“Do not past and present confront us with similar phenomena and with the same problems: to be a man, to have been born without knowing it or wanting it, to be thrown into the ocean of existence, to be obliged to swim, to exist; to have an identity; to resist the pressure and shocks from the outside and the unforeseen and unforeseeable acts — one’s own and those of others — which so often exceed one’s capacities? And what is more, to endure one’s own thoughts about all this: in a word, to be human.” – Ivo Andric
I’ve always felt that this segment from the speech Andric gave after receiving his Noble Price in Literature brilliantly illustrates the struggles of a creature aware of its own mortality, torn between its animalistic roots and a higher form of consciousness. We humans can create great works of art, harness the power of the universe, and change the world around us, yet this immense potential is all too often squandered.
We often mourn the loss of our promising youth in the twilight of our lives, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It is never too late to start making positive changes, but it is best to learn how to be honest with yourself and to understand what it takes for you to be happy and fulfilled while you are still young, so that you can avoid these terribly common regrets when you’ve come to the end of the line.Advertising
1. I was afraid to be myself, always fearful of what others might say
When we’re kids we constantly try to blend in and elevate our social status within our group, but as we grow we realize that everyone has their own unique little quirks, preferences, and tastes. It is important for us to find out what it is that we like, what makes us happy and what helps us to stay cheerful and motivated. Try sitting down and being honest about what you look for in life, in a partner, in an outfit, in a great Saturday afternoon, in a career. Only then can you forget about what others think, and express your true self.
2. I mistreated my body and spent half my life feeling sick and rundown
Laziness, hedonism, lack of adequate motivation, thinking that you are indestructible when you are younger, and a lack of awareness about physical and mental health can all contribute to us having worn out, sickly, and tired-looking bodies before we even hit 40. It’s easy to get “set in your ways,” so make sure that you start developing good habits early on. Work on losing that extra weight, eat healthier foods, train your muscles, and stretch to boost your metabolism and immune system, as well as strengthen the body, and do some meditation or have some relaxing alone time to allow your mind to recover.
3. I kept hanging out with people who were never true friends to me
A lot of the entries on most people’s “friend lists” are actually acquaintances who are looking for some kind of quid pro quo arrangement, or even worse, emotional leeches and toxic people who are only looking out for themselves. Avoid the unnecessary drama at work and at home. Be realistic about this and hang out with those that actually listen to you, encourage you, try to help out without standing to gain anything, and just generally make you feel good. Cut all ties with anyone that’s dragging you back or causing you pain and worries all the time.Advertising
4. I missed out on great opportunities because I was too scared to put myself out there
The things we most regret in life are the things we didn’t do, like not working up the courage to walk up to that cute guy or girl, not asking your boss for a promotion, not taking a risk and investing in that interesting business venture, and so on. Sometimes, you’ve just got to learn from your mistakes, and learn that making a mistake or looking a bit foolish is not the end of the world, but the rewards you get for giving things a shot are quite incredible.
5. I never devoted myself to mastering any fun or useful skills
People often lament the fact that they never really picked up a guitar and played for just 30 minutes a day, or took up martial arts, or learned their way around the kitchen. It doesn’t take much to learn new things if you set your mind to it and stay consistent, and there are tons of great jobs that you can teach yourself how to do, so just jump into it and start learning something new right now.
6. I drifted apart from my friends and family and made strangers out of them
Spending time with family can sometimes be tiring, and if you’ve already got work, a partner, kids, and tons of little chores to think about, fitting friends into your schedule can be a nightmare. However, don’t allow yourself to become one of those people who realizes that they’ve alienated their friends over the years only after breaking up with a long-term partner, or one of the sad and lonely old folks who lives alone in a big house. Make room for friends and family at least once a week and keep those bonds strong.Advertising
7. I never admitted I was wrong and listened to honest advice
Pride can sometimes get the best of you, but if you aren’t willing to admit your mistakes, say a few sorry’s now and then, and be open to criticism and helpful advice, you will live to regret it. It’s all too often that we look back on a situation and realize that our friends were right, or that we could have really used someone’s help. Be open to suggestions and try to consult with several different people when you are not sure how to proceed.
8. I spent a great deal of time hating the world for dealing me a bad hand of cards
The easiest thing to do when faced with adversity is to ask “why me?” and start shaking your fist at the world, cursing all those who have wronged you. Of course, no matter how much someone contributed to your current predicament, it’s important to admit that you’ve also played a role in it – even sitting there and doing nothing or rolling over and letting someone kick you while you’re down is a conscious choice. Take responsibility for your life, clench your teeth and take charge – no one is going to be able to solve all your problems for you, so you need give it everything you’ve got and face your problems with a cocky grin on your face.
9. I never saw the world and experienced different cultures
One of the things that people find most excuses for is not traveling more. Of course, financial issues, hectic schedules, and various obligations may not allow you to spend ten years traveling the world, but anyone can go camping, drive to another town, or find fairly cheap ways of traveling abroad. It’s all about being motivated to save up and make the time, and committing to leaving your home country at least once a year. You have to make travel one of your priorities instead of viewing it as a luxury.Advertising
10. I didn’t leave behind a legacy
This one kind of covers several of the other points on this list. In order to truly say that you’ve lived a rich and full life, and have managed to leave a legacy, you must constantly work on improving yourself, be it becoming a better partner and parent, mastering a skill, achieving academic or athletic success, teaching and helping others reach their goals, or anything else you find a worthy goal. Look deep within yourself and think about all your talents, passions, and skills, then try to work out what you could do to be remembered and respected by those that come after us.
There is no definitive answer to the questions that we ask ourselves late at night when we are alone and fragile, and there is certainly no easy way of avoiding huge regrets at the end of our lives. However, these points, difficult as they may be to put into action, will help you live a better life. It doesn’t matter if someone else finds it boring, vain, or needlessly adventurous, it’s your life and you want to make sure that you’ve lived the way you wanted to live.
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com
Last Updated on January 15, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension. 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.
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? 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.
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.
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:
“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.
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.
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
- Increasing Confidence with Body Language
- 8 Fatal Body Language Mistakes To Avoid During Presentations
- Be Instantly Irresistible With These 10 Body Language Tips
Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com
|||^||Berkeley News: The 16 facial expressions most common to emotional situations worldwide|
|||^||Science Daily: Teeth grinding and facial pain increase due to coronavirus stress and anxiety|
|||^||National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint & Muscle Disorders|
|||^||Michigan Medicine: Stress Management: Doing Progressive Muscle Relaxation|
|||^||Spectra Magazine: Oculesics: Science Speaks Where Words Do Not|
|||^||NCBI: Attention to Eye Contact in the West and East: Autonomic Responses and Evaluative Ratings|
|||^||ResearchGate: An Anthropology of the Handshake|
|||^||Sage Journals: Mapping the Range of Information Contained in the Iconic Hand Gestures that Accompany Spontaneous Speech|
|||^||Journal of Experimental Psychology: Hand Matters: Left-Hand Gestures Enhance Metaphor Explanation|