I took this photo and I liked this photo, but then I wondered if I should be smiling.
And then I was hit by a fully-loaded speeding train of thoughts. So here we go.
The short answer is no. I shouldn't be.
The long answer is this:
When the Hunger Games movies started coming out, people started calling me Katniss. I know. Humble brag much? Just hear me out. At the time, I was sightly confused as to how the comparison started. I would insist that the only resemblance between Katniss/Jennifer Lawrence and I was our extremely long hair (at the time) that could only be contained in a some form of a braid, low voices, and maybe some mutual levels of sass.
But maybe there was something I was missing. Maybe everyone was seeing something inside of me that I just hadn’t gotten to yet.
The truth was that I was flattered to be compared to Katniss (or Jennifer Lawrence for that matter). The bigger truth was that it terrified me when people would say things like, "it's not just your looks, you just remind me of her."
When you read character analyses on Katniss Everdeen, you see words like resourceful, mature, defiant, compassionate,independent, brave, loyal, and angry and at the time, admitting that I was any of those things (except for maybe compassionate and angry, heh) wasn't in my realm of capabilities.
At the time, I was so weighed down by self-doubt that I couldn't see the person every one else knew I was. I was too busy living inside the false notion that being ashamed of myself would somehow make me a better, more attractive and likable person. but it wouldn't. it didn't. and I finally had to admit: okay yes, I am some of those things.
The thing about Katniss' character is that the world likes her as she is. Her inability to be inauthentic is what makes her both charming and powerful. Of course, I knew this when I read the books but I hadn't found a way to apply these same lessons to myself. But I needed to.
Time and time again, you hear Katniss be reminded that the world needs her just as she is, because she's bold and divergent. However, Katniss had to learn that not everyone is going to like those traits and that she can't use being disliked as an excuse. If anything, Katniss' defiance is her greatest downfall because she uses it as a shield. She uses it to hide from responsibility when she's scared of failing and she uses it to mask her insecurities*.
There’s a song that recently showed up in my Spotify library called “Mind on Fire” by Aisha Badru and the first time I listened to the lyrics, it sent shivers down my spine.
“Have you seen the girl with the mind on fire?
She set out to tell the world how they suppress our desires
Said she wouldn't back down till the rules were amended
And she didn't give a f*ck who she offended”
This song fell into my lap right after I had shared some meaningful personal growth with you all and I couldn't ignore the signs. Or maybe I decided that I wanted it to be a sign, because I could finally make sense of the Katniss nickname.
Katiniss didn’t give a f*ck, the girl in the song doesn’t give a f*ck, FIRE doesn't give a f*ck... but here's the kicker: they have to do it with purpose. Katniss can't just be defiant to be defiant. The girl in the song isn't just offending people for no reason. Fire burns with a purpose. It's acting out a chemical reaction and it won't stop until it's made use of all of it's fuel. And while fire can result in some destruction and disaster, the aftermath often brings a whole lot of growth and whole lot of magic.
And that brings us to the answer to our question.
Should I be smiling? No.
The internet is full of photos of smiling women and perfectly laid out Instagram posts and SEO-optimized blogs following all of the rules, and that's not me. I didn't start this journey to follow those rules. I wanted to defy the rules, but I wanted to do it for a reason. I wanted to make people feel okay. I started it to say things like this:
It's not your smile they need, it's you.
Because you don’t owe them the f*cks that you don't want to give. You don’t owe them nice. You don’t owe them pretty. You don’t owe them a smile.
You owe them your fire.
And if they’re going to love you at all, they’ll love you for that.
*Currently annoyed with how accurately this character flaw fits me.