Photo by Lesly Juarez.
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Why So Serious? The Simple Importance of Smiling

Admittedly I have had Batman hysteria recently (like every young adult), hence the title. Although this topic of conversation won’t be on Robert Patterson being a goth… quite the opposite. Today I will be talking about the importance of putting a smile on other people’s faces or at the very least trying to. In an age of social media, where you see tons of posts that speak about how your self-importance trumps everyone else (i.e. ‘if this person doesn’t do this they’re not even worth you and ‘me, me, me’ is the message of these posts, it worries me that we’re closing ourselves off more than ever. Nobody is completely heartless or cold, despite what anyone would have you believe. So let’s stop acting like we are. I’m not saying that you as individual aren’t the priority in your own life, but through this article, I hope to establish the idea of us recognising that we need to aim towards contributing to something bigger than ourselves as a sum of parts. In this article I will be speaking about why a smile is important, about my experience growing up in London of its atmosphere, about the people on and off my course who’ve made this year incredible and about circumstances where you least expect to meet more amazing people.

That being said why is a smile important? What difference can it make? Well, put it this way: you never know what’s happened in a person’s day or what they’re going through emotionally. Life can be tough, that’s for certain. What if you just smiling at them, or just giving them a little bit of effort, puts them in a good mood, perhaps even change their perception of people? After all, we as humans naturally crave social interaction. What may seem trivial on the surface level can have a big impact. Even having small talk may just make that person feel like someone cares. In a world where a narrative is pushed that we’re all selfish beings; we all just want to feel cared about, secure and loved. Be that person who tries. Are there days when I haven’t been 100% or felt like talking to people? Absolutely, we’re not perfect. You may feel anxious, in a low mood or in the case of final year, workload. You may not have had time for others. That’s fine! All I’m saying is that if you have the time and can, try! It will not only make a difference to them but also you and how you go about your day with a positive outlook and mindset.

I’d like to say that, from my experience growing up in London, you always felt that little bit uneasy because of the lack of communication between people, the rush of everyone to get home and the lack of respect people had for one another that have certainly created a culture of loneliness. Epitomised by the tube, I always felt a little bit uneasy having to get up early in the morning to take the underground to secondary school, seeing all the miserable faces surrounding me. It was never a pleasant experience, it was weird how you could be surrounded by so many people, and yet the carriages would feel so soulless. 

Fast-forward to post-pandemic in the UK and being able to go out again and meet new people. It’s been a joy! Going into my final year at university I didn’t know a ton of people or I knew some but not that well, as most people I did know were going on a placement year. On top of this, I unfortunately wasn’t able to meet as many people on my course from the first year of university (as this was when the pandemic hit in March 2020). Every single person I’ve met and got to know this year on my course and outside of it has been absolutely lovely and they’ve made my experience of my only full year at university amazing. So a big thank you to you all (you know who you are). I hope, on the other side, that I can say I’ve also made their experience better. I met up with someone not too long ago and spoke to them about writing this article (trying to make people feel important) and they said that I made them feel welcome and had an impact on them. It genuinely humbled me (because you never really know if you make a difference to others 100%, it only further validated this topic) and on the other side of things that person has also made this year awesome for me. Despite us only meeting in January, I think that was one of the best conversations I’ve had in years in terms of getting to know someone deeply. So if you take something from this article remember your presence does make a difference for you and others. Even the smallest interactions I’ve had with one of the bus drivers on campus, simply smiling and asking each other how we are, have brightened my days at university. It may seem so small but it’s so impactful.

Not only have I met new coursemates, but I’ve found myself interacting with people who I wouldn’t expect myself to be: people who I didn’t know at all in public, whether it be on the train, waiting at a bus stop or in the library (FYI not saying just talk to someone randomly, circumstances just happened that we got chatting. Some people may not want you to talk to them or want to be left alone). All of these people are wonderful individuals and I’ve found they’ve made a difference in my life. I first understood how when I spoke to the person I met on the train as we were both heading to Bath and it turned out we went to the uni. I was having an awful day before that point, I had sprained my ankle a couple of days previously and I couldn’t get a seat. Talking to that person took my mind off the pain and genuinely brightened up my day. From that point on I realised why it’s so important to try and smile, or put more effort into people if you can.

Briefly, coming back to the idea of the importance of smiling, I have learnt this year how impactful it can be. People won’t remember you for the university work you do, or even what you go on to do with your life. Your profession is a part of you but it does not define you, your passion for life and people is what everyone remembers. It’s the feeling you gave them. People also won’t remember all the negative drama, none of that will be important in ten years so have fun now! And so giving a part of yourself to others is the greatest gift you can give to the genuine people. Think about it: as you grow older birthdays and Christmas are no longer about the presents but the people you’re around, the same concept goes for hanging out with your friends at uni. You don’t expect anything from them, you just appreciate their presence.

Honestly, that simple smile and effort can be a great way to forge incredible relationships that can hopefully last long after university. If life gets too hectic in the future, I think the beautiful thing about life that you can say is perhaps “I’ve helped make this a memorable year for them and been a part of their journey on their pathway to becoming the person they want to be and contributed to their happiness/wellbeing“. As I sit in the library reflecting on this article and the year I’ve had; I can say I’ve made memories and had fun with people I truly care about. There are so many people out there who are wonderful and I don’t think my words in this article can truly express how grateful I am for them. All I can say is that I am happy I opened myself up to the opportunities of meeting new people and getting to know others. Don’t close off an avenue as you don’t know who could come into your life and make a difference. I promise setting the intention of putting a smile on another person’s face will improve your relationships with people and people will in turn reciprocate the energy you put out. And that is ultimately why putting a smile on your face is so important!

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