On Letting My Face Speak What’s in My Heart

I just finished Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. It was fantastic. It was one of those books where you say to yourself, over and over, while you’re reading, “Oh, I’m definitely reading this again.”

In the book, Ms. Brown talks about the best piece of parenting advice she ever received. It was May of 2000, and Toni Morrison was on Oprah discussing her book The Bluest Eye.

I’ll let her take it from there:

Oprah said, “Toni says a beautiful thing about the messages that we get about who we are when a child first walks into a room,” and she asked Ms. Morrison to talk about it.

Ms. Morrison explained that it’s interesting to watch what happens when a child walks into a room. She asked, “Does your face light up?” She explained, “When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. . . . You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What’s wrong now?” Her advice was simple, but paradigm- shifting for me. She said, “Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?”


One of my goals–my fuzzy goal–for 2013 is to cultivate a warmer atmosphere in my home. So much of that begins with me. And so much of that begins with the look on my face.

This week, I’m paying attention to what it’s saying.

(If you haven’t read Daring Greatly, you need to go read it. Twice.)

Does your face usually speak what’s in your heart? Or something else?

Books mentioned in this post:


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  1. Lori says:

    When I mentor women, the first thing I tell them to do to improve their marriages is to begin smiling at their husbands whenever they see them {plus stop arguing} and it is amazing what a difference it makes!

  2. I’ve heard a quote regarding this, and I can’t seem to find it. So, once said she became a writer because of the way her daddy’s eyes lit up when she entered a room. I try to remember how much my face can mean to my children’s happiness. Great post, Anne. I need to read this book!

  3. Amy says:

    Oh man, that is convicting. My mother always did this for me…fixing what was wrong. I know she was just mothering me out of love but I’m realizing I do the same thing and don’t like it. Ugh. Thank you for this challenge.

    • Anne says:

      Amy, that’s such an impulse for me, too–to fix what is wrong. Especially in the morning when we’re trying to get ready (quickly) for the day–but I don’t want that to be the first look they see on my face everyday!

      I’m hoping that being conscious of my own inclination is the first step to changing it.

  4. Corrie Anne says:

    Thanks for the reminder — I’m not a mother yet, but I know it can also be applied in other relationships. I’m a bit of a gusher so it comes a bit more naturally, but not always! Sounds like a good read!

  5. Kim of The Made Thing says:

    I know I need to get better about this not to people but to things (sounds weird but let me explain).

    I always am happy when someone I know comes into a room. I’m a smiley and bubbly person and it shows! But, whenever I concentrate on something, I get this super bitch face going on. People who walk by my office think I’m having a bad day or I’m upset because it’s such a contrast from my normal demeanor. I’m not sure how to change this but intend on trying.

    • Anne says:

      Bwahaha! Let me know if you come up with any brilliant solutions (besides closing the office door, which is the first one that occurred to me 🙂 )

  6. Sage Grayson says:

    I’ve heard that piece of advice before, and it’s always stuck with me. I want to have a pleasing “lit up” face whenever anyone comes up to me, even strangers. I understand how disappointing it is to try to talk to someone and they just look annoyed.

  7. Janice says:

    Ok, I’m picking up this book today. I’ve seen entirely too many amazing quotes from it.

    And I do this all the time too. Thank you so much for sharing. I read it on my phone this morning and I’ve already tried to work on it with my kids. What an amazingly important thing to focus on!

  8. Erin says:

    Oh that would make such a difference with everyone. I’m not thinking about all my relationships. If I change my face, maybe I can improve those relationships that are so difficult. I love this!

  9. Jeannie says:

    I loved Brene Brown’s book on shame and am eager to read this one too — thanks for the tip.

    You raise a good point here, and I think it’s also important to watch others’ faces & see what makes them light up! I went to a high school course-selection meeting with my daughter. She is very shy — but when the counselor (who was gentle and encouraging) asked what might interest her, her face lit up with a huge smile and she said excitedly, “I think I’d like to take drama!” I was reminded how important it is for me as a parent to hold back & observe what REALLY brings my kids joy, not just what I assume does.

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