Here’s a Reason to Smile

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Have you heard of Bitchy Resting Face (henceforth BRF)?

Basically, BRF is when you look hostile or sad when you’re really just ‘resting’ your face (for men, the alternative is Asshole Resting Face).  And yes, it’s a joke.  But it’s also kind of a real thing…


BFF Nicole and I constantly talk about BRF because, well, we both have it. You know you have BRF because people will spontaneously ask you, “Is something wrong? Are you okay? Did I do something to make you mad?” when you’re just staring off into space, thinking about how you really want to finish off the tub of hummus in your fridge and watch back-to-back episodes of Homeland (oh wait, that’s just what I want to do tonight).  In all seriousness, BRF is the culmination of a bunch of little body and facial cues that add up to make you look unhappy, unapproachable, and, well, like a you-know-what


So – BRF.  A funny Internet meme, something that you see all the time in real life, but not actually a big deal… right?. Well, I recently watched this Ted Talk, which I would HIGHLY recommend listening to in it’s entirety.

According to Amy Cuddy, body (and facial) language impacts how WE see OURSELVES.  This is an interesting idea, right?  We normally think of body language in terms of how it influences how others see us.  But according to Amy, “power posing” (standing or sitting in confident positions) triggers the production of certain hormones in the body, thus altering how confident we feel and how much we can achieve.


Power poses look like this:

power pose 2

power pose

power pose 1

(Images are screenshots from Amy’s presentation – Source <— This also has a really good summary of Amy’s talk, in case you’d prefer a text version.)


Interestingly enough, power poses are innate. Amy says that blind people will power pose when they win an event, even if they have never had that position described to them!  Animals do power poses, too.


In contrast, low power poses look like this:

low power pose 2

low power pose

Basically, in low power poses, people close themselves off, make their body appear smaller, and may touch their necks (a gesture of protection).


Amy’s study found that power posing for two minutes impacts testosterone (goes up – increasing confidence) and cortisol levels (goes down – making  you better equipped to handle stress) in the brain.   How you sit or stand influences how you perceive yourself.  As Amy said, OUR BODIES CHANGE OUR MINDS


Amy isn’t suggesting that you should waltz into a job interview and strike a power pose.  But she is suggesting that you should slip into the bathroom, close the stall door, and do the Wonder Woman pose in private for two minutes beforehand.  You’ll walk into the interview feeling more focused, capable, and worthy than you would’ve if you had been slouching in a chair in the waiting room.  Amy’s team actually asked people to do this before a mock interview, and they found that people who did power poses were “overwhelmingly” the ones the interviewers wanted to hire, irrelevant of what the person actually said in the interview.  The difference was the strong presence the power posers brought into the interview room.


Seriously, try it – do a power pose for two minutes and see how awesome you feel afterwards.  It REALLY works.  It’s crazy!  You can apply this to your daily life, doing a power pose in the morning or before a big event to help put you in the right frame of mind.


In conclusion, I will be trying to wipe my BRF away and replace it with a serene smile. I figure Amy’s research has to apply to BRFs, too. The lack of a smile doesn’t mean you’re unhappy or sad, but it’s not doing you any favors – internally or socially!




Do you suffer from BRF?  Did you just do a Power Pose to see how it made you feel?  I’m doing one right now…. Smile



  • AmyC December 4, 2013, 12:08 pm

    Omg I totally have BRF!!! Now I know there’s a name for it lol! I need find a neutral face without looking like a spaz…..

  • Rachel December 4, 2013, 12:11 pm

    Me and my friends call it “CBF” or “Chronic bitch face.” I didn’t realize it was actually a thing! So funny.

    • Kyla December 4, 2013, 6:54 pm

      Ha! My friends and I call it CBF too!

  • Rebecca December 4, 2013, 12:13 pm

    My English teacher in 10th grade always looked like she was mad. We asked her about it once and she insisted it was her thinking face. I know someone else whose thinking face is sad. Never paid too much attention to mine, but I think it’s more sad than angry most of the time. Depends on what I’m thinking about, I guess.
    I know smiling can make you feel better, but I’ve never really thought about body language affecting you as well as others. I just sit in the most comfortable position, which most of the time is “closed off.” I guess it’s subconscious, because it’s definitely not my intent to appear closed off and small. It’s just more comfortable to sit or stand in certain ways.

  • Kristen L December 4, 2013, 12:27 pm

    I heard about the power poses a little while back. So awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  • Diana December 4, 2013, 1:00 pm

    I watched that Ted Talk awhile back and I have been doing the power poses in the bathroom for a while now. It totally does work. I end up feeling much more confident than I did before. It is crazy how well it works even though you feel absolutely ridiculous while you are doing it. I also try not to stay in lower power poses when I am in a meeting with someone.

    Interestingly enough. A boss of mine ALWAYS sat with his feet on the desk and arms over his head during phone conversations, and sometimes while in meetings with staff. He was one intimidating powerful guy too.

