The Bitchy Resting Face (BRF) concept has taken on a life of its own. What started out as a parody is now a term that’s used to describe usually the female face (though it can be directed at men too) contorted in an expression that looks less than thrilled. Your eyes are slightly narrowed, your mouth in a small frown and you probably look like you’re having the worst day ever, even if it’s actually been the best day ever. This usually happens when you’re not thinking about it; chances are you’re lost in your thoughts and are blissfully unaware of it until it is pointed out to you. This writer has been told numerous times of her own BRF. Initially, this resulted in extreme paranoia any time a camera hovered nearby, resulting in forced, Cheshire cat grins in all subsequent snaps. The expression was hardly “terrifying” as an article in the New York Times suggested, but it wasn’t exactly photogenic. Time went by, and I began to just not care. I barely have time to sleep these days, let alone worry about what my facial expression looks like 24/7. I’m a deep thinker, and as such, I over-analyse everything. My mind gets lost in thought or concentration, and this inevitable expression crosses my face, so I’m not going to waste time worrying about it.
As such, the BRF is now associated with negativity, and since its emergence, the following celebrities have been caught in serious repose: January Jones, whose “absolutely miserable” face made headlines at a recent ComicCon event, Tyra Banks, who has famously advised women to “smize” (smile with your eyes), Victoria Beckham, Kristen Stewart, and Anna Paquin, who has defined RBF as: “You are kind of caught off guard and you’re not smiling, and it means you look really angry all the time, or like you want to kill people.” (Also, in the less-chronicled male RBF category: Kanye West.) A BRF apparently means we’re not bothered, ungrateful or just plain miserable, when in fact, it’s probably just our natural facial expression.
Finally, one writer has come up with a positive stance on the BRF, and it’s that having one makes you a better communicator. In an essay on Quartz, Rene Paulson discusses what she’s learned about being a great communicator having her own RBF.
She points out that RBF often puts the onus on women with it to police their own relaxed expression in order to make those around them more comfortable. Paulson argues that the misunderstanding is “as much a blessing as a curse.” She posits that women with RBF have a higher empathy factor, since they are so often misunderstood. “Women used to being constantly misunderstood focus more on the words someone says, rather than their tone, body cues, or facial expressions, ensuring a more effective flow of information between both parties,” Paulson wrote.
She went on to suggest that the constant monitoring of yourself that goes with RBF for women in professional settings leads to a high sense of self-awareness, which makes a woman more adaptable in unfamiliar situations. In short, it’s easier to read the room because you’re scanning it all the time to see how people are reacting to you.
A BRF apparently means we’re not bothered, ungrateful or just plain miserable, when in fact, it’s just our natural facial expression.
“Research has shown that people rely heavily on facial expressions and body language. Psychologist Albert Mehrabian, of the University of California, Los Angeles, conducted famous studies in the 1960s that found that interpreting someone’s communication is based mostly on nonverbal cues, like facial expression, body language and tone. Women confronted by a world that automatically attaches negative attributes to their non-smiling face must quickly learn how to communicate and also hone a finely-tuned awareness of both our own emotions and the emotions of those around us,” Paulson explained.
While these are excellent points, and it’s great to put a positive aspect on the BRF, we’ll gladly welcome the day when we won’t have to go about altering our facial expressions to please others. Some may want to make a point of ensuring their faces evoke a cheerier deposition, and that’s completely fine, but even if one does have a BRF, so what? You shouldn’t feel you have to alter your expression in any way, unless you want to. Still, it’s nice to see someone be positive about it given that those targeted as having a BRF are stigmatised for it. It may be all said in jest, but hearing it constantly may eat away at someone’s self-confidence, so it is not right to label anyone in a negative way for it.
What are your thoughts on the BRF?