How much a smile cost?

How much a dollar really cost?
The question is detrimental, paralyzin’ my thoughts

Kendrick Lamar: How Much a Dollar Cost?

Walking into the campus this morning, I had a chance encounter with one of my favourite colleagues, and ended up talking about the busy, and quite challenging, day that I had in store. She observed that in relation to one of the extended, complex facilitation tasks that I was helping run, I was the cheerful, smiling face of that particular unit. We lol’ed and moved on, to face our respective days.*

As I walked on, I reflected on just how much this is true. As someone who likes to get on with people, and is fairly active (would it be fair to say ‘perky’?) in running sessions, I also felt, as I headed to grab coffee, exhausted (having had some recent long days). I started to think; my friend was, as always, right, but I also began to reflect on what the cost is of the smiling persona I adopt in professional contexts. It is testament to my lack of self-insight that I hadn’t even thought of it this way before. I am partly cheerful because I am an optimistic, cheery person, who loves their work. But I have also settled into this persona, and find it professionally useful. It is also, of course, now anticipated, and may be the reason I am asked to perform certain roles.** So as much as I benefit from this projection, this performance that, like all professional performances, accentuates certain traits and plays down others, the cost is the effort that is required to enact it. It made me think about how I judge others, and the costs they may have incurred, in a range of ways, just to be in the room, or able to cope with burdensome demands.

So, as I plodded up the stairs to start the day, I (for once) wasn’t only thinking about myself, but more generally about the behind the scenes cost of what we bring to work.

This isn’t just an excuse for if my mask slipped during today’s workshops, and a reminder to myself that it might be ok to tone down the chirpy, but that when I work with colleagues, telling them to cheer up, or (worse) smile, isn’t just patronising and (especially if you are their manager/sit above them in institutional hierarchies) fails to note that there is likely a backstory and that the performance of self that you are getting is already costing them plenty.


*I am fairly sure I also asked about her day. Probably. I hope so. I am sure I don’t walk around thinking it is all about me, do I?

**Along with my problem in saying ‘no’, but that’s another story.

Screenshot 2017-12-13 20.13.50

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