Smile: It Won’t Kill You



Smile: Makes Everyone Wonder What You've Been Up To!

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.” As a platitude, it’s horrible. Ask anyone who has undergone chemotherapy or the death of a child if that statement is always true, and prepare to be met with a bit of scorn – if not outright hostility. Of course it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. But as an affirmation, it works: What Nietzsche is really saying, here, is that it all comes down to attitude and resolve. It’s similar to a child’s saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” We all know how hurtful words can be. But when we understand that we have some choice and control over how we react to hurtful words or deeds, it is empowering. In the end, happiness is largely a matter of choice.

If you’re in a negative frame of mind, you are probably reading this and thinking, “Yeah, right, the woman’s a lunatic.” Real tragedy and adversity deserve acknowledgement; grieving is a normal, healthy process that should not be denied or covered up or made to feel like the expression of a major character flaw. Say the doctor diagnoses you with cancer – that’s what happened to me, last December. You can’t smile and say, with even a shred of credibility, “Yay, I have cancer!” But you can smile at the phlebotomist who manages to take a blood sample on the first try, while you’re freaking out over a little needle and threatening to kick her in the shins if she misses. You can feel loved when a friend drops everything to drive you to doctor’s appointments (and doesn’t make fun of you for freaking out over needles). You can be amazed by unexpected acts of kindness, like when friends call up and say, “We think you need a little South Carolina Chicken Perlo, it’s comfort food, and we’re bringing you some” then drop by with a huge casserole of something incredibly delicious, so you don’t have to cook dinner on a cold night – or pretty much any night for the next week. And pretty soon, everything around you starts to look more like cause for gratitude, joy, and laughter than fear and death. Even if faced with certain death, we have a choice: enjoy the time we have left, or dwell on the sad and scary inevitable. Or, as Sister Mary Ellen would say, there’s decision by indecision – we can die while waiting to figure out which choice to make.

In my case, I’m grateful for advancements in medical science that mean I get to worry more about getting hit by an iceberg in the Gulf of Mexico when I’m 87 than about dying of cancer this year.

Recognition of what is and what is not within our control or influence is important; it helps us to narrow our focus and concentrate our efforts where they can do the most good. And knowing that we really can have the last word every time we react to what happens to us can help us feel less lost and out of control.

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About Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri lives in Texas and claims to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry and Erma Bombeck. She has known since fifth grade that she wanted to be a professional writer. Holly is a technical communicator whose imagination is allowed free rein in her short stories, children's books, and poetry. You can visit her personal blog, "It's All a Matter of Perspective," at

About Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri lives in Texas and claims to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry and Erma Bombeck. She has known since fifth grade that she wanted to be a professional writer. Holly is a technical communicator whose imagination is allowed free rein in her short stories, children's books, and poetry. You can visit her personal blog, "It's All a Matter of Perspective," at


  1. great article, I really enjoyed reading it. Keep up the good work
    Fishkeeping forum recently posted..Re: Blood red parrotsMy Profile

  2. This is so true Holly. This article only reiterate what we have already know. There’s a document, “The Secret” that says that if we have a positive energy, the stars will realign itself and everything will work itself out towards our benefit. I don’t know if that’s possible but I do know that when I smile, it puts everyone around me in a relax mode and they seem to be happier.

    Besides, life is too short to bitter all the time.

  3. Your title caught my attention. It’s interesting to know these ideas, simple but still most people have forgotten cause of too much stress.

    Nice article!
    dhanna recently posted..Man loses hand and foot in Minnesota construction accidentMy Profile

  4. I have found that if I smile, I am happier. If I smile at the people I see, at least in America, I get to know more people and I am happier. I have been given to understand, however, that walking around with a big smile on your face in France is generally taken as a sign of imbecility.


    • Yes, but I don’t think it likely any of them thought I could be a DANGEROUS imbecile, surely?

      In some countries, it’s a “Hey, baby, wanna take me home?” Yeah, well, I was raised to smile and give a firm handshake, and it’s a hard habit to break. Except some days, you know, when someone in a cubicle near me is making me want to snap pink rubber bands at them, or something.