  • Taylor @ Singletrackedmind December 4, 2013, 1:04 pm

    I don’t think I have BRF. The high power and low power poses are really interesting. Makes me think that power and confidence are a fake it til you make it kind of situation.

  • Lisa December 4, 2013, 1:15 pm

    Loved this post. Totally have BRF and smiled at the Wonder Woman pose before an interview.

  • Abby December 4, 2013, 1:19 pm

    We’ve always called it Resting Bitch Face, or RBF 🙂 Too funny.

  • Suzy December 4, 2013, 1:24 pm

    That video is amazing! lol

    I remember years ago seeing a documentary and they showed two older ladies of the same age. One looked younger and healthy and the other looked much older. The younger one had smiled a lot more through life. Ever since that, I try to smile more….and I just feel better when I do: )

  • Janelle December 4, 2013, 1:29 pm

    Great post! I start a new job tomorrow and I totally needed to hear this today! I also suffer from RBF, although never had a name for it. Thanks 🙂

    • Caitlin December 4, 2013, 1:34 pm

      Congrats on your new job!

  • Ali December 4, 2013, 1:40 pm

    Ugh…I totally have BRF and have had it since I was a kid! If I’m just looking around or thinking, people always ask if I’m mad. BUT, if I’m smiling or trying to look pleasant, people always ask what I’m so happy about. I can never win! I feel like I always look like Chandler trying to get his engagement pictures taken…such a spaz.

  • Sara @ LovingOnTheRun December 4, 2013, 2:00 pm

    Wow love this! It is true how much our body language speaks as to how we are feeling! I am going to have to try some power poses 🙂

  • Kimberly December 4, 2013, 2:24 pm

    I totally suffer from this! This fact came to light after the following conversation with a coworker…

    Coworker: Did you just glare at that girl walking by?
    Me: No? I just looked over at her?
    Coworker: Are you sure? Because you looked really angry.
    Me: Oh! No, that’s just how my face looks when it’s really relaxed.
    Coworker: So…that’s just your face.
    Me: ….Yes.

    Haha. Now my fiancé makes fun of me all the time for BRF. I’ve made a conscious effort to look friendlier since then. 🙂

    • Laura December 4, 2013, 4:23 pm

      LOL I love that convo!

  • erica December 4, 2013, 3:13 pm

    omg. I totally have BRF! or as my friends call it “resting bitch face”
    AND I always do the low power poses….

    off to go practice my high power posing…..

  • Laura December 4, 2013, 3:34 pm

    I have a BRF! In high school, I always heard rumors that people thought I was mean and scary because of my BRF! I know I’m doing it when I start clenching my teeth (which leads to jaw aches), so I try to relax my face and semi-smile now when I’m out in public. I do the power poses though, so my body language must not match my face…

  • Margaret December 4, 2013, 3:40 pm

    Kind of random question: is Nicole still blogging? I read through her archives once after she’d stopped really putting up new stuff, and enjoyed her writing. But now the link is set to private. Totally understand, since if I recall correctly she was going into private practice as a therapist, probably don’t want patients randomly coming across a personal blog! But if there’s a way to still follow her, that’d be awesome!

    • Caitlin December 4, 2013, 4:41 pm

      Yeah she closed her blog down because of work. But she’s great!

  • Jamie December 4, 2013, 3:42 pm

    I love that Ted Talk! I first saw it in a therapeutic yoga training (I’m a yoga teacher) relating to the power of yoga to alter the brain chemistry of people with PTSD. There’s plenty of science behind it and its so amazing. I was so excited to see that you posted it (and its perfect for your work with Operation Beautiful!)

  • Laura December 4, 2013, 4:20 pm

    That is totally me! lol I didn’t realize there was a name for it!! Someone told me the other day I always “look so serious” and this is when a co-worker saw me at the grocery store.

    • emma @ a mom runs this town December 5, 2013, 6:35 am

      I get the too serious face all the time and I’m RARELY serious!

      Caitlin- thanks for posting this was hilarious/a great distraction from work!

  • Nena December 4, 2013, 4:32 pm

    I totally suffer from BRF! If I don’t have a smile on my face everyone thinks something is wrong with me. My boyfriend saw me driving in my car one day (I was in a daze) and he said “you look mean when you drive” LOL. Not my intention, just daydreaming away in my car. 🙂

  • Elizabeth @ Positive Change December 4, 2013, 4:39 pm

    I’m pretty sure 99% of the time my husband asks me if something is wrong it is BRF. I tend to snap at him when he asks so I am just going to respond with the explanation of BRF next time!

    • Louise December 5, 2013, 7:09 am

      I hear you on this! I get sick of saying “I’m fine”

  • Beks December 4, 2013, 5:14 pm

    I totally have BRF. I remember being in a world something or other class in college, and my suitemate would constantly pass me notes asking if I was okay. I was just listening with a really blank (and apparently pissy) face. I zone out a lot (Call me Walter Mitty), so I get this a LOT. I find it funnier more now than I used to.

  • Aerevyn December 4, 2013, 5:33 pm

    I call it my thinking face.

