Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Smiley Face Happiness Question


How much of your personality were you born with? How much developed due to the circumstances of your life?

Almost four years ago, I watched John Stossel, a TV journalist, conduct a survey with random people where he asked them to look at a series of Smiley faces, and choose the one that most represented their general feelings about their lives. Actually, there was only one that was a big, full smile. The others, I think, were a half smile, no smile, a little frown, and a large frown.

I looked at all the pictures, and "my" first choice was the half smile, number two. Then I said, “No, surely it’s the BIG smile.” But I couldn’t be certain, and ultimately, chose the half smile to represent my life.

Later – probably on Good Morning AmericaStossel told Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer that he was more of the half smile. Diane, reluctantly, chose the half smile, too. Then, Charlie Gibson smiled and answered with an immediate, no-hesitation, “I’m the first one; the full Smiley Face.”

I was SO envious.

Why couldn’t I say that my general disposition was peaceful, positive, happy, and optimistic? I had no answer. There was no reason “not” to feel that way.

Sooo…I made a decision that day. “I’m going to be happy!” I went to my calendar with my yellow marker and drew a big U-shaped mouth and two big dots for the eyes; my version of a Smiley face. It was May 22, 2006.

It has taken effort to earn my "full" Smiley face. I still have days when I wake up and feel anxiety as I think about the long list of things to do. But, before my feet hit the floor, I force a smile on my face. I go to the bathroom, look in the mirror, and force that smile again. That gives me my first laugh of the day as I look at my puffy eyes and contorted face.

I’m not exempt from the hardships of life, and neither is Charlie Gibson, or the very large amount of others that chose the full Smiley face in the survey, but still, I plan to hold on to my full Smiley face status. How about you?

How much control do you have over your feelings?
Care to share which Smiley face (or lack of) you are? :)


The Stossel, Sawyer, and Gibson story and quotes are from my memory. Hopefully, I have summarized it acceptably.

38 comments:

Bernie said...

Anita, what a wonderfull post. I too would choose the full size happy face as each morning brings a new day filled with many challenges and many blessings. We have the choice of beginning this day with a smile or a frown....give me a smile anytime.
Have a wonderful day my friend..Hugs

coffeelvnmom said...

I can honestly say that it depends on the day, the time of day, how my kids were that day, if there was screaming before we headed to school, how much time I got to see my husband that day, if my caffeine level is high, and so on. I've noticed that over the last few years - I never get to 5, I don't think, but boy do I jump back and forth between 2-4 all the time.

I wouldn't mind being #1, but then I'm not sure I'd be able to feel anything other that insanely happy when writing, and I'm not sure that would work to my benefit. I think I would like to be the second one. All the time. That would be nice.

And as for you, you seem like at LEAST a 2 smiley kind of gal in the blogosphere. Thanks for that. =)

coffeelvnmom said...

Whoops. Other "than" insanely happy... My bad.

Joanne said...

Hm, I'd imagine these change at different times in life, but love the concept. I'd say I'm a little more than 2, but not quite a full-on 1 :)

Trish said...

No matter how hard, difficult, sad or whatever life gets, I have to choose to be fully happy. Im kind of the stress reliever of the household. Even if I am stressed myself, I tell myself because its true, in a week, this stress will be gone, so be happy now and look forward to the good stuff. Im a firm believer of "this too shall pass", because it always does. Makes no sense to spend a minute of our short lives worrying or unhappy, only we can make the choice to be down or happy no matter the situation. I choose the feel good one!

Ok I sound like a preacher or something!

Marla at Always Nesting said...

I am a big smile by nature but lately the half smile seems to be overtaking the big smile. I won't let the half smile win. I am the big smile even if this time of life I have more to deal and the half smile wants to take over. Yes, big smile. Big smile. Big smile.

Sohailah said...

I LOVE this. When I think of myself, I think of the full smiley face. But when I think of my LIFE I think of tremulous trying half smile. Interesting. I guess I feel I am attacked so much, so often. I'm okay with that, because I believe it's because of the difference I am committed to making with my life, but I have been more assertive with my request for BLESSING recently - enough is enough. :)

I love the idea of PLANTING the smile before I even get out of bed on my face.

Tracey said...

I think for the most part you are born with a the smile you are going got have unless you make an effort.

