Like many others, I seem to have a natural RBF. No one has ever called me out on it, and it wasn't an issue I really noticed when we lived in the States. ...Well, there was that one time, when I was getting a new drivers license, and thought I would thwart the DMV's "No smile" rule by just lifting the corners of my mouth a little. I could feel the slight smile on my face. When I got the license? No smile. At all. It felt like I was gently smiling, but the smile didn't show.
I have an RBF.
When we moved to Beijing, I started using public transportation with tens of thousands of others each day. (I would estimate that I see at least 50,000 individuals daily, simply through taking the subway.) I was struck by how downtrodden everyone looked! No smiles, unless two people were actively engaged in an amusing conversation. everyone looked sad, mad, or just beaten down by life!
|This is MY personal photo - not stock photo from online!
Perhaps they are just reserved. I have noticed that my Chinese friends are less emotional. Less "demonstrably" emotional, at least. But it's daunting, and can get into your head to be surrounded by a perceived negativity.
At any rate, I made a decision to smile when I am out in public. Just to look friendly - especially since I am already head and shoulders taller than most, and an RBF could make me even more intimidating. I want people to feel okay to answer if I ask a question, or to just smile back!
I try to make sure the smile gets into my eyes, if I make eye contact. Might as well be friendly!
Occasionally it works and I get a smile in return. Most often from kids - they are a great ice-breaker, aren't they? But at the very least, ensuring that I have a smile on my face helps me to observe the world through a more positive lens.