Everyone creates a persona that the world around them sees, whether it’s done strategically or not. With this persona, you can influence people and manipulate how they perceive you, which you do through your visible and most easily noticed traits. Your choice of clothing, jokes, activities, interests, and attitude all play a part in the image you give off–but the cast of Annie said it best when they sang, ‘You’re never fully dressed without a smile!’
Don’t get me wrong, a smile doesn’t have to be pasted on at all times, but it’s definitely an easy-access tool that everyone can make use of. Whether you are at home, at work, or anywhere you might find yourself in between, a good smile is a secret weapon you should have ready to pull out when needed.
But wait a minute–the thing is, not everyone loves their own smile or even likes to smile period (shout out to those with RBF who are just trying to have a good time without feeling attacked). And while some people can just naturally dazzle a crowd with those sparkling teeth, the rest of us are left wondering how we can feel more confident about our smiles so that we actually want to use them when an opportunity comes up.
Sound like you? Well then, one or more of these tips to improve a smile might just be what you’re looking for!
Relax (Don’t Force it)
If you’ve worked in customer service, attended a wedding, or just met someone new, it’s safe to say that you’ve experienced trying to keep that fake smile up (which definitely gets harder the longer the conversation goes on).
It’s easy to get in your head and think that, if you don’t look like you’re happy and enjoying yourself during every second of the conversation, your sparring partner will get offended.
But that pasted on smile can also start to look like other emotions that have no place at the table: panic, pain, and a wilted misery. To be honest, it’s much more natural to have your facial expression change throughout an interaction. It’s okay to drop that smile and let your facial expression mirror your thoughts.
Are you listening intently? Puzzling over a question? Nodding your agreement or support of a statement? Whatever it is, don’t force it. Let it come naturally. Focus on the conversation, rather than your physical presentation, and simply relax.
Remember that feeling of dread that drops into your stomach every time you’re dragged into a group photo? Maybe it’s for a night out or something bigger like a team or class photo, but chances are that you will be standing, kneeling, or crouching with a grimace biting into your cheeks for a full five minutes.
When those photos come back, you’re never quite pleased with the result. It’s easy to see that your smile is fabricated and you just wanted to sit down with a cool drink. The point is, if you’re smiling just for the sake of smiling, the corners of your cheeks will definitely begin to droop (unless you’re on Buddy the Elf’s level, in which case, we applaud you).
Whether it’s a regular conversation or a photo shoot, it helps to get your mind and emotions involved so that your reactions are genuine, including that smile. Allow yourself to become part of the topic and engage with it by letting your body language and facial expression match the thoughts you have and the words you speak.
The people you interact with will be able to recognize that you are genuinely interested in what’s happening, and as a bonus to that improved smile, you’ll find yourself enjoying these interactions more than before.
Maybe you’re one of the many that complain about people who post selfies constantly on social media (and maybe you secretly take a few rounds of selfies yourself once in a while), but real talk: anything worth doing takes practice. If you want to be an Olympic athlete, it takes Olympic training. If you want to be a famous musician or actor, hours and years of rehearsals lay ahead of you.
Hoping to nail that ace of a smile on the first attempt? You got it: it’s time to practice. Use that mirror and front-facing camera to your advantage.
Will you feel silly stepping in front of the mirror to practice your variety of smiles? Probably, but part of your practice should be focused on getting comfortable with who you already are when you smile. As much as you admire someone else’s smile, you are still you, so it’s time to own it, play around, and find those expressions that fit you best.
Practice can even include smiling exercises to strengthen the muscles in your face, meaning more smile varieties and the ability to make subtle changes to your favorite smiles. Before you know it, you might be ready for a big stage audition, too.
Seek Dental Expertise
While there’s a lot we can do on our own to love our smile and improve it in a way that makes us feel better about ourselves, some of it comes down to maintenance. You should absolutely take care of your oral health by brushing and flossing and visiting a dental care provider. Keeping up on the routine care of your mouth will do more for your smile in the long run.
You can also seek dental expertise if you notice issues that are affecting your health and smile in adverse ways. This could include orthodontia, whitening, or dental implants from trusted experts like Durango DMD who can help to restore a deteriorating, dull, or crooked smile. When in doubt, it’s never a bad idea to ask your dentist or dental hygienist about the best practices for your personal situation.