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7 Ways To Push Yourself Out Of Your Comfort Zones

7 Ways To Push Yourself Out Of Your Comfort Zones

I’ll be the first to admit that stepping out of the comfort zone is incredibly difficult. Perhaps the reason for this is because a person’s comfort zone is expandable, and simply continues to grow. Thinking about it, the edge of a person’s comfort zone is sort of like a carrot on a stick. Once you push the limit of your own zone, the limit expands once more. In essence, this is the reason we should always work toward expanding our comfort zones. As we get more comfortable pushing our own boundaries, we will constantly expose ourselves to new and exciting experiences. You can do this by following these tips.

1. Not calling it a “comfort zone”

A “comfort zone” is really a euphemism for a “rut.” Two years ago, I moved 200 miles away from my friends and family with my girlfriend (who is now my wife!). Literally every step I took for the first few months was a step outside of my comfort zone. Finding a new a job, exploring a new city, paying my own bills. The first year of living on my own was an exercise in experiencing discomfort. However, two years later and all of this is simply status quo for my new life. The experiences that were “new” to me two years ago are now so commonplace that they don’t even excite me anymore. Now I must find different ways to expand my comfort zone (one of them being writing for websites where thousands of people are privy to my inner thoughts). Comfort can be good, but too much of it leads to complacency.

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2. Embrace discomfort

Embracing discomfort may sound absolutely ridiculous, but it can lead to exponential growth of your comfort zone. For example, applying and interviewing for your first job is absolutely nerve-wracking. However, avoiding doing so can only result in failure, whereas putting in any sort of effort at least gives you a chance of succeeding. Plus, the more you put yourself out there, the easier it will become. Soon, applying for jobs and being interviewed by potential employers will be less and less intimidating, and you’ll be more confident in your communication skills and your abilities. Being okay with being uncomfortable is the first step toward expanding your comfort zone.

3. Surround yourself with a variety of people

We all have our group of friends we feel most comfortable around. However, as is the theme with this article, what’s comfortable isn’t always what’s best. Hanging out with the same group of people all the time can get pretty stagnant. Meeting new people is the best way to expose yourself to new ideas and new ways of life. This expansion may lead to connections and relationships that will last a lifetime. Of course, you won’t always like the new people you meet, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Finding the good in everyone around you is important, as it guarantees you’ll stay open to new experiences and new perspectives.

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4. Be a lifelong learner

It is absolutely shocking how many people stop learning after they graduate from high school or college. So many of us think that because we have a degree, there’s no point in educating ourselves any further. This couldn’t be more untrue. Those that haven’t learned anything new since they were 21 are doomed to the “rut,” in which they go to work, come home, eat, sleep, and repeat for the next 30 years. Learning a new skill is definitely tough, especially when life and the real world get in the way, but it’s important to continue growing in some way or another. Even if the skill you learn won’t benefit your career, it will definitely improve your overall life. Keep trying new things throughout your life; you might even find your true calling.

5. Always stay “on”

Like I said, it’s easy to come home after a rough day at work, turn the TV on, and veg out for the night. It’s easy, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. Every waking moment is another chance to excel that you’ll never be able to get back. Don’t wait for new experiences to come to you. Go out and find them! If you have twenty minutes in between work and picking up your children, take the time to read a new recipe, or listen to a podcast on current events, pr study a new language — whatever it is: Do something! Again, the more active you are, the more comfortable you’ll become with being active. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where doing nothing is actually stressful and boring rather than relaxing.

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6. Be kind to yourself

A lot of the time (and I’m guilty of this myself), people stay in their comfort zones because they are afraid of a negative reaction to taking a risk. Simply put: They wouldn’t be called “risks” if there wasn’t the chance of failure. However, failure is not a one-and-done occurrence. One failure is simply a bump in the road to success. Be confident in your ability to push past short-comings and continue striving toward your goals. Another thing to think about is the fact that without failure, success wouldn’t feel so amazing. When you succeed at something that you had a chance of failing at, you can be sure that you have truly accomplished a goal.

7. Have faith

Along with having self-confidence, you should also have faith in yourself and the world around you. Trust that if you work hard to push yourself to the extreme, your work will pay off in some way or another. Even if you fall short of a goal, have faith that the experience has taught you something. Perhaps you didn’t get the job you interviewed for, but as long as you didn’t completely bomb out during the interview process, the prospective employer may keep you on their radar for something else in the near future, or may recommend you to another agency or organization. As long as you continue to press forward, have faith that your efforts will only be meaningless if you fail to recognize the meaning in them. As long as you’ve given yourself a purpose, every action you take will bring you one step closer to true success.

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Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm6.staticflickr.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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