Even when things are going GREAT for me, if asked directly, I could always think of some reason to hedge until all I was left with was a half smile.

Did you catch that? I just talked myself out of being happy. Which means that I am probably, really, down deep in side, the flat line.

But I work at it.

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

I appreciate how honest you are about how difficult it is to always have that full blown happy face. I have to say that I'm close to feeling like #2 but really, I'm more of a #3.

Tabor said...

I have thought over recent time that I need to be more optimistic, more effervescent and more happy...and I sometimes remember to strive for that.

newmumover40 (to be!) said...

This is fantastic, Anita! And exactly what I needed to hear. I'm so glad you are now choosing that full smiley face! If I was to choose right now, it would be the sad face and that is so not right for my life. Mostly I would choose the half smile though. I need to work on it and the idea of putting a smiley face on the calender everyday is brilliant.

I think it is something I need to address in my peaceful thoughts - as long as you don't mind!

Abby said...

Oooh, I like this! Although, when I first saw your graphic, I thought of that pain scale they give kids at the doctor's office...

My initial reaction was to say 3/4 smile - like a one and a half - but I like the way you said you just "decided" to be a full smile. We CAN decide that, can't we!

Full smiles all the way!

arlee bird said...

As far as my life itself I'd go with the full happy face. For where I am in my life right now as opposed to where I want to be I'll have to go with the half smile -- I'm content over all, but there is so much that I can do and I want to do. Really the way I feel is up to me and under my control.
Lee

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I would say if I look at my whole life, I'd choose the full size also. Of course, we have "things" but if I look at the entire opportunity so far, yup, full size face. I'll remember that when I'm feeling blue - probably tomorrow.

Cathy said...

My dh says you choose to be happy - I tend to think circumstances have an effect. But whatever I think I'm a half and half girl, happy and smily but concerned as well - sort of a 1- (like A- fantastic but not quite there)
At a PR seminar I went to once they kept referring to 'smile before you dial' put a smile on your face when you answer the phone and your happiness will come throught to the caller. Made for fun in the office when the phone rang and your face changed to a big beaming smile instead of the hassled expression that could have been on it.

Robin said...

I'm definitely #1..but I do have a down day here an there..overall I am not happy, but filled with a sense of JOY..to me that means more..happy comes and goes with things but joy is inside and stays despite the changes in life..that is how I feel..my life has been anything but advantageous..but somehow I was able to find the joy in what I had..a feeling, a friend, a moment in time that I could always hold onto...goals and a sense of accomplishment...some people are not in touch with these feelings..due to chemical changes and/or imbalances and others have wonderful looking lives but do not feel happy or joy..you need to find it within, cultivate it and share it to make it grow.
I love your thoughtful and thought provoking posts...your blog is truly a joyful place to be..!

Donna said...

I do have some "full-smiley" days. But all in all, at age 65, I have to say life doesn't balance out that perfectly. Still, I wouldn't trade with anybody.

The Nakamuras on Saipan said...

I have learned to approach life with equanimity. I no longer define my "happiness" by my emotions or my feelings. I have become much more mentally stable and content. Now I know peace and happiness are a part of all of us except most don't know it. I have learned to accept all the different aspects of who I am and be content. I am all the different smiley faces and I am none of them and I am content with that.

My name is PJ. said...

I am, without question, face #1, but it's a conscious decision every day.

The days I feel less than, I practice the old 'fake it until you make it'.

Happiness, like many things, is a habit.

Pink said...

[Sooo…I made a decision that day. “I’m going to be happy!”] ---> I LOVE THIS PART. >:)

I did this last year!! and hey.. my life is fun again. afterall, life is a playground. we should be happy and grateful no matter what. :)

Anita said...

HELLO EVERYONE - LOVE YOUR ANSWERS!
And what a range - which means honesty.
I've seen people that are always moping around, and others that are always perky. That's why I wondered if much of it is genetic or innate.
Wish I could respond to everybody, but I'd never get out to walk the dog.
But I will say, COFFEELVNMOM, that your comment reminds me that "less than perky" personalities make us dig beneath the surface of life.
ABBY - LOL - The graphic does look like the beginning of a pain chart. A number 6 and 7 with screaming faces would complete it.

KEEP COMMENTING - I NEED TO HEAR MORE. :)

Aging Mommy said...

