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The Curse (and Blessing) of Resting B*tch Face

As a girl with a naturally pulled back facial expression, I almost always have discussions with friends that start with: “Honestly, I thought you were so stuck up before I met you.” Of all the genetic makeup that creates who I am as a person, I got the RBF gene. Not just a blanket term for women who don’t constantly smile, the term “RBF” or “Resting B*tch Face” is actually backed up by empirical data.

Scientifically, it’s the microexpressions in an otherwise neutral face that people identify and attribute to feeling. For example, some people have a naturally upturned mouth, and people associate that upturned mouth with a smile. This creates the idea that that person is a happy, optimistic person. I, on the other hand, have terrible eyesight which leads me to squint at everything. In addition to the constant thinking expression, my neutral mouth is straight with a slight upturn only on the right side. The pulling around the eye and forehead area plus the unsymmetrical nature of my expression leads to the assumption that I feel contempt towards anything in view. In reality, I could be thinking about sunshine and cupcakes; It just doesn’t register on my face.

RBF is frustrating to deal by far one of the most frustrating things to both recognize and change. Because my face constantly looks like it’s angry when I am completely neutral, I often have to make a conscious effort to look friendlier in situations where impressions are important. It’s exhausting. Have you ever gotten your picture taken for a school dance, but your mom couldn’t figure out how to work her camera, so you were stuck smiling in the same position for three minutes straight? It’s the same feeling, but all day as opposed to the three minutes.

 

It’s also both the favorite attribute to comment on by judgemental aunts and catcallers alike with the expressions, “you’re too pretty to not smile”, or, “I bet you have a beautiful smile, let me see that smile.” Whether the intention was well meant or not, the sentiment is infuriating to someone who can’t comfortably do anthing without ridicule about what they look like to another.

RBF, though, is a disguise you get to guard yourself with; a creation of your own Hannah Montana-double life. People always just assume you’re a terrible time because your face makes it look like you’re constantly having a terrible time when not doing anything interactive. It’s like having a secret with yourself, and you’re just waiting to be able to share that secret with others.

As a girl who has been dealing with this unamused face all of her life, I’ve found it’s much easier to get people to listen and respect you when the first thing they think of when they see you is that you feel anger or contempt towards everything. People tend to try to cross your authority much less than they would a person who looks bubbly in every interaction.

 

In all honesty, you just have to own your resting b*tch face. Be aware and present of how you’re coming off to others when it’s important how you’re being perceived, but use this poker face to your advantage. RBF is nothing to be ashamed of, or something you should be adamant about “fixing.” At the end of the day, if a person doesn’t like how your face is when you’re relaxing you don’t want them in your life anyway.

 

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Communication Major at Penn State Behrend Intersectional Feminist Do More Of What Makes You Happy
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