“THAT’S JUST MY FACE”
For as long as I can remember, at random times people would come up to me and say, “Are you okay?”.
Puzzled, I’d say “Yes, I’m fine. Why?”
“Well, you look mad or upset”, they would respond.
“That’s just my face”, I would respond.
We all know it now as RBF – or “Resting Bitch Face”. It has even made it into some dictionaries!
Turns out there’s actual science behind RBF. In a study done in 2016 with FaceReader, two scientists from Noldus Information Technologies analyzed celebrities who were known for their RBF. (Kanye, Kristen Stewart, Anna Kendrick, and Queen Elizabeth II, we’re talking about you!)
What they found was, the expression on your face could be sending out emotional vibes (real or not). One of the main emotions read from people deemed to have an “RBF”? Contempt.
But that’s just my face.
“We’ve all heard the anecdotal evidence of people being told to smile more … there’s something that is unconsciously showing up on people’s faces when people think they are just being neutral,” scientist Abbe Macbeth told CNN in 2016.
DO YOU HAVE RBF: Find out by uploading your photo here
Before you can blame the workplace and life stressors, look to your parents. The study shows if your relatives have RBF, you are more likely to have it as well.
Let’s use my mother as an example. She was an amazing, funny, beautiful woman. Look how excited she was for New Year’s Eve 1969!
Her wedding day with 45 years of marriage ahead of her. Can you see the excitement on her face??
Years later, the happiness was clearly visible.
At my sister’s wedding? Overjoyed.
Even look at this picture. I PROMISE YOU we bought thought we were smiling (albeit I have that look of “Ok, enough pictures already” on my face as well.)
I guess I get it from my mom. Long before RBF was a thing, my uncle always called my mom “Mona”, when her real name was Juanita. I asked him one day why he called her Mona. He said because her face always looked like the Mona Lisa. I guess RBF has been around since at least 1503 when she was painted. I bet nobody said, “Are you okay, Mona?”
FACT: Studies show men have RBF just as much as women. Women are just expected to be more cheery so it gets noticed more.
Once I was in my office working away on a project, hyper-focused on my screen. My boss walked in and said, “Hello! Oh.. are you okay?”. Nothing makes you have a bitchier face than when someone asks that question when you are fine.
“No, I’m fine. What’s up?”, I said back without looking away from the computer.
“You just look mad, you’ve got that crinkle in your eyebrow”, he said.
Ok so NOW I looked away from the computer. “Well, all you’ve just told me is my Botox is wearing off and I need to get another dose.” And we laughed.
Yet another time, my boss said “You look unapproachable when you are focused. You might want to work on that.”
“How do I work on that? I’m looking at the screen, tuning out a million noises and focused on producing two newscasts for you today.”, I fired back.
“Smile more.”, was his advice.
So, I took it. For days when I found myself leaning into my computer, eyes laser focused on the screen, I’d remind myself to smile. I’d lean back and smile. It actually started hurting my face to smile so much.
A few days later my boss came up and said “Ok. Stop smiling. You are creeping people out.”
THAT. IS. JUST. MY. FACE.
“Subtle facial expressions like a slightly pulled-back lip or squinting eyes are read as contempt”, Macbeth said.
Once I became aware of the facial expression, and then in 2013 it actually got the RBF name, I started to think more about my face at all times. I actually LOVED wearing the COVID masks because then nobody could say “What’s wrong?”. Too much of my face was hidden.”
No more “Smile! You look so mad!”
As I look back on photos of my life, as we all do from time to time, I see a pattern.
This is my face as a child, excited for Halloween trick-or-treating.
Grandpa came to visit? CAN I SIT ON HIS LAP? I am SO excited. You can see the rest of the family is too!
Want a snapshot while dad and I play with Whiskey? OK!
First-grade school photo got me so excited.
Third grade school photo day was enough to make me break out into a big smile.
I got what I wanted from Santa – A BRAND NEW BIKE! I was so excited, as you can see.
I bought a new convertible and what could be more exciting than that?? Add a dog in the picture for even more reason to be picture perfect.
Now you want a picture with ALL THE DOGS?? What a great idea. I’m smiling ear to ear.
I promise you, in this graduation photo with my cousin and family, I was actually thinking I was smiling.
Another picture during sorority rush? Sure, let me force this smile on my face.
I was FINALLY 21 and could legally drink all I wanted! What a fun night we had.
Go cover a hurricane? That’s the best news I’ve heard all day! I love going out in the storms!
Look at me eating Thanksgiving dinner with my dog. Couldn’t contain the excitement.
On the bus to Disney World Epcot? Hold me back with excitement.
Then one day in 2019 during rehearsals for a new show, I was anchoring and there was a lot of downtime in between as the crew learned the new system. I caught a glimpse of myself in the camera and said, “Oh wow, I look pissed off.” And the nearby meteorologist said, “You always look like that.”
THAT. IS. JUST. MY. FACE.
I felt I found a kindred spirit when True Blood came out and Pam arrived in my life. She actually owned her face to anyone who gave her crap about it.
While there’s not a fix for RBF (aside from Botox and other fillers to freeze your face), it’s good to know you suffer from this facial phenomenon. For all the times I’ve heard “You look unapproachable at first because you look angry. I had no idea you were this nice/fun/cool”, it’s frustrating. I genuinely can’t control my face at rest. I can’t help it that I need to squint a little sometimes to be laser-focused. I can help to be aware of it and try to rest the B from my RBF, and you can too.
In fact, writing that line made me Google “How to fix RBF”. Here are 7 things you can do, according to scienceofpeople.com.
1. When you are looking at someone, look up at them. This makes your eyes more open and less downcast.
2. Use makeup to reshape your downcast eyes. For downcast eyes, women can use eyeliner and shadow to draw more attention to their upper eyes to make them appear more open.
3. Replace your neutral frown with a small smile. If you have a naturally downcast mouth, slightly holding your cheeks up – it doesn’t have to be all the way into a smile – you can eliminate the appearance that you are frowning.
4. Use the eyebrow flash. An eyebrow flash is when you lift your eyebrows in recognition whenever you see someone. The flash is a great way to say, “I recognize you and I’m friendly!” We do this to our friends and loved ones. Flash to appear more approachable.
5. Put your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Take your tongue and touch it to the back of your front teeth, similar to mewing. This will help relax your facial muscles and help with that slight smile.
6. Accessorize. A pair of eyeglasses (even fake ones) can drastically shift your appearance and even help mask your RBF. Try wearing eyeglasses and earrings that are fun and wear brighter clothing—this will help counteract an unapproachable face.
7. Own it. You are under no obligation to change your resting bitch face. It’s a part of who you are and if you choose to embrace it, you can ensure the people who hang around you judge you based on your words and actions and not something as superficial as your resting face.
Here’s a video from the same source to help you work through RBF.https://www.linkedin.com/embeds/publishingEmbed.html?articleId=7258062274974428234
Good luck, my RBF brethren, here’s another smile pic for the road!
“THAT’S JUST MY FACE”