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Thanks To My Past Self: Why My Next Relationship Is Gonna Be My Last One

Thanks To My Past Self: Why My Next Relationship Is Gonna Be My Last One

After my previous relationship ended I made a vow to myself: I would never get into another relationship until I had learned how to love myself. From that, evolved another vow: my next relationship will be my last one. I can assure this isn’t as somber as it sounds!

During my previous relationship I found myself to be changing into someone I did not like. The pressure of how a relationship was ‘supposed’ to be overwhelmed me and I started resisting. At the time I didn’t realize that was what it was. My mood changed completely. I found it hard to get out of bed, I found everything boring, I became jealous very easily, my usual laid-back nature became one of extreme up-tightness, and I was extremely quick to anger. Most important of all I found that I hated myself, which threw me. When you’re in a relationship you’re meant to be happy, love everything about the world and yourself right? I didn’t and it scared me. How could I make a relationship work if I hated myself? I became completely lost and overwhelmed. I responded by pressing a self-destruct button on the relationship. In my mind I didn’t want to be responsible for breaking someone’s heart, so I would push my partner further and further away until he ended the relationship. Although unconsciously I was pushing the relationship to end, when it did actually end it still came as a shock. I was devastated.

Once I had cried all the tears out I started to reflect on why it had ended. Because I’ve always been spiritual in my outlook it was a little bit easier dealing with the breakup. But only a little bit. There were a number of coincidences surrounding the timing of the breakup that I knew it was supposed to happen and I needed to take a close look at my behavior. The time had come for me to take responsibility for my role in the relationship.

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It was hard being completely honest with myself and admitting that I thought I was a horrible person to be around, I wanted everything my way ALL the time and found it hard to compromise. It was really hard to admit I had control issues. I had always seen myself as laid-back, but to realize I liked to control everything and everyone was a shock. If I could control everything then I wouldn’t get hurt and the outcome wouldn’t be a surprise. I knew what to expect.

After a lot of self-reflection here are the reasons why I’ve decided my next relationship won’t fail.

1. It won’t fail because I know my insecurities stem from fear

Any insecurities that arise during a relationship are based on fear. Whether that be a fear of not being loved, a fear of being abandoned or a fear of being hurt. All my fears in my previous relationship stemmed from all three of these and now that I know this, I’ll be better prepared in my next relationship to talk these fears out with my partner.

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2. It won’t fail because I’m more considerate

I’m more aware of myself and my motivations. I’ve become much calmer. I’m open to compromise and I know that a relationship involves two people working together. I now know that a relationship works depending on the people involved and not on unconscious rules imposed by society. I think about what other people may need instead of constantly concentrating on and worrying about what I need and if those needs will be met.

3. It won’t fail because I’m not a control freak anymore

Well, not completely, but I’m much better than I was! I know I can’t control the outcome of anything. I’ve learned to try and let go of controlling everything. It’s a waste of energy especially when I could be enjoying the moment rather than worrying about a future that hasn’t even happened yet. We’re taught that relationships are meant to work in a specific way and if they don’t then we’ve failed. But what a lot of people don’t tell us as we grow up is that there are no fail-safe ways to have a successful relationship. People are different and because of that each relationship works differently.

4. It won’t fail because I know what I want from myself

I know the type of person I want to be in a relationship. I’ve come to learn that I am who I am. I shouldn’t be changing myself to fit anyone else’s expectations when it comes to relationships. I may have momentary relapses as the relationship evolves, but I’m now a person who talks through my feelings and isn’t afraid to be vulnerable.

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5. It won’t fail because I’m learning to love myself

I’ve learned that being in a relationship involves a lot of self-love as well giving it to another person. My self-esteem was incredibly low in my previous relationship and it was hard to come back from that, but I managed it. And if I can do it, you certainly can!

6. It won’t fail because I can never truly ‘fail’ at anything

I don’t think any relationship ever ‘fails’. I think we’re all growing as people, and as we grow so does what we need from ourselves and our lives. From each ‘failed’ relationship we learn new things about ourselves. For a start we learn how to survive heart-break. We learn which aspects of ourselves need improvement. It’s a journey of self-discovery. When my previous relationship ended I viewed it as a lesson to learn about my ‘dark side’. As Paul Hudson says in his article “…if you’ve never had your heart broken, you haven’t yet seen both the brightest and darkest sides of your being.”

When we enter into a relationship we do so to give love as well as receive love. Sometimes we become so fearful of not receiving that love, that we act desperately and start seeing signs of not being loved everywhere. We imagine scenarios that don’t exist, we read too much into a simple phrase such as “I’m going to be home later than I thought” and it all stems from fear. Once we realize this, we finally set ourselves free from victim mode. We take back our personal power and we say “you know what, that relationship may not have worked out, but I’m a better person from it.” Relationships are beautiful things whether they go ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It’s such an opportunity to grow as a human being, to learn what motivates you to give and receive love; you become empowered to say “I deserve love” with unrelenting conviction.

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Thanks to our past selves we’ve come out the other side we a renewed sense of who we are. I’ve learned not to be ashamed of who I was in my previous relationship, instead I’ve chosen to embrace that person, learn what I needed to and then grow into the person I want to be. If I can learn to love myself and actually ALLOW myself to do it, then you can too.

Featured photo credit: Cute man and woman sitting on a beach with sea/Ed Gregory via dl.dropboxusercontent.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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