What a wonderful thought provoking post Anita. If asked I would have said I was the half smiley face but in reality I think I often view life with much less optimism, worrying about things that aren't really important and obsessing over the log daily "to do" list. It took a "Big C" scare last year to put things into perspective for me - it was then I realized that my life was really something special and how happy I am to be living it. Thankfully everything turned out just fine but I am trying not to forget the lesson learned (although yes, some days that's hard e.g. yesterday when I had to drag a screaming tantrum driven toddler out of the library!) that you can choose to be happy or you can choose to be sad, but choosing to be happy means you and your family will get the best out of life.

Dorraine said...

Most times in my life I'm full on happy. The key is staying there when life throws crap in your path. And it does. And it has.

I can't help but wonder if people are just born the way they are. I say this because when you have kids who are raised in the same environment, you can see quite a difference in the way they react to situations. I've got one who is just bubbly and easy going almost all the time. Another who a hoot, but moody. And yet another somewhere in between.

Meanwhile, I keep smiling.

Anonymous said...

I love this! I think sometimes we lose sight of the important things that we have: family, friends, love, belonging, and tend to focus on the material things we think will make us happy: house, car, career etc. I am so blessed! I do not have everything I want but I am definitely the full smiley face. I have everything I really need and I know that is where my heart truly lies.

Thank you for such a wonderful post!

suzicate said...

Good post. It takes effort to be happy. It's all in perspective, and we can't depend on others to make us happy. We are the captains of our ships.

ModernMom said...

I'm a half smiler....and do so wish I was that big full on fat smiley face! Something to strive for!

Sharon said...

Well, Anita, these days the size of my smile depends on the time of the month. Just ask my family! :)!

My life is good. I would probably choose the 3/4 smile, because there are some parts of my life I would like to change. When I get the guts to do that, then I'm sure I could be a full smile!

gayle said...

I am afraid I am a 3 but if I could retire I would be a 1

Wow you have a great memory and attitude!

Menopausal New Mom said...

Hi Anita, I know for certain that I used to be the full smile but losing my little brother 12 years ago has changed that to the 1/2 smile. I'm okay with that, somehow in life the ups aren't quite as high or the lows quite as low when you are missing a big part of your heart.

And yes, I know that he would be heart-broken to know that his passing had affected my life so much, I try to sport the big smile most days but I know underneath is the 1/2 smile and I'm okay with that.

I'm still a very, very lucky woman and I recognize that and hold all of my loved ones a little closer.

yonca said...

I'll go with the fully happy smile.I love to start a day with a smile.My computer is finally fixed.I'm back! :))

Julie Magers Soulen said...

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow
-- Helen Keller

Cheers!
Julie
Julie Magers Soulen Photography

Anita said...

AGING MOMMY,DORRAINE, ANONYMOUS,SUZICATE, MODERN MOM, SHARON, GAYLE, MENONEWMOM, YONCA, JULIE - Another set of great comments!
Most of you have talked about different factors (some, very serious) that determine our feelings.
While some of need to continue working towards the big happy face, which really is a symbol for our personalities, like DORRAINE, I think we're born with it. And if it's not great, we just have to workk a little harder.

GOOD COMMENTS - KEEP'EM COMIN'

Buckeroomama said...

I'm the full smiley face. Always have been. :) Not that I don't have any moments or days when I feel down or put out, but I bounce back fairly easily. I allow myself some time to mourn, grieve, get angry, rant, rave, --just to get it out my system, --and then I move on. Because I'd learned early on that wallowing in the depths of whatever negative feelings doesn't help, so why do it? Just move on as soon as one is possibly able to. :)

Anita said...

BUCKAROOMAMA - I "so" agree!

Hilary said...

Note to self: in order to start the day with a smile, first look at self in the mirror. That'll definitely get the day rolling!

Morgan said...

It's hard to have a full happy face sometimes, huh? It has to be on the inside first to be authentic on the outside and that can be hard to do some days.

The smiley face picture reminds me of the pain scale they show you in the hospital. After my c-sections, the nurse brings in a smiley face chart and I'm supposed to pick which one describes how I'm dealing with pain.

Patty said...

I think the second smiley face is best, it looks like overall contentment as opposed to smiley face number one which is happy now but may look like number 5 in a minute. Great post!

Cindy said...

I like the idea of just making up your mind to be happy. So true.