Women smile. People assume we’re happy. Living in Southeast Asia, the “Land of Smiles” has taught me an unforgettable lesson. A smile doesn’t show what is in the heart. How do I know?
I mastered the art of fake smiles. I smiled at you when I was in my deepest pit of depression overwhelmed by the cloud of hopelessness that surrounded me. I smiled at you at the same moment of suffering a panic attack while feeling a swelling pit of fear convincing me my life was over.
Why did I smile? Why didn’t I tell you? Because I was your cheerleader. I was the one to brighten your day. You looked to me as your leader, encourager, mentor.
I wanted you to think that I was strong. If I hide my weaknesses, maybe I would be strong.
I’m a Christian, if you see me weak you will think I deserve it because of some sin. Maybe I shouldn’t be leading others. I didn’t want you to doubt me.
My thoughts feel out of control. Am I out of control? I mustn’t let you see.
Can I be beautiful and weak at the same time? I want you to think I’m pretty. Do you see the swollen eyes, my emaciated body, my thinning hair or did I hide it well?
You think I’m strong, independent and I don’t want to change that image of me.
You have always depended on me calling me your role model, teacher, mother, wife.
If you saw the pain, you’d have questions. But I’m sorry friend, I don’t know why I’m depressed or anxious.
From this lack of vulnerability on my part I learned, she’s not sharing with me either.
Your looking at a 23-year-old women. She is illiterate, been abused her whole life, averages 2 meals a day on a good day, she desired to end her life.
We’re friends now.
This picture was the first day I met her. I’m glad I learned the “unforgettable lesson.” When I see this smile, I look for pain. After an hour of prodding, the tears fall. What’s inside seeps out. Healing begins.
Don’t mistake a smile for happiness. Practice looking deeper.
How can you tell if a friend is hurting inside and faking that smile or is honestly happy?
Vulnerability can seem unthinkable but without it we are just a lonely shell.
Are you being vulnerable with your weaknesses?
“Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.” Rick Warren
Dig deeper with your friends and family today. I am so glad so many choose to do so with me.
Originally published at medium.com