      Then again, just the thought of snapping PINK rubber bands at anyone makes me smile. So we come full circle, don’t we? 🙂
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..An Engraved Invitation to the Writers of Creative Copy ChallengeMy Profile

  5. Very true, Holly. We should always take everything with a smile and give grace to other people who have been mean to us. =)

    Gloson recently posted..How I Got 3000 Visitors from a Single Tweet by a Power UserMy Profile

  6. Easier said than done, my dear.

  7. Wow!

    I had a visitor at my site who left this article in the comment section. I am SO glad that I came by and read it. It is amazing to think of the power of a smile during our day. Further, the way you put into perspective how our reaction to our circumstances is a “choice” made be smile from the inside out. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU… for writing this article!

    I will definitely visit again. Have a great day and, smile.
    Jermaine Donaldson recently posted..The Reward of FearlessnessMy Profile

    • Good morning, Jermaine! I am so happy you dropped by – sharing a cup of coffee with you here, so to speak – reading comments like this just makes my day, so thank YOU. Talk about starting the day off with a smile.

      And wow – I love your blog, too! I agree that fear undermines us more than laziness, lack of resources, and all those other “characters” you mention, combined. Fear is the enemy. I don’t fear much, but when I feel it creeping in, I try to slap it back into the corner where it’s happiest and most secure, anyway. 😉

      To all of our readers – take a moment to follow our commenters’ “breadcrumbs” – those little CommentLuv links you see at the bottom of their comments. It’s time well spent – I have not been disappointed, yet. Gotta love the Luv!
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  8. This is really relevant to me right now as I am studying emotions (well emotions linked to stress) in Psychology at the moment so Thank You 😀

    • Thank YOU!

      You know, there are few things better than to write your heart out and wake up to a comment that says “this is really relevant to me right now” – seriously. You’ve made MY smile just a bit bigger! (Psst…you might also find the link below relevant to you, so I’m sharing it here. Goes to my personal blog.)
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..Perky Pincushions!My Profile

  9. There is power in a smile that can turn around your whole attitude – for both the smiler and those smiled at.

    • This is SO true.

      I really practice what I preach (oh, Lord, I do not mean to “preach”) – if there’s anything funny in having cancer, I’ve found it and blogged about it. And I swear by it. I mean, really, is there a BETTER way to heap misery on top of misery than to cry about it and get a stuffy nose and not be able to BREATHE? Good gravy, I’m hard pressed to imagine it. 🙂

      Check out the link below if you don’t believe me. 😉
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..Perky Pincushions!My Profile

  10. i found this really beautiful :)….if that makes any sense thanks for sharing 😀 x

  11. It may not have killed you yet!

    Cheers John

    CEO #EAv Venture Capital Index



  12. guetoblaster says:

    Friedrich Nietzsche knows everything and allwaysgot great phrases. we should pay more attention instead of watching tv

    • Oh, there’s a time and a place – but everything in moderation. TV isn’t bad for you if you watch selectively and limit the time spent doing it. Books are generally better for your mind. We should all make it a goal to get out, more, and live – be well-rounded, better balanced, and enjoy the world around us.

  13. I’ve learned that in the vast majority of cases, negative emotions and positive ones can co-exist. Even when scary stuff is going on, you can meet interesting people and learn cool things.
    Cheryl recently posted..Get Happy!My Profile

  14. Great thoughts Holly. I think sometimes it takes time to get past the immediate pain, and see the strength that grows from the things we survive.
    Anne Thomas recently posted..Fruit Pizza RecipeMy Profile

    • And I think that it’s good to acknowledge the immediate pain – but not to wallow in it. Which is NOT to say that there’s any “right” or “wrong” timeline for such things – it took me about three years to get to where the thought of my mom’s death was bearable, and I could dwell on the happy times and memories without her death feeling like a recent chest wound. I don’t really know that it’s anyone else’s place to say how long is too long to grieve, or to feel disappointment or to hurt – but there comes a point where WE have to choose to move forward and be stronger for having managed to lift a foot and take a step in the right direction. With each step, we get better at it. And we should celebrate that victory, too – acknowledge the successes.

      Thank you, Anne, for visiting TNG and commenting. C’mon back, now, y’hear? 🙂