The Overthinker’s Guide To Resting Bitchface Syndrome

Welcome to the Overthinker’s Guide — a weekly column that aims to advise overthinkers on the difficult situations that seem to characterize the lives of those who too often succumb to analysis paralysis. This week, I’ll cover Resting Bitchface Syndrome (RBS), a debilitating affliction that affects the facial muscles, causing the afflicted to appear upset, depressed, pissed off, confused, and/or bored despite internal feelings and mood.

So: You’ve woken up this morning with a particularly bad case of RBS. You’re fine though. You got enough sleep, you’ve had a good breakfast, and you’re excited about the thing you’re going to tonight because someone you like will be there and there’s a high probability that you two will have your premiere hook-up. You’re so ‘fine,’ in fact, that you have no idea you have RBS until you’re actually at the thing, later, and someone says to you, in front of a large group, “Hey, man, are you mad or something?” You’re quiet, in general, and you’re not really into this caliber of attention — the kind where the entire group is focused on you like a social laser beam — and so the question immediately pulls you further into yourself. Your first instinct is to punch the motherfucker and yell, “I’m not mad!,” which is problematic, because you actually are upset now, but you weren’t upset before. The question itself made you upset. So now to answer “Everything’s fine, I’m completely fine” will a) be a lie and b) serve as further evidence that you’re hiding that you’re angry. The irony. From here, you have a number of options. But first —


  • “Are you bored?”
  • “Oh I’m sure you just want to get out of here. [Laughs.]”
  • “You’re not having a very fun time, are you?”
  • “Are you mad at me?”
  • “Are you sure you’re okay? You don’t look okay?”
  • “I was intimidated by you when I first met you.”
  • “I thought you hated me for so long.”
  • “Why don’t you try smiling some time?”


#1: “I’m not mad.”

Answering “I’m not mad” can be done to minor effect at best. I don’t recommend it. The reason is that at social gatherings not only are you expected to have a positive facial expression, you’re also expected to say funny things whenever group attention is focused on you. You are supposed to be very happy at parties. You are supposed to affirm people’s idea that you like them and are okay with them. People want to know that you’re on their team at parties. Saying “I’m not mad” is not funny, it’s just an answer. Saying “I’m not mad” with your resting bitch face in flat monotone — slightly defensive, maybe, because you were just put on the spot — does not affirm anyone’s idea that you’re having a fun time. It just affirms that you’re not not having a fun time. People don’t want answers like that. They want to hear a witty remark. Superficial conversation and party dynamics work much better that way. How could you even say “I’m not mad” WITHOUT sounding defensive? I can’t imagine anyone sounding happy, responding “I’m not mad.” What would that sound like? “I’m not mad!” Hm. “I’M NOT MAD!” Still seems defensive. If anything it’s at least nervous sounding. Whatever it sounds like, by saying “I’m not mad,” you automatically position yourself as being called out, I think, and this is the last thing you want to be seen as. Take a deep breath and don’t do it. Then say–

Option #2: “I wasn’t pissed, it’s just my face. I have resting bitchface syndrome.”

Here is probably the most efficient thing to say. You won’t be lying (“I wasn’t pissed” is the truth — you weren’t — and it deftly omits that you are pissed now) and, when “resting bitchface syndrome” elicits laughs and likely changes the subject to RBF — everyone sharing their own accounts of RBF and even feeling proud to identify themselves as the victim of RBF — the asker will most likely lose track of the what might be obvious omission that you weren’t mad but might be mad now because of the question and everything will be all good. And people might be more interested than you, because people tend to laugh at RBF and will think you’re funny for knowing the name of it.


DO admit that you have RBS. Stay aware of it, and counteract with positive facial symmetry when possible.

DON’T let it go unchecked. People who don’t have RBS don’t believe in RBS — the only thing you can do is conform to their idea of how your face should look.

DO freely discuss your resting bitchface. As written above, it’s funny, and people will be enamored of your ability to introspect and be honest about your personal difficulties.

DON’T get defensive about your resting bitchface, because then it won’t be resting bitchface, you’ll just be a bitch.

DO develop a fake smile and a stock, tested response to queries about your mood that delights and impresses people.

DON’T let people catch you off guard with their shitty questions. Be prepared.


The ultimate goal of those afflicted by Resting Bitchface Syndrome is to mitigate the effects of being called out for looking angry. It’s my opinion that the best way to do this is to simply admit the problem and make light of it. And jesus, try smiling sometime. TC mark

image – Shutterstock


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  • Michele Sliger

    OMG I HAVE THIS SYNDROME TOO! All this time I’ve been telling people that it is just a cruel trick of gravity that pulls my eyebrows and my cheeks downward, making me look grumpy. THANK YOU SO MUCH for helping make others aware of this terrible malady, and for giving it such a wonderful name.

  • Angela


  • Katie

    this is me all the time. THANK YOU

  • Mel

    LOL, I have resting bitchface syndrome : O

  • marcus

    i’ve had two of my employers call me out about this. i can’t believe i’m not alone.

  • HOH

    It’s all about responding with a fake smile and saying, “Oh no no no! I’m just really tired!” A technique I’ve developed since 6th grade.

  • THE STRANGER (@michellelaralin)


    I wrote about this before, but you’ve delivered it a thousand times more eloquently… With a witty edge too. <3

  • Brandon Humphries

    Apparently this has kept me from getting laid in the past. Damn you RBS

  • Caroline (@cnevertz)

    I <3 my RBS. It allows me to always get a seat by myself on the bus.

  • yeah!

    haha this is great !!

  • mathewpaulk

    Girlfriend : ” You don’t look happy, are you mad that I bought too many shoes ? ” :/
    Boyfriend : “No baby, I just have Resting Bitchface Syndrome.”
    Girlfriend : “Uh huh, what the fuck is that ?!??”

    This is what happened to me after I read this….

  • bb

    i have sadface syndrome, i have to say “it’s just my face” at least 2x a week
    but i actually am also sad

    • Leona

      I have this, too! People always think I’m sad, but I’m not.

  • G.A.M

    WOW!! This is the perfect solution..didn’t know it had a name! haha I love it!!

  • Rose Fox (@rosefox)

    It’s too bad you had to give such an appalling name to an otherwise very useful article. I think I’ll use BB’s non-sexist term “sadface” instead.

  • I'll smile when I feel like it.

    My usual response to queries about why I look so unhappy all the time: “That’s just how my face is.” Another way to make the other person feel bad for asking.

  • Mike

    This is my problem whenever I’m looking at my computer. People always ask, “Oh, crappy email, huh?” and I always have to say “No, I just always look like this when I’m staring at the screen.” I’m never sure they believe me.

  • Leslie

    I’ve had RBF for so long that I usually give folks a dry reply with a puzzled look…they feel stupid and leave me alone. But recently I’ve just started being a smartass about it and as rude as they are. Only thing is, can’t be rude or a smartass to my mom, who’s always says “Smile! Quit looking so mean!”

  • mathewpaulk

    Reblogged this on mangopeels and commented:
    Just PERFECT !!

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  • Kate

    umm..this is my life.

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  • drc

    omg thank you for writing this series

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  • amy

    i love this! thanks! it has a name!

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