity. Let's think about like when we watch shows like Bridger 10 or things like that.

 You're supposed to put on an air, like Smiled dance, perform, , needle point, play the piano. . You were a living art, , object that was supposed to be desired or wanted, or, , coveted. And if you didn't do these things, you didn't fit into the mold and so nobody would want you.

[00:03:18] Jess: And then you were a burden to your family, right? So

[00:03:22] Randi: it causes this huge. Emotional impact,

[00:03:25] Jess: That's such crap that like,, it wasn't until what, 72, that women could get their own credit card. Mm-hmm. I would've had to have my husband or my father co-signed for me if I was, , back in 1964.

[00:03:36] Randi: Yeah. It's, it's disgusting. , I mean, we've come a long way, but in a very short time, it's wasn't that long ago that women couldn't have like a bank account by themselves or like you said, like a credit card or get a mortgage or. Be vote. Okay. , all right, I'm gonna chill.

[00:03:52] Jess: . Okay. So What is the impact on women when we're telling 'em to smile?

[00:03:56] Randi: The emotional burden that we were talking about, the pressure to smile , it makes you feel. Uncomfortable. If you've ever been told that, really sit and think about how did it make you feel? ?

[00:04:07] Jess: You're only here to provide emotional comfort for others, right?

Let's make it all better. ?


[00:04:12] Randi: Like you're,, they're making it about them. And not you. Oh, do you think that's why

[00:04:16] Jess: like previous generations did a lot of sweeping it under the rug?

[00:04:19] Randi: Yeah. Oh yeah. A hundred percent. . It invalidates your authentic emotion, so it doesn't allow you to be honest.

With yourself or other people when you're well, fake it till you make it, ? Put on a happy face. Okay, we're gonna go back to our episode. Listen to toxic positivity. Oh, good vibes only, right? , this is that same culture that is perpetuated that you don't need to have, real emotions.

You can't be sad. You can't be super happy. Like even sometimes two people are like, calm down. . Even joyful like emotion. . It's like, oh, you know, no. Like, don't draw attention to yourself. Like, F that noise.

[00:04:58] Jess: Okay. Well and it, and it does the whole gender stereotypes too, ? Like the smile more?

Mm-hmm. Expectation. Does this gender thing where we expect women to go through , and to not be assertive. Oh, that drives me nuts. Mm-hmm. That is such a pet peeve right here, when people are like, God, she's being bitchy, but if he did it, he's

[00:05:20] Randi: assertive or he or you're bossy. No, he's being called boss.

Self-aware. I'm a strong woman. I know what I want and I take no shit. Also this really teaches women to mask. And I know like On TikTok and YouTube and stuff like that, like there's a lot of videos about being narrative urgent and being adhd and , having autism and like learning to mask. But I feel just even being a woman, we learn separate from all of that.

We learn to mask mm-hmm. Our emotions and it's not healthy.

[00:05:51] Jess: . And you know what? A man cannot , smile and it's fine, but women we're told to smile because it makes everybody else feel more comfortable. ?

[00:05:58] Randi: It's not our job to make other people feel more comfortable. No,

[00:06:02] Jess: actually

[00:06:02] Randi: it's not.

Say that again. It's not our job to make other people feel more comfortable, just in

[00:06:07] Jess: case. If anybody needed to hear that one more time. Mm-hmm. Okay, so what are the consequences of the smile? More expectation.

[00:06:14] Randi: Psychological impacts. Constantly being told to smile over and over again can make you feel like anxiety, self-doubt, insecurity, self-conscious, leading to a negative self-talk.

Cycle, and that's what it was for me and impacted my, ,, mental health as a young girl and a young woman. I was always like, oh, maybe that's why I don't have like enough friends. Or maybe that's why this boy doesn't like me. Like I need a smile more. Like I'm so much prettier when I smile and I was like, I literally would tell myself all the time you don't smile enough. ? and then I was finally like, fuck this. I'm just not you know? Well, I just show my emotions on my face. So sorry. No, not sorry, not sorry at all. Not,

sorry, sorry, not sorry. So did that

[00:06:58] Jess: episode too. Yeah. So, And so it, it gets rid, it suppresses you being authentic.

Mm-hmm. Every time we, if we can't show our true emotion, right?? If I'm pissed and I've got wrinkled eyebrows, Oh no, don't do that. you have to go Botox that now. Because now you have

[00:07:13] Randi: frown lines. Yeah. Or smile a lot anyways. There's always somebody can find something negative with anything.

Right. Right.

[00:07:19] Jess: And it's, it's smile lines, I don't know. I like laugh lines. I'm like, fine. I like laugh lines. Yeah. If I'm laughing, I got laugh lines at this age. Yeah. That's fantastic. Part of it is it's sacrificing

[00:07:28] Randi: who we are. Mm-hmm. And this leads to. Personal consequences. Relationship consequences and professional.

Professional, yes. Yeah, because we undermine ourselves and showing our true selves and our competence, our credibility when we are always putting on a facade. Oh,

[00:07:47] Jess: like total like, yes. Workplace inequality, right? Mm-hmm. It's like when women, you see women who are at like the high executive levels, right?

. It used to be that the women would dress very similar to the men. Mm-hmm. , they would wear business suits. Right, right. We make fun of Hillary Clinton's pantsuit. But, , she's playing with, we're gonna , , air quote, the big boys. Mm-hmm. . And so she is, Trying to put on this, this facade instead of if she showed up in this girly dress right, the world would be like,

[00:08:15] Randi: Hmm, I don't know if we take her as seriously.

