Well, you have probably heard of the expression, “Resting B*tch Face”. No?! Well, it is a phrase that describes a facial expression to warn others to stay clear of one’s path. So, maybe that’s not you, or not even, a person that you know. But, what about that person who maintains a face of calmness, or happiness when things are falling apart. I am not speaking of losing a favorite jacket at the movies or having a flat tire during rush hour in 100° weather; but rather, serious life events that can have a significant impact on a person’s emotional well-being. Usually, these people are praised for their strength and resiliency. Sometimes they are highly regarded in their social circles for their perceived strength. These people maintain what I call , “Resting Warrior Face”. It is their armor.
Armor, or armour [ahr-mer] is a protective covering that is used to prevent damage from being inflicted to an individual, usually during combat, or any covering worn as a defense against weapons.
Armor is not bad because, after all, it is the mediating factor in maintaining our safety. But, think of a person who has been shot while wearing a bulletproof vest. We know from research and testimonials that these individuals survive, but they still sustain bruising and sometimes, minor injuries. People utilizing Resting Warrior Face sustain emotional injury, but the armor that is observed by others is usually more than a barrier to harm; it is a mask. This mask hides our vulnerabilities. As mentioned in my earlier posts discussing thinking errors, sometimes these vulnerabilities are reinforced by irrational thoughts. For example, “People will not respect me if they see me cry”, “I am weak if I say that I feel sad”, “I will look weak if I say that I feel lost”, etc. When we adopt wearing masks, we hid our authenticity and place ourselves at greater risk for poor mental health.
Resting Warrior Face Pitfalls
Imagine the person who was shot wearing the bulletproof vest; they sustained bruises and injuries which they are attempting to conceal, so they smile through the pain. Maybe they conceal the injury because they do not want others to “worry”. The truth is, there could be countless reasons in which they have rationalized wearing the mask, usually, due to thinking errors. Even with the hardest of smiling, it cannot stop the pain without caring for the wounds. As the pain intensifies, the stress leads to mental health issues which they may seek unhealthy ways to manage the pain. The same can be said about individuals with Resting Warrior Face(mask), the wounds must be tended to for proper healing. The following are risks of adopting a Resting Warrior face without tending to the impact of the emotional injury:
- Prolonged Stress can seriously comprise our health leading to digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, memory and concentration impairment.
- Mental Health Issues can be distressing. There is a higher risk of developing depression including the risk of suicide or homicide, anxiety, and substance use.
Avoiding Pitfalls of the Resting Warrior Face
It can be challenging to be vulnerable. Societal pressure makes it extremely difficult for people to admit they need help. This can be true for men, women, and even, children. For men, this notion tends to place value on being in control, tough, and independent. As for women, this notion tends to place value on being excellent at balancing parenthood and marriage and taking responsibility for victimization. For children, there are gender roles that can cause a disruption in their emotional growth when they feel that they have not ascribed to them successfully. So, you want to look as cool as a cucumber or as tough as a warrior? Here are a few tips for you and loved ones:
Indeed, you are a warrior! But, when you are wounded you must take time to:
- Recognize that your feelings are part of the impact of the occurrence and vulnerability. Feelings of depression, anxiety, shame, guilt, or fear does not reflect the reality of your situation.
- Understand that what you have experienced is not a sign of weakness.
- By all means, don’t be afraid to cry. It is okay to remove the mask, and say to the people around you, “I am deeply hurting right now”. It is a healing process.
- Talk about the situation with someone you trust.
- Avoid the temptation to keep your mask on and isolate yourself from the people you love and who love you.
- Seek help from a mental health professional, employee assistance program (EAP) at work, or a counselor at your school.
- If you feel like hurting yourself and/or hurting someone at any time and no one is around to help you, call 9-1-1 or the 24-hour national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
The Warrior Tribe
Let it be known that we are all connected, and this is, especially, true for those with whom we hold a close relationship with. As warriors, we count on our tribe (family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc.) to help guide us when we are immobile due to injury. Here’s how:
- Acknowledge that you are aware of the warrior’s situation (e.g. “Tammy, I imagine this is a tough time for you. I’m sorry that this has happened). Offer to listen when they need someone to talk to (e.g. “If you want to vent, I am here to listen”). Make sure that you listen and not add too much of your emotional commentary.
- Remind them to eat well, go to sleep at regular hours, and get out of the house for some exercise.
- Offer to go for a walk, go to a movie, or just to stop by and spend some time with them.
- Acknowledge that you aware of situation and how difficult a situation may be to deal with. If the warrior has a history or currently using alcohol and/or drugs, offer to assist them in getting professional help or offer to go to a support group with them.
- If the warrior has a history of depression and/or suicidal behavior, ask if them if they are having suicidal thoughts. This is likely the hardest conversation to have because, often people feel that mention of suicide will prompt a person to act. But, it can actually save the person’s life because you may be the one person who has shown interest in their distress. Remember, we all want to know that somebody cares for us. If having this conversation is too distressful for you, advice the warrior to call 9-1-1 or the 24-hour national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Warriors are on a journey, and along the way may be wounded. Treat the wound and keep traveling. Let your Resting Warrior Face be reflective of your strength, resiliency, and perseverance to heal your wounds.
Navigating past the roadblocks along your journey can be quite challenging and sometimes, you might need professional support. If you desire help to navigate past a road block on your journey, schedule a personal session with me today.