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To My Single Mom, Here’s What I Want To Tell You For So Long

To My Single Mom, Here’s What I Want To Tell You For So Long

Dear Mom,

This is my last winter break at home before I go back to school for my final semester. Things are going to change a lot next year. I will have a real that will most likely be out of town, and I won’t be coming home for all of the breaks.

Both of our lives are going to change. For one thing, your finances are going to improve. Also, I will be much more on my own, unless you keep sending me those “care” packages you have for all of my college years.

I’ve had some time over this break to really think about all of my growing years, and I want to tell you about some things you may have totally forgotten, but things that have stuck in my mind all of these years.

They say more about who you are than your career success, degrees, or leadership of that food pantry you have made so successful. They speak to your unfailing courage, your stamina, and your commitment for setting priorities and always making me a part of those priorities. I know being a single mom was tough. So here it goes.

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Do you remember?

When I was six, I was invited to Lillian’s house for a sleepover.

This was one of many sleepovers, of course, but here’s why this one stands out for me. At about 5 p.m., you were getting my bag ready. I was really upset because my favorite pajamas were in the dirty clothes. You stopped everything, took those pajamas, and put them in the wash.

Some might think this was spoiling me, but you got it right, mom. You knew that I was nervous about leaving home overnight and you wanted me to have every bit of comfort possible. Having those pajamas was important in that moment.

When the divorce was final, we had to move.

Even though it was only a few blocks over from the house I grew up in, you knew that it was like the other side of the planet for me. You walked me back and forth from our former house to our apartment and back again, over and over, until I understood that it was not so far away. On top of that, and I don’t know how you did this, you found that same wallpaper and re-created the same bedroom I had at the old house. It might have been a small thing to you at the time, but it was one of the most important things in my little selfish world.

I never understood that you were exhausted most of the time.

You went to work every day. You came home and cooked my favorite meals. You sat with me while I did my homework. You packed my lunches and through all of that, you found time to go back to school, so you could get your Master’s and make a better life for me. You scheduled your classes on nights I was at dad’s, so you wouldn’t take away time from “us.” I want you to know that I understand this now, though I did not then.

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You always made bedtime special.

That story was never skipped, and I still did not understand how much you had to do after I went to bed – studying, laundry, cleaning. You were just amazing, and this little girl didn’t have a clue.

I went to dads every other weekend. I can only imagine what you did during that time.

I know that I always came home to a spotless house, all of my clothes washed, my favorite foods in the pantry, and I never figured out how things got that way.

As I grew older, I was able to do more for myself, but the demands on you didn’t lighten up – they just changed.

You were my chauffeur, in charge of entertainment for my friends who always seemed to gather at our apartment, and always the mom who said “yes” when we wanted a ride to the mall or to go to the skating rink. You always said “yes” when I wanted 2-3 friends for a sleepover. You made the popcorn and the pizzas. You made sure there was plenty of soda, you were up and cooking breakfast for all of us. At the same time, I never felt like there was too much parental control and you allowed me to decide what to do and when to do it.

You were the mom who drove us to that concert 40 miles away.

Do you remember that evening? We piled out of the car, as you pointed out exactly where you would pick us up in 3 hours. What you did for 3 hours we never even considered. But when we did get picked up, you had a CD in the player of the band we had just gone to see. That’s when Cheri leaned over and told me, “You have the coolest mom ever.” I don’t think I ever told you that.

Not all times were great.

We had our differences and our squabbles, like the time I came home to find Familoop parental control has been installed on all of the devices in the house. I screamed and yelled about my privacy and freedom. You just remained calm, and I knew that battle was lost. How you could stay so calm always amazed me.

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Remember when I joined the swimming team and decided to quit after three weeks? You put your foot down big time then.

And you made the stakes pretty high. If I quit the team, I could expect no chauffeuring that summer to anywhere else. No concerts, no nothing.

The truth is, other moms were not willing to drive us around like you. Other moms didn’t sing in the car with us. Other moms didn’t listen to our gripes and moans about teachers and “first loves” and give us words of wisdom. I stuck it out with the swim team and was actually pretty proud of the blue ribbon I took in the 100-yard butterfly. You obviously were too, because there you were in the bleachers, cheering and whistling.

Here’s the thing, mom. You were never a quitter, not even once.

When money was tight, you always found a way. When you probably couldn’t go one step further, you took that step anyway. And you taught me these same things.

Living with me as a teenager couldn’t have been much fun at times. When things were bad at school or with a boyfriend, I always managed to take it out on you.

And there you were, knowing that you were not the reason for my anger. Always, your response was, “Why don’t you tell me about your day?”

You knew if I got it out, things would be better. And do you remember the two phrases you said to me always? I do. “This, too, shall pass away,” and “If it will matter 5 years from now, then it is something you should get upset about.” I will take those two phrases to my grave after I have used them on my own kids.

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Have I ever told you what a good listener you have been?

I don’t think so, but I need to tell you that now. Without your listening ear, life would have been so much harder.

Do you remember when I got my first speeding ticket? You had to go to court with me. I remember the judge asking you, “Does Dianna realize the seriousness of speeding?” And I remember you saying, “She understands that I will pull her license long before you do.” The judge chuckled, but your words stuck. I knew you meant what you said and that you would follow through. I knew that because, in all of our years, when you said you would do something – get the treats for the school party, take my friends and me to that movie, save up for a big blast vacation to the beach when I graduated from high school – you did it. Not once have you ever let me down, mom, though I have let you down many times.

One of my best memories, though it wasn’t at the time, was when you found pot stuffed in my underwear drawer. You didn’t say anything – you just took it. Of course I was panicked looking for it – tearing my drawer apart. After all, I was going to a party that night. You just sat on the deck, calmly looking out over the yard, enjoying my distress. When I came out onto the deck, probably looking very unhappy, you told me that you had taken my pot for a little experiment. You had heard that birds sang much prettier when they ate it, so you put it all in the bird feeder and mixed it up with the seeds already in there. You were waiting to see if that were true. It is on moments like these that I look back and realize what a great parental control example you were for me.

You always had the best way of letting me know I had been caught – no screaming or yelling, just taking action and then explaining to me what would happen if I repeated that mistake.

So, now we’ve made it. You have a successful career, and I will soon have that degree. You have been my teacher, my confidante, my biggest cheerleader, and my hero.

You have taught me by example, even when those lessons were hard to learn. You pushed me. You said “no” when you had to and “yes” whenever you could; you did and did and did for me. But most of all you have loved me more than anything else in this world. I am safe, confident, and ready to meet any challenge this world may throw at me because of you, mom. You did good!

From the daughter who doesn’t say thank you and I love you enough,

Dianna

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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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