I’m So Miserable Looking – How to Deal with Miserable Face Syndrome

I’ve only recently discovered I suffer from a debilitating condition known as miserable-face syndrome. If you saw me on the street, you would probably assume I’m unfriendly or just recently bereaved. This horrible affliction means I need to force myself to smile as much as possible – it’s no fun, I can tell you.

Paul Garrigan

How Other People See Me

I think most of us would be at least a bit appalled if we could see ourselves as other people see us. I like to imagine myself as a friendly guy with a twinkle in his eye, but the reality is much different. I look miserable most of the time, and it is only getting worse as I get older. When I’m not smiling, it looks like I’m leading a funeral procession.

I’ve always had a problem hiding my feelings. Passive-aggression used to be my default tool for dealing with people who got on my bad side, but I have a dismal record with this technique because you only have to look at my face to tell I’m pissed off. This inability to hide my feelings probably explains my poor social skills.

Perhaps all of those years of expressing my emotions so visibly on my face has led to permanent deformity. All of that frowning has changed the muscle structure so my default facial expression is looking pissed off. Maybe this is all a nasty side-effect of listening so much to the likes of Nick Drake, Nirvana, the Pixies, the Smiths, and Joy Division.

I think looking a bit pissed off in your late-teens and early-twenties isn’t such a bad thing – it can make you appear edgy and mysterious. It’s only really in middle-age when miserable-face syndrome becomes a serious liability. I suppose it’s like listening to loud music – fantastic when you’re young but an unpleasant necessity as you get older.

Common Symptoms of Miserable-Face Syndrome

Miserable-face syndrome is particularly nasty because it can go undetected for so long. The problem is most other people are just going to assume you are miserable. Some of the most common warning signs you might be dealing with this condition would include:

• People offer you their condolences for no obvious reason
• Babies cry when they are brought near you
• You have a history of listening to music such as the Smiths, Nick Drake, Joy Division, etc.
• Your facial muscles start to ache or cramp if you smile for more than one minute
• Most people you meet seem to be in a bad mood (this is because they are reacting to your gloomy face)

How to Deal with Miserable-Face Syndrome

I’m not a doctor so you might want to get a medical check-up if you are not used to smiling. Here are my suggestions for dealing with miserable-face syndrome:

• Ask a trusted friend to secretly film you so you can judge the seriousness of your problem
• Practice smiling in front of the mirror – start off with 10 seconds and build up to longer durations of time
• Use a tablet or smart phone alarm app to remind you to regularly smile
• Listen to upbeat music
• Always speak positively to reassure people you meet you are not suicidal

I’m Not Miserable – I’m Just Resting My Facial Muscles

I do my best to smile as much as possible these days, but it is hard work – I just don’t have the facial muscles for it. If you do meet me one day, please don’t mistake my frown for a miserable existence – the most likely explanation is that I’m just resting my facial muscles.

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8 thoughts on “I’m So Miserable Looking – How to Deal with Miserable Face Syndrome

  1. Yes it can be a real problem for sure. People always used to tell me to cheer up and I never knew what they were on about. Then I was told I suffer from this affliction and it all made sense. The only upside to it is that people rarely try to cause trouble with you as they assume you are already about to flip out!

    This video sums it up nicely:

  2. I am new to your work Paul and am happy to start off with this post making me smile. Is there a hint of irony in that?

    I suffer from a somewhat misguided duality in my life. Due possibly in part to my former long-time occupation working as a bartender I am rather warm and welcoming to complete strangers, wearing a chipper countenance and initiating casual conversation, but put me at my current place of work, which has nothing to do with slinging drinks, and there are days that I imagine my coworkers wonder who is running hell in my absence. Clearly I have some work yet to do in my sobriety.

    Nonetheless, I am glad I stopped by and look forward to reading more of your writing.

    1. Nice to hear from you Glen. I worked as a barman for about 7 years, and then as a nurse, but it still didn’t stop developing a sad-man face :)You look very happy in your avatar.

  3. Wonderful article. A spot-on analysis of the ‘miserable-face syndrome’ or typically called the depressed look, or the bitchy face, or the arrogant and snobby ass look. I get it a lot from people that I ought to smile because that is the only way I could look attractive. So, it has been generally implied to me that I must be ugly when my face is rested. Yes, my natural face isn’t a cheery-looking one. My natural face, which is also my resting face, could only be described as plain miserable or an angry snob. But I am neither one of those things, though lately this realisation has been making me a little gloomy! So I try to smile. I exercise my mouth and cheeks smiling. But the tragedy doesn’t even end there. I also have to practice my smile. What the fuck. I’ve been told by my parents and some others that when I do smile – the most natural smile I could conjure immediately – the smile turns out crooked which looks more of a smirk than a beautiful smile. People would think I’m insulting or mocking them in my head! So I always have to take a few pictures of my smile before I actually post the picture of me smiling – it takes work, trust me. You’re probably going to think, well, what could have affected my facial muscles to be this way? Didn’t I say that it’s natural for me? My face is always serious, even when I’m not feeling that way. People perhaps think that I can’t take any joke, huh? I looked back at my pictures when I was a kid and my face was already like this. It’s only become a trouble to me right now, now that I am a young adult, socialising with different folks. And isn’t this the youth for romance and establishing as many connections as you can with people? But my damn face is getting in the way of that. Now, if only my voice could betray all the wrong impressions, but no, actually my voice is cold. People who have heard me speak the first time told me that I have a cold voice. Well, at least they didn’t think it was emotionless because that would just be a tragicomedy. But I guess my voice complements my face, huh? I appear smooth and chill in general. But oftentimes I get the smuggy or arrogant asshole impressions. My life is one hilarious mess.

    1. Hi Pauline – I’ve been doing a lot of metta (loving-kindness) meditation recently. I once would have dismissed this type of practice as too ‘tree-hugging’, but it is producing amazing results. I just find myself smiling a lot more because of it

  4. i have always been told to cheer up . that puts me in a bad mood and it happened last week . i was totally ok then passed wetherspoons and a man said cheer up babe . cheeky shit calling me babe too . i managed a glare and he looked shocked so now i will use that glare often . lol

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