The Strength of Our Core: Smiling is Not Required

Nicole Markardt
The Strength of Our Core: Smiling is Not Required

“Transformation is my favorite game, and in my experience, anger and frustration are the result of you not being authentic somewhere in your life or with someone in your life. Being fake about anything creates a block inside of you. Life can’t work for you if you don’t show up as you.” 
~Jason Mraz


After a very long week, as I stood at the bar of a restaurant with my husband waiting for a table, I sipped on a glass of wine inhaling a sense of relief. Savoring it and being mindful of sipping slowly because I was teaching a Vinyasa class the next morning, I felt as if I was finally exhaling.


Maybe the aroma of my pinot noir was calming. Maybe just a few sips had acted as a natural anti-anxiety remedy. Maybe it was the reality that my best friend had finally gotten her feeding tube out after having a near death experience due to a complication from cancer treatment.


As I sipped and exhaled, I explained my beloved soul sister’s progress to my husband. A large jovial man approached us. He had been standing at the bar way longer than us (evidenced by his rosy glow and the large empty glass of beer in his hand). He loudly commanded, “Smile! You’re out without your kids!”


I realized, in that moment, that I wasn’t smiling. I was exhaling. I was finally exhaling. While his intentions were good, I found him rude. Life can be difficult. Sometimes we wear it on our faces. I didn’t feel like smiling.


Resting Bitch Face and People Pleasing

Women are often expected to be agreeable and pleasing in both appearance and in their interactions with others. No. That’s not true. I used the word "often."

We simply are expected to please. Even the term resting bitch face is used to describe the unsmiling woman. I do not have resting bitch face. I’m usually a smiley woman. I’m polite to others, and no matter what is happening in my life, I mostly put on a happy face. I even flashed a wide smile to the loud man in the restaurant as to not seem rude or fall short of his expectations.

There is no term to describe the resting scowl on a man’s face. But a woman who is unsmiling…She is resting in bitch mode. The next morning, as I prepared to teach my yoga class, I got to thinking about living an inauthentic life.

Strengthening Our Core

When we practice yoga or any other physical commitment, we often learn that first and foremost, in order to make progress, we must strengthen our core. A strong core is our foundation in yoga practice. A strong core allows us to hold Plank Pose, come out of our Forward Folds with power, and slowly with control, it enables us to kick up into Headstand.

If we do not have a strong core, we stagnate in our asana practice. Our core is our center. It is what allows us to speak our truth. Our core is where our real stories come from. It is the space where we find our voice to express our unspeakable truths.

When we realize our deepest desires, reveal our greatest fears, or when we allow ourselves to truly be seen, we are strengthening our core. Just as we make progress in our asana practice, we make progress in our emotional existence each time we express our truth. As we strengthen our core, we learn patience with ourselves to live more authentically.

The Risk of Likability

One of the hardest lessons in my life has been that not everyone will like me. I have often cast aside my intuition and invited people who were totally out of alignment with self-loving endeavors because I wanted to be liked by everyone. I even had a moment where I flashed my smile for the loud guy in the restaurant so he wouldn’t think I’m not a nice person.

If our core is not strong, we pretend. We smile and put on a happy face. We only speak of positivity and joy. We can hyper-focus on how things look on the outside.

As we strengthen our core, our center, we allow our hearts to entangle with the heart of others. We can feel safe in that space of authenticity. We no longer feel the need to yell to others and command their smile. We can recognize the look of life on someone’s face, and we can offer our smile without demanding theirs. Our smile tells them, “I see you” and they can strengthen their center in knowing that they are never alone.

The process of becoming is difficult. Life always has a lesson, an unexpected visit from sadness or fear. We find courage and strength, but first we must feel and experience this visit from pain. We cannot feel our way through pain if we keep it at the surface while pleasing the world with our false smile.

We push through the darkness to emerge into the light. Healing from the inside out, we strengthen our core. Showing the world in a certain moment that we are not ok takes courage. When we find the courage to live authentically, doors will open to the most human encounters with others and with ourselves.