Or like, she's sexualizing herself or she climbed the ladder because who did she blow to get that job this leads to that whole mentality, she's damned if you do, damned if you don't. .

[00:08:27] Jess: But she should just smile more.

Right. Everybody make it better.

[00:08:30] Randi: But when you tell yourself smile more or somebody's telling you your whole life, smile more. It creates the inability to set boundaries. Yes. Because you feel like, again, you are trying to appease everybody else and be a people pleaser. Yes.

[00:08:45] Jess: Yes. And, and again, it's toxic

[00:08:47] Randi: positivity.

Mm-hmm. And that leads to also a toxic um, you know, dynamic in relationships too, which can also lead to abuse and things like that when you have been spoonfed that bullshit your whole life. So now how

[00:09:01] Jess: do we help? Overcome this smile expectation, right? Yeah. Like how do I help my daughter who is a young woman, grow up and not expected to smile all the time?


[00:09:13] Randi: How do we do this? So we need to challenge this thought process and through this we can do this through awareness and education. Like talking about the harmful effects of telling women and young girls to smile more and just really challenging those. Quote unquote norms, and really talking about it, , and creating a narrative about it and being more empathetic and understanding to women as a whole showing emotion.

So if you're a dad listening in, a father, think about. The words that you say to the women in your life and how it will affect them in the long term? I think, I think, oh, it's just like a thing that I say, but I don't think people realize how often they say that.

[00:09:54] Jess: And this is the thing, is that for those dads and, and out there is that this is the very first relationship.

That your daughter is going to

[00:10:03] Randi: have and base all her other relationships on, right?

[00:10:07] Jess: Is that assuming? Yes. Heterosexual and I mean, we're just making the assumption here. Okay. But this is the very first relationship, and so it is up to you to kind of. How does she engage with other men? Even if it isn't like a relationship or a marriage it could be a boss.

Mm-hmm. It could be a teacher. So you want to teach her how to engage and how to use her voice

with this.

[00:10:31] Randi: Right. and that she is self-aware enough. . And comfortable enough in her own skin, in her own body to express herself in those very many ways, and that she can then contribute herself as a whole, and not just her smile is the only thing that matters.

She has a brain, right? Empower her. She has a personality. She has. She's more than just a pretty. Face.

[00:10:56] Jess: And if she's pissed and she needs to throw down, then fine. Teach her it's okay to be pissed in how to throw down.

[00:11:02] Randi: and through this we're then redefining what is being feminine, and it doesn't mean it needs to be all about the frilly dresses and the smile on your face and on the makeup you have on. It can be that you just love being a woman and you're comfortable in yourself and your body.

[00:11:21] Jess: That's what's so cool, when we start really challenging those traditional gender expectations and norms that we keep air quoting.

Mm-hmm. Because everything is changing nowadays. I asked the kids a couple weeks ago I was with my daughter and some of her friends, right? I'm gonna sidetrack for two seconds. Yeah. And I said, I've never asked, but what is your pronoun? Because I was like, I, I never asked. And my daughter was like she and hers.

Okay. And her friend was like, I think I want she and they, and I was like, okay, cool, cool. Yeah, great. Let me know. Do you know how you wanna use it? And she, she was like, no. I said if you want help exploring, let me know and if you figure it out, let me know. And I just kind of normalized it and moved on.

 They're changing the way we look at gender roles. We look at gender pronouns. Mm-hmm. And so I, but just

[00:12:08] Randi: asking that one simple question, you became an ally. Mm-hmm. And a support system. Yes. And if you had not maybe she would've been confused, maybe. You know what I mean? I'm just saying like as a parent too, like this is what we were put here to do.

Mm-hmm. Is to support guide and. If you don't have a conversation about it, that's never gonna happen.

[00:12:28] Jess: And so get that buy-in from men or other individuals in your family. Right, right.

[00:12:34] Randi: And, and, and, and I feel like a lot of women too say that to other women. Smile. Yeah. Like, why aren't you smiling more oh my gosh, honey, just, or just do it for now.

 Like they it till you make it. Yeah. And so it's important for women to remember that they have a right. To express their emotions in any way that they feel is authentic to them without feeling the need that they need to make everybody else around them happy. And it really is time that we challenge the notion that women's worth is contingent upon their smiles.

[00:13:05] Jess: We are no longer showing up with the dowry people. Oh, please. We don't need to show our smile and our goat and cow. Yeah. We're cow

[00:13:13] Randi: paying somebody off and to you know, marry our, marry ourselves so. Right. You know, we don't even need to get married so we need to continue to talk about this, have open and conversation about it.

Create a safe space where women are celebrated in any form that they come in, whether they're happy, whether they're sad. Just so we can learn that emotions are healthy.

[00:13:35] Jess: They are healthy, ? And remember that the more we challenge and question all of these really harmful expectations, we really, truly can work towards a world and a society where women and our children, our daughters can, they can be their authentic selves, ?

Either with or without a smile. Yep. And that's all we need. That is all we need. All right. Thanks for

[00:13:59] Randi: listening in. Thanks

[00:14:00] Jess: for listening, and we'll talk to you later.

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Smiling Pressure Podcast S2 Episode 5

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