    Other people call it my scowling face. Eep. Perhaps I am thinking of my low power.

    So now I am powering up with a beatific smile.

    • Aerevyn December 4, 2013, 5:34 pm

      The picture of Nicole pointing at her frowning face cracks me up.

  • Amanda December 4, 2013, 5:38 pm

    I have BRF all the time!

  • Stacy December 4, 2013, 6:28 pm

    I feel sorry for people with BRF…I feel like it should NOT be your job to smile all the time. People should just accept your face for how it is. Smiling all the time would be unnatural and uncomfortable!

    • Emily December 9, 2013, 10:47 am

      Totally agree with you, Stacy. It’s such an unattainable goal to expect people to smile all the time, especially with all the different emotions humans feel.

  • Elizabeth December 4, 2013, 6:41 pm

    I definitely have BRF – as do all the women on my mom’s side of the family, actually. I wish I could just tell everybody that it’s not my fault, it’s genetic!
    And this is so perfect that you posted about the power posing today. I just found out that I have a big job interview on Monday. I always get super nervous with interviews, so I plan on doing some power posing in the bathroom beforehand! Thanks for sharing!

  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs December 4, 2013, 6:46 pm

    I definitely have a little BRF in me — depends on the day 🙂

  • Amber K December 4, 2013, 7:17 pm

    I totally think I have BRF. I have a friend who is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, is also totally shy and incredibly beautiful. Everyone always thought she was stuck-up when we were in school and I think it was because of BRF. I was constantly telling people, “no really! you just have to get to know her.”

  • Julia H. December 4, 2013, 11:18 pm

    So weird that you happened to post this today. I actually had to watch that Ted Talk for a class last year and remembered the tip about the Wonder Woman pose earlier today (without seeing your post) as I was getting ready for a phone interview! I did in fact do the Wonder Woman pose right before the interviewer called, and I think it helped calm my nerves a bit. Definitely recommend it!

  • Alicia December 5, 2013, 12:05 am

    I def. have BRF and I think this research is interesting! I am a professor and as a woman I find that the semesters I smile more consciously and consistently, I get better evaluations. I am remembering this now (I have a toddler at home) and the semester is over, so we’ll see how I fared…

  • Anna December 5, 2013, 12:37 am

    Whatever is the opposite of BRF is what my face is. People always approach my (even if I have my headphones on) because I look approachable!! It also helps that I’m taller than most of the population…think about kindergarten, it’s innate to look to the tallest person in the room for help!!

  • Sam December 5, 2013, 6:40 am

    hahaha this is so what I go through all the time! People are constantly asking me if I’m ok or mad or something. When I say no everything is great they look at me like I just smoked crack! I actually sent this to my FB page and will send it to all my friends and some family too so they can see its real LOL!!!!

  • Louise December 5, 2013, 7:13 am

    That TED talk was amazing (her personal story made me a little teary). The RBF vid was hilarious. Thanks for sharing -this is why I love your blog super wise lady.

  • Jade December 5, 2013, 10:37 am

    It’s still fairly early morning for me (8:36 – been at work since 8:30 — yes checking internet at work… 😉 ) but this was soooo funny and so true. Just because I”m not smiling 100% of the time doesn’t mean anything is wrong, now I can say I was just resting my face!

    Plus I totally need to do those power poses while I am checking the internet hahaha

  • Ali December 5, 2013, 10:57 am

    I have the BRF sometimes and usually I don’t even mean to! I need to work on that.

  • Anne Weber-Falk December 5, 2013, 11:03 am

    Huh, interesting. Really makes me think.

  • Stephanie December 5, 2013, 12:13 pm

    Thanks for posting the TED talk and the power poses. I’ve found those to be so helpful!

    Just as an aside, it rather surprised me to see everyone using the word b**** so freely! If the word, at its root, means to be female, and our society always equates it to something negative, after a while being female = being grumpy/mean/less of a person. I thought I would mention this oppressive word that we all tend to use to freely, especially in light of all the wonderful things you do to boost women and their self esteem through your various projects.

    Not trying to harsh, just thought I’d bring up a valid point about an issue affecting women!

    • Caitlin December 5, 2013, 3:21 pm

      I agree, its a yucky word, which is why I just prefer to call it BRF 🙂

  • Jordan Lynn: Life Between Lattes December 5, 2013, 1:59 pm

    Yes! I’ve totally done Wonder Woman pose – before oral arguments in law school. I typically get really nervous before any sort of interviews/ public speaking, and I think it really helps! 🙂 Great to see this shared!

  • Katrina December 5, 2013, 3:14 pm

    Perfect timing — I just got asked for an interview next week! You betcha I’ll be doing a Wonder Woman before hand! Thanks Caitlin!!!

  • Eli's Mom December 6, 2013, 4:12 pm

    I am often told that I have a BRF. When I was single, it actually helped ward off guys who wanted to ask me out. One guy even told me, I actually want to ask you out, but you always look so bitchy and mad. Hahahahaha. 😀

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