Stop Smiling Nervously – Why You Do It and How to Overcome It

by Erika Slater

Girl with nervous life and a little shy

They say it’s difficult for most people to hide what they’re feeling when it comes to their facial expressions and body language.

Your spoken words may say one thing, but your facial expressions may mean and say something altogether entirely different. Often times, when people become nervous or apprehensive in certain situations, or when around certain kinds of individuals, they start to smile nervously.

It’s a forced smile to hide the fact your uncomfortable inside. It’s aimed at conveying everything is fine when in fact you have a “knotted stomach.” In this example we all do it at times and to a certain extent its not inappropriate even if in fact we are hiding our true feelings.

The fact is, it’s unlikely to get us in trouble.

But what are instances where a nervous smile can get us in trouble and what’s going on?



Smiling widow maybe inappropriate for occasionImagine, if you will, you receive ‘bad news’, or are at a place where other people are ‘grieving’ and you’re smiling. Others may be thinking, “What the heck? Why is this person smiling, don’t they understand the severity of the situation?

But what they don’t understand is you’re probably feeling anxious, nervous as heck, or as I said uncomfortable, and you’re trying to hide your angst with a nervous smile.

Nervous smiles can confuse, irritate and even infuriate others because they don’t see the ‘humor’ in the situation. But what they really don’t see or understand is your apprehension.

When smiling is done appropriately, that is in instances someone would deem as ‘normal’ for an emotion like joy, happiness, surprise, etc. then no one has an issue with one smiling.

Conversely, when someone is smiling ‘out of context’, it paints them in a negative light, and confuses the parties around them.

It prompts the question “why are you smiling?” A difficult one to answer if in fact you now realize you shouldn’t have been in the circumstances you did. Ugh! More nervous smiling can ensue… you see the problem here?

The key is not using the ‘smiley’ face for all situations as your go to expression, and this does happen when people start smiling to cover up their embarrassment, angst or even their anger. It’s easy to ‘get stuck’ on an emotional expression.

Do you know of anyone, perhaps even yourself that’s the opposite of this?

There are individuals, who no matter how great things are going for them, great things coming their way, they just can’t help but always frown. Often times their underlying motivation for this is ‘they’re expecting the worst’ to take away their joy, and hiding their true feelings as to ‘not jinx’ the good things happening to them.

These people seem to always go through life appearing miserable when in fact they’re indeed happy most of the time but afraid to show it.

The same is true for those who smile to hide their nervousness!



Breaking Bad Habits ImageThe best way to not smile during inappropriate times is to recognize your thought patterns leading to your feelings, which then lead to your action of – smiling.

The one thing you can control is your thoughts and you can monitor these – takes some practice and not easy but you can do it with help. If you tend to smile whenever you get bad news, feel anxious, upset or nervous, pay attention to the thoughts you’re telling yourself.

One method used to control negative thoughts and feelings is Cognitive Therapy.

While this is a therapy used in mental illness and addiction situations if your problem of smiling nervously is stubborn to fix, and a major concern to you, then seek out a professional therapist to see if this is an appropriate intervention for you. I’ve provided a link to an article below for more information about this therapy.

Did you know you’ve programmed your mind to ‘smile’ as a result of the thoughts you’re having? It’s a habit and like other habits you can replace it with a more positive habit.

Yes, you’ve done this nervous smile enough times you now do it on auto-pilot, without realizing it.

The key is to break the chain of thoughts leading to this habit. There are various techniques to do this and I discuss one at length called Pattern Interrupt in another article I’ve linked to in the resource section below.

One of the easiest ways to change your nervous smile is through hypnosis. You can modify those thoughts leading you to act (smile) out of nervousness.

Through post-hypnotic suggestions, whenever you feel nervous, anxious or upset, new cognitive scripts are created and used to unconsciously help you think, feel and act differently.

Finally, here at Free At Last Hypnosis we practice what we preach. We leverage concepts discussed here as a resource during our stress and anxiety hypnosis management program which you can learn more about it here >>>



A nervous smile is a habit conditioned to happen when you’re feeling uncomfortable, angst, anger inside and disguising your true feelings.

It’s a learned response but can be replaced with a more appropriate expression during those occasions where a smile causes issues for those around you, and conveys the wrong or inappropriate facial expression for the occasion.

Cognitive Therapy and Pattern Interrupt are interventions to help, along with hypnosis, to replace your facial reaction with something else more appropriate.

If self-hypnosis is an avenue you think may help you then check out this session which covers nervous laughing but is also appropriate for nervous smiling here >>>



What is Social Anxiety – Dr. Thomas A. Richards >>>

Why is it So Darn Hard to Cope with Stress? Ways to Reduce It >>>

Cognitive Therapy: Taking Control of Your Negative Thoughts and Feelings – Dr. Alison Block >>>

Library of Self-Hypnosis Downloads Products >>>

Erika Slater CH
Free At Last Hypnosis

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Interested in making a significant change in your life and interested in learning more about what I do and how I do it? Discover my hypnotherapy services here or contact me here.

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