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This Is How You Can Overcome The Past And Move Forward

This Is How You Can Overcome The Past And Move Forward

I think that one of the most difficult things for a human being to do is overcome the past. Our past defines us, shapes us, and for the most part we carry these experiences for the rest of our lives. For better or worse. Just yesterday I attended an acting class where the instructor said that she sensed my tension and apprehension at following her directions. As part of an exercise, she wanted me to lay down on the floor, close my eyes, breathe, and relax. However, she could see that this was challenging for me. My shoulders were tense, I continued to fidget with my hands, and closing my eyes was a very difficult thing for me to do in that unknown environment. These are all side effects of my own past life experiences.

I grew up in the streets of the South Bronx, under the constant threat of random and often targeted violence. As such I developed a very high level of awareness, and relaxing translates into letting go of that awareness. Something which I am not too keen on doing, particularly when I am outside of my comfort zones. She insisted that I comply and I did my very best to relax. This is part of my own process at overcoming the past. As you can see, in my case it is still very much an ongoing process. Perhaps you feel the same way, and that is why you are here. With this article I will attempt to share some points that may help you on your own journey.

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Acknowledge the past

In order to address or move on from any problems in life, we must first acknowledge that they exist. You have to look at your life and acknowledge that you are still struggling with something that happened in the past. For many of us this is not easy, particularly tough guys who grew up in the mean streets of the South Bronx. If you are really determined about moving on, first recognize that the past happened. Understand that it is the past, and contrary to what I said earlier it doesn’t have to define you. You get to choose who you are today, and you can leave the past in the past.

Lyrical therapy

Writing has always been a major outlet for me. I still recall writing in a diary at a very young age. This continued on to my teenage years and evolved into poetry and music. During a particularly rough time during my teen years, I was attending counseling sessions. The way that my counselor and I communicated best was through my poetry. He found that I best expressed myself through writing and this became our primary means of communication. Here I am some 20 years later, and I still heavily rely on my writing and poetry as a means of coping with life and it’s challenges. Many poets that I know strongly credit their writing as the reason that they are still functional human beings, myself included.

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Being present

One item that I still struggle with is being present in the moment. This is a topic that I have been covering since the infancy of the web. I still remember making youtube videos when it was a brand new fad, and one of my earliest video blogs was about “being present in the moment.” I’m not the only one either, many others have been sharing this kind of information for a long time as well! Our lives are so busy and so connected that we are often “not present.” Our bodies may be somewhere, but our minds are in 20 different places. This is not a good way to live and it robs you of the simple pleasure of just “being.” Practice mindfulness and focus on being present. One technique that I was taught was to put my feet flat on the ground, to focus on my feet being on the ground. Feel the ground beneath your feet and acknowledge that you are there at that moment. Simply placing your feet on the ground should provide you with some form of calm and relaxation.

Feel

One thing that I consider myself is a master of blocking things out. I am so good at shutting down that some people have perceived me as cold and cruel. The opposite is actually the truth. In fact, this is a common defense that sensitive people practice as a form of survival and self preservation. We feel so much, that things hurt that much more. However, you cannot truly let things go if all you do is bury and deny them. You have to allow yourself to go through the range of emotions, whatever they may be. Let them pass through you, feel them. Don’t deny yourself this or you will never truly move on. Trust me on this one, in some instances I am still working on this.

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Communicate

I mentioned earlier how writing was a form of therapy for me. Well, talking to someone can be just as valuable. There is one person whom I wish that I could speak with and gain some closure from. This opportunity has been denied to me for decades now. The person has gone on to become the topic of many a song that I have written, and only with the passage of time has the pain subsided. However, the true closure has not come since we have not been able to speak. One technique that I have implemented is talking to them on my own. Sure, this sounds like I am a crazy person, but a little crazy isn’t all that bad now is it? My father died, he’s gone, so there is no way that I will ever get the opportunity to talk to him. Even so, I still speak to my dad. I tell him through my soul that I miss him and that I wish we could actually talk again. I cry silently and I tell him that I know he did his best. If physically talking to the person is not an option, and a friend is not available, then be a little crazy with me and use this method. Just be aware of your thoughts and don’t listen to any odd statements!

Overcoming the past is not easy, and 1,001 people will give 1,001 ideas on how you can do it. Ultimately it is up to you to find your own way, but we hope that these ideas may help you on your journey.

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Featured photo credit: Alan Cleaver via flickr.com

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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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