You are so much prettier when you smile

Twice in the past week I have taken photos of myself that I have been really proud of. I hesitated to share either. Why? Because I wasn’t smiling.

That’s it. The lighting was great, I felt sexy, the poses were flattering, but I had a serious look on my face in both images. Obviously models in photographs often don’t smile, but it wasn’t about the art for me. It was about how I felt about myself. As most girls, I was told to smile, all of the time. I was told this so often, that I began to feel ugly if I wasn’t smiling. Into my teenage years and adulthood, strangers — men mostly, would tell me to smile. “It’s not so bad” a random customer would say while I was concentrating on a problem at work. “You are so much prettier when you smile” is something I have heard so many times in my life I couldn’t begin to count.

I realized recently that I still feel this way! I was instantly flagging images for removal based on the fact that I didn’t have a grin plastered on my face.

I felt bold last week and posted one on Day 109 of my photo project. I wasn’t smiling, in fact, I look really serious, but I felt so SEXY and powerful that I felt it made up for that.

Still, I hesitated to share this image until today. For no other reason than the lack of smile. Seriously. Who the fuck smiles all of the time? The surfacing of the “Resting Bitch Face” didn’t help matters much for me. As someone who apparently looks like she’s trying to blow your head up with her mind if she isn’t grinning like a clown, and I must, given the way people have responded to me my entire life. So now I am well aware of looking like a “bitch” if I am not smiling.

Most of the jobs I have had required me to smile — customer service, bartending, stylist, photographer, etc. I have always been good at faking a smile and friendliness, as my income depended on it. But again I ask, who the fuck smiles all of the time? Does everyone get harassed if they don’t look like they are actively auditioning for a toothpaste commercial? What gives?

I will be 37 this fall. I realize I no longer want to feel the need to smile to appease the general population, so I am embracing that.


It makes me feel feminine, strong, powerful, capable, sexy, desirable and empowered. The lack of a smile doesn’t change that.



  • Nikki

    Nikki is a photographer, writer, artist, and advocate of radical self-love. She writes about mental health, gaming, sex, and inclusivity.

33 thoughts on “You are so much prettier when you smile

  1. I really know what you mean. I always hesitate to post pics where I’m not smiling. I’m trying to do more of it myself.

  2. Urgh! I hate the whole forced pressure to smile! I get that a smile really can light up a face! But personally I enjoy a face in all its phases and I love the look you’re pulling off in this photo! 🔥

    • Thanks doll. Yes, of course a smile is wonderful. Happy is a good thing, but absolutely, the forced pressure to keep it up constantly is just silly.

  3. The whole tits and teeth thing is a sad truism in the hospitality industry, but in your photos wear the expression you want. As waiting and bar staff your tips shouldn’t be about having a warm, sexy, compliant look…and if warm and compliant isn’t the image you want, a smile is superfluous here. You said you were going for capable, confident and empowered and you look it. x

    • Wow, thank you so much for such a thoughtful comment! Exactly! I see nothing wrong with having to be smiling and friendly in a work atmosphere, but someone who smiles ALL of the time is probably a lunatic lol

  4. When I don’t smile, I look angry, even when I am not, but even so, I barely ever smile on images. Why not? Because I like images where I smile less than images where I don’t…

    Rebel xox

  5. These images are great and you are exactly right, although it is not something I have ever thought of before. I do the same thing with pictures. Great post which has got me thinking …

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. You’re absolutely right. Smiling is important and beautiful, but not the only indicator of happy 😉

  6. As someone who ‘suffers’ from Resting Bitch Face I know how you feel. I have seen how ‘naturally smiley’ people seem to get ahead, but like yourself I got over it as I got older. No point in trying to be something you’re not just to please the masses!

  7. Sexy as ever, even with a pensive face. Always.
    My Mum was always nagging me to smile more, I wish I could turn it on but I’m a serious expression kinda gal!

  8. Some of my best pictures are when I’m definitely not smiling, but I never have been comfortable with them because, yeah, the big ass grin is what’s expected. At some point (sometime after my first marriage) I decided I wouldn’t smile unless I felt like it — for pictures or for other people. Sometimes my “polite” smile still comes out (39 years of habit, I guess) but my RBF game is strong, and I’m okay with that now. Love these pictures!

    • Thanks so much! Yes! I’ve only recently begun appreciating photos of myself that don’t feature a smile. I’ve got a couple years til 39 so hopefully I can work it out by then 😂

  9. I’ve never know why people, sometimes complete strangers, say ‘cheer up it might never happen.’ It’s so rude. Don’t they know there is a time for smiling and a time for not smiling and all the various stages in between. Needless to say Nikki you look wonderful in these photographs. x

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. I think it’s rude too, I couldn’t tell you how many times people have said “smile, it’s not so bad”. It’s ridiculous, they have NO clue what is going on in your life. Ugh. Irks me, obviously lol.

  10. Yeah, the notion of “resting bitch face” pisses me off because of the assumption that an expressionless face on a woman is somehow not good enough. Fuck that! My neutral expression isn’t smiley, and my mouth turns down at the corners so I can feel like I’m smiling plenty but it doesn’t really show. I’ve been told that I look intense or intimidating, but fortunately where I live people are either less judgmental or they just know when to keep their opinions to themselves, so I think I’ve only ever had one stranger tell me to smile.

    And I think I detect a bit of a smirk on you – definitely a confident look.

  11. Yep I have caught myself doing the same thing…. but that intense direct gaze at the camera is so strong and powerful and makes you look so bold. I love it


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