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Apparently I frown a lot

Apparently I frown a lot

Confession: I totally brush my hair and put on lip gloss when I have a Skype meeting.

It’s very rare that I have conference calls on Skype, but when I do, I find myself trying to curate the experience for the other participants. I love making sure the background is good and that my face is not in a shadow (for those who don’t ever do video conferences, know that it’s really annoying when someone’s background is super-bright and his face is a dark blob). I put on a little lip gloss and make sure to smile and act like I’m in a real-life conversation, no matter how alone in my office I may actually be.

Last week, I had a Skype call for one of my other gigs and opened my computer’s Photo Booth app to test the lighting and look of the room. I also wanted to avoid what I’d seen in previous conferences: someone having the computer’s camera facing either directly at her chest or up on the ceiling!  Once I adjusted the lighting, put some gloss on my lips, and brushed my hair for the first time all day, I figured I was good to go.  I navigated to another program and accidentally left Photo Booth open.

Imagine my surprise when I minimized my internet browser window and saw this hunched, frowning woman staring at me.  Ack! It was me, or my reflection, staring back at me, thanks to my computer’s camera.  I’ve written before about my posture, so it was no surprise to me to see that, when caught unawares, my posture was less than exemplary. Oops.

What I hadn’t expected to see was this frowning, frumpy face.  My brow was totally furrowed, and deep lines appeared on my forehead.  I didn’t feel angry or frustrated or even particularly contemplative, so what was with the fierce frown?

Since catching myself last week, I have tried to be more aware of what my facial expressions look like. What does it feel like to be frowning? I didn’t have a mirror to put up at my desk, but I do have a poster in a frame that reflects my image back at me.  I’m someone who doesn’t ever look at the keyboard while typing; instead, my eyes wander the room as I think and write.  Sometimes my eyes wander directly to my own image, reflected in this poster frame. And boom! bam! zam! There is the frowning girl again.

Honestly, I had no idea that I frowned so much. I’d like to think it’s a sign of my being a deep thinker, someone who’s concentrating really hard on the complexities of life.  That’s a flattering perspective, for sure—sadly, it’s not true.  I have caught myself frowning while writing personal essays just as much as I’ve caught myself frowning while wasting my time looking at my friend’s sister’s husband’s best friend’s vacation photos on Facebook.

Frowning certainly can’t help the migraine brain. Any unnecessary and prolonged muscle tension leads to stiffness and discomfort, and muscle tension can be a migraine trigger for many of us (particularly if that tension is in the shoulders, neck, and/or head).

Let’s hope my inelegant scare-myself-in-the-reflection technique helps train me to stop frowning so damned much.

How about you? Do you catch yourself frowning or tensing other muscles involuntarily and/or on a habitual basis? What, if anything, do you do to break yourself of the habit?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Clare
    4 years ago

    I learned about my inner stress and now listen to my body to break the habit of frowning. It feels very different to not frown. When I worry or am confused my frown is permanent. I have worked to rid myself of the worries and confusions. They don’t belong in my life. It takes guts to address deep worries.

  • King of Pain
    4 years ago

    This has plagued me my whole life! The frowning thing, I mean. I’ve had chronic migraines since at least age seven. I also have major depression.
    People always glare at me and tell me “I NEED to smile.” So, whenever I make eye contact, I put on a big smile,because sometimes when I think I’m smiling enough-it doesn’t look like a smile at all. So, then people mock me for smiling in a bit of an exaggerated way.

    I try to catch myself at various times during the day,and just let my face completely relax. Sometimes, I’m amazed at how tense it was. I figure-no wonder I get bad headaches!

    Wish I had the answer, but I’m still searching. Good luck to fellow sufferers!!! You’re not a bad person if you can’t always control your facial expression. Don’t let people make you feel worse about yourself. They’d NEVER understand.

  • Bestg683
    4 years ago

    I too have a constant frown. A coworker once told me that they would not be able to tell the difference if I ever had a stroke. I try to smile more but I was trying to take a selfie one day and could not get the furrow in my brow to go away. I may have to try the tape if I ever want to get this resting frowny face to lighten up

  • misscookie701
    4 years ago

    I find I’m constantly twisting and contorting my mouth. Very unpleasant to watch, I’m sure. So I’m forever trying to force a normal mouth. I remember half a century ago (oh Lordy, I can’t believe I can say that in earnest now…) a cute guy in my high school told me that he liked that I always looked like I was smiling just a little bit. Oh how I wish I could get that back, for any number of reasons. 1. Cute guys might walk up and talk to me. 2. Fewer frown lines. 3. Makes people wonder what you’re up to. 4. I’m absolutely convinced that more smiles would help to keep migraines away. 5. Cute guys might walk up to me…

  • Sarah
    4 years ago

    Your cute guys comment cracks me up. 🙂

  • CC
    4 years ago

    It wasn’t until the rise of social media’s ‘document-your-every-[thought/picture/video/location]’ phenomenon that I discovered my penchant for a full furrowed brow, heavy eyelids and clenched jaw. Apparently I rock a frown awake or asleep and it belies my agony no matter how well I think I’m pulling off painless delight. My whole forehead seems to drop halfway down my face bringing my brows with it and making my somewhat hooded eyes positively cro-magnon. It’s super hot. How it’s not already on the runways for Paris and NY fashion week is a shocker. But the real treat from frowning is how terrible you feel: emotionally from comments like “you look terrible” or “why are you so upset?”, physically from prolonged muscle tension required to make the frown (and then hold it), and both may trigger or exacerbate a migraine.

