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5 Reasons to Embrace Vulnerability

5 Reasons to Embrace Vulnerability

In 2010, Brené Brown gave a TedTalk revolving around the concept of the power of vulnerability. She discusses the importance of expanding one’s comfort zone, and the many positive effects doing so can have on a person. Despite being quite nervous about giving the talk herself, Brown accomplished her goal of proving the power of vulnerability not just by giving the speech, but also through the response the public has had to her video. The most important effects vulnerability has on people are:

1. Vulnerability allows advancement

Of course, trying something new is always scary. Whether you’re a kindergartner on your first day of school, or a recent college graduate wondering what to do with your life, you’re most likely going to feel some unease about taking the next step forward. It’s natural, and it’s totally okay to feel this way. However, what’s not okay is letting this fear stop you from forging ahead. Expanding your comfort zone is an important step, not just for your own life, but for humanity as a whole. The most important social reforms and technological advancements occurred because a single person stepped out of his comfort zone, and ended up changing the world.

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2. Vulnerability leads to increased abilities

Those who embrace vulnerability are not scared of the unknown. In fact, they strive to learn and do everything they possibly can. Instead of their inner voice telling them “You can’t do this,” their voice says “You can’t do this…yet.” They view that which they cannot do as a challenge to be overcome, rather than an insurmountable obstacle. Of course, they know it won’t be easy, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. On the contrary, those who embrace vulnerability tend to welcome challenges, and get bored when life is too easy. By acknowledging their shortcomings, they always have goals to accomplish, and will continue to grow on a daily basis.

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3. Vulnerability allows openness with others

People who accept their own vulnerability are incredibly open about their lives. This accomplishes two goals: For one, being open with others results in finding true compatibility. For those with high expectations of their own lives, it’s important for them to surround themselves with friends and family who support them, and continue to push them further. On the other hand, being open with superficial friends who might not be so receptive of such behavior is a good way to weed out the toxic relationships in one’s life. Although they might be considered friends, it’s important to realize that getting along with someone doesn’t necessarily make them good for you or your life goals. It’s important to known who will really be there for you in the long run, and who’s only around for the fun times.

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4. Vulnerability allows openness to self

It seems counterintuitive, but embracing vulnerability can build self-confidence. By putting yourself on stage for all to see, physically or metaphorically, such as Brené did during her TedTalk, you’re inviting your audience to comment on your performance and abilities. Of course, this can be incredibly scary and intimidating, but it can also be truly rewarding. Especially in today’s connected world, in which billions of people could be reading this right now (I wish!), it’s a given that there will be a large percentage of people who disagree with what you’re saying. Aside from the trolls obviously looking to get a rise out of you, listen to those who disagree; they’ll teach you a lot about a variety of perspectives, and will help you grow. Of course, there will definitely be those who completely agree with you, and you can always fall back on their supportive comments when you feel discouraged.

5. Vulnerability makes discomfort comfortable

Again, just writing that makes it seem counterintuitive, but the more you embrace vulnerability and the state of being uncomfortable, the more comfortable you will be with expanding your comfort zone. Confused? Sorry about that. Maybe this anecdote will clear it up: I remember a year ago speaking with a colleague on a Monday about what we did over the weekend. At the time, my boring answer was “I did absolutely nothing and I loved it.” She responded with, “Oh man, I’m not like that at all. I have to keep moving or I feel worthless.” I then found out that not only is she a teacher, mother, and wife, but she also helps run a deli. Sure, she complained about being tired like we all do, but she finds being tired a worthy trade-off for all the other amazing things she has going in her life. To her, sleeping comfortably until noon would actually be uncomfortable. And it makes sense: Why waste the life you’ve been blessed with when you can take full advantage of all of your abilities, and change the world, and yourself, in the process?

Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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