overworked and undervalued - by Thomas Porter

The Pain Behind a Smile – a Poem

This morning, my thoughts were whirring and as I sat at my desk, writing the syllabus for this school year, the first lines of this poem leaped inside my mind and wouldn’t leave me alone until I abandoned my task and let the words flow out. The pain behind a smile is something that had been on my mind ever since I met my boss in the stairway and told him I was fine when he asked me how I was, because it’s what we do, right? We hide our pain. But why should we? Why shouldn’t we be honest about it?

Read More Poetry Here: Today was the Last Time

I think it depends on the culture. Where I’m from (a small town in Germany) when someone asks you how you are and things are not so great you don’t say “I’m fine”, you say it like it is: “not so great.” I like that. In other places it is expected to always show a happy, brave front, but I wonder how brave it really is to keep pain hidden away under layers of false cheeriness.

Although I am not proclaiming to cover the world in gloom, I think that it’s OK from time to time to be honest about how you feel, with the right person.

Based on a recent experience, this is what I was inspired to write today 🙂

The Pain Behind a Smile

I wonder how much pain is hidden behind a smile

Playing the drums and moving to the rhythm

When your inner beat is dead

And your heart heavy, marked by a schism

That branded its core with lightning

Leaving smoldering remains

No one can see that behind your smile

smiling drummer

I wonder how much pain that lovely woman hides

With the perfect hair and the perfect make up

How much pain she hides under all those protective layers

I wonder how much pain is hidden behind a smile


The laughter at the office

Hiding suppressed tears

“Oh yes, I’m doing great”

When his skin was targeted by hate

“I’m fine.”

God forbid I show you my scars

That have left a jarring line

On my soul


No one can see that behind your smile

I wonder how much pain that tough guy hides

Covered in tattoos, bulging muscles

The vibe, “don’t mess with me”

When all he wants is a hug,

Someone to hold on to

To listen …


My face mask hides my smile and my pout

No one knows my deepest thoughts

My eyes may be a window into my soul

But my face mask covers up my spirit’s lips

I could grin or sneer

You wouldn’t know


I wonder how many of us lash out at others

Driven by envy, anger, or hatred

Emotional scars hidden under a beautiful face

A terrible breakup driven away by a brave smile

Telling everyone “I’m fine.”

I wonder how many use their words like swords

To cut and maim

Unaware of the pain

Their victims have carried for years

Keeping their candles burning in the storms

Seeking shelter in a rain of tears

I wonder if anyone ever wonders

How much pain is hidden behind a smile …


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  1. You say in this article that they continue their life journey without showing the true nature of people. I understand that people in this world are born with sadness and happiness. But people can try to turn sadness into happiness. Your article will give people a good idea to start thinking about it. Your article is excellent.
    Good Luck….!

  2. Hi Lila,
    Yes, people have pain inside without showing their real scars to others. We are taught to be tough upfront; otherwise, people will take advantage of us. It’s indeed the cultural thing. And, we only show real emotions to our beloved or close friends.

    Trying to let them flow as a form of poems or diary will be a great remedy, in my opinion. By writing them and keeping them somewhere(or online), you are actually doing self-therapy, which helps you heal something. Right?


  3. Thank you so much for shedding light on this very real and very prevalent problem in our society, Lila! We are often taught that we shouldn’t be vulnerable in front of people; society has somehow mischaracterized vulnerability as “weakness” (this is certainly NOT the case). We are all human; we all have emotions; we all have good and bad days; we all feel pain; we all need someone to talk to and to lend us a shoulder and a listening ear at times; we all cry (EVERYONE cries, male and female alike. It’s not a sign of “weakness;” it’s a completely normal and necessary human emotion/act). When we learn to let go to the right people and pride ourselves on encouraging and helping our fellow person, this world will be a much better place. Beautiful poem! You’re a natural! Yah (God) bless you!

    1. Thank you! I’m happy that you enjoyed my poem and that you could relate to it. Crying is certainly not a sign of weakness, being honest about our emotions may sometimes take courage and I think that many either don’t have that courage or prefer to “hold it in”.

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