    4 years ago

    I’ve noticed recently, that I’m frowning a lot too –and I get distressed when I catch a glimpse of myself. But in reality, I’ve had to accept a lot of things that come with daily migraine pain. One thing I know, it’s nothing to smile about — and now that’s being written on my face.

  • Woodsl
    4 years ago

    When I was a young teenager, suffering with migraines, my aunt, who had recently had cosmetic surgery, told me to put scotch tape between my eyebrows when alone, to train against furrowing. She said it would save me money and help keep migraines from getting worse. So I did, and here I am at 59 with no frown lines. Could be genetics but could also be that tape!! As for the migraines, well, topamax and relpax are lifesavers for me!!

  • Patrick M
    4 years ago

    Is it possible that both the permanent frown and the migraines are symptoms of deep seated stress and anxiety? My sister suffers from migraines and she constantly has a frown and deep lines in her forehead. She also suffers from PTSD and free floating anxiety and depression. I ask this question because she has always displayed pessimism and negative reactions to normal life events, even before she developed migraines at age 30. Can any other migraine sufferers comment on whether migraines accompany mental/emotional issues and disorders? understand that pain disorders (that can manifest as migraines) can be a result of things like PTSD, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, etc.

  • Clare
    4 years ago

    For sure Patrick M. I personally correlate my (newly) frown-free face with specific efforts over the last 9 months to address mental/emotional issues and disorders by way of a multi-pronged approach (I decided to do this, self-directed). I saw a naturopath, a GP, two neurologists, a psychotherapist, a clinical psychologist, and took a 9 week course to release any emotional blocks or traumas. It was found that I had a panic disorder, adrenal fatigue, multiple physical manifestations of severe anxiety (one of them migraine), and occasions of PTS episodes. I now occasionally see an acupuncturist, kinesiologist and a osteopath who each work on very subtle energy levels and meridians including the unconscious. I have stepped down from seeking the ‘diagnosis’ of all my symptoms to healing and the maintenance of good health and joy. I approached my health with the question ‘how can I soften towards life and towards myself?” It has accompanied a lot of behavioural changes and the clin psych keeps me talking and on track regarding maintaining awareness of some of the key triggers for migraine. A lot of stuff is unconscious and I constantly seek to bring that up by way of listening to my body. Recently I have had so many comments that my face looks different, including my own noticing in the mirror. Certainly a previous employer asked me if I was very angry when I worked as I had a severe frown. Also, when I got some sun, there was always a pale patch in my brow as the sun was blocked by the deep furrow. I no longer have these symptoms of internal mental stress and my face is pleasantly relaxed. Kind regards. Clare

  • wdjbaxter
    4 years ago

    It’s hard to smile when you are in pain almost constantly. I’ve always thought of myself as a happy person, but over the last few years, as my migraines have gotten worse, I have noticed that my “resting face” is a frown. Sometimes, I look almost angry, and I finally realized it was the pain and stress of the migraines. I don’t know how you keep the pain and stress from showing on your face.

  • Joni
    4 years ago

    Oh yes, I catch myself frowning all the time, particularly when I’m thinking to myself about something. It doesn’t seem to matter if the subject matter is happy, sad or loopy. If I’m concentrating or deep into thought, bring on the frowny face. I try to be aware and make a conscious effort to relax my face, but it’s hard to remember. After all, I’m already thinking hard about something else! LOL

  • Sheilac
    4 years ago

    Oh the frown…I have so many wrinkles due to my migraines. Also, sleeping with my hand pressed to my face when I have an attack looks like I’ve been slapped.

  • DollyJean
    4 years ago

    I am a huge frowner especially while reading or concentrating. Yes, it does exacerbate my migraines. However I read an article years ago and my sister and I occasionally do this to help recognize when we’re frowning. It instructed to take a small piece of scotch tape and put it between your eyebrows, every time you frown, it will be brought to your attention because you’ll feel the tape wrinkle & pull, helping to train yourself if you will, to reduce frowning…..

  • 1w3a0da
    4 years ago

    Many years ago I was helping a friend make the popcorn and goodies at a basketball game. I was having a great time being with her despite my migraine. She and I cracked up laughing for several hours. Each customer that stopped by for a goodie kept looking at me strangely. One customer commented on my expression to my friend. I was surprised to learn my laughing grin was stuck on my face. Squinty eyes and everything! Very embarrassed, I hid my face the rest of the night.
    The only thing I can say that I did to keep my face from my frozen expressions
    was to just keep a compact to take a peek every once in a while, Massage my face with lotion at night and after a while I was able to keep my expression under control. Kinda.
    With migraines, it is hard to keep a smile a smile and a normal face without a frown. It comes with the territory.

  • marti
    4 years ago

    Oh, Leigh – I do the same thing! I catch myself with my mouth pulled taut, my forehead furrowed, and my eyes squinting. I think it’s because I’m always in pain and the tension shows on my face. I’ve tried to keep my face and shoulders relaxed, but it’s not easy.

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