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Why Showing Vulnerability Actually Proves Your Strength

Why Showing Vulnerability Actually Proves Your Strength

There was a time when I would never shed a tear. There was a time when I would never let on that I felt fear. If something bad in life happened, I would show my face with the biggest smile, and nobody would know about it. If they did, nobody would realize that it even bothered me. I would be that bubbly, outgoing personality that everyone knew. I was tough. No one and nothing could break me. I didn’t need any one and I could look after myself. Why? Because I was strong. Nowadays, I look back at that girl I once was and realize just how wrong I was.

Pain. We have all felt it in some shape or form. There are two types of pain: physical and emotional. Both are completely different from each other yet so similar. There can be a pain we feel and heal from, or a pain that can damage us for life. Childhood issues can damage us for life if we don’t seek to learn, understand, and be aware of them. A car accident that leaves us paralyzed can also damage us for life. What I do know is that both can leave us vulnerable.

Don’t Be Afraid To Be Vulnerable

There are numerous ways we can be made vulnerable. For example, when you first start to date someone and are really into them, yet at the same time you’re still unsure if they’re the right person. What if they hurt me? What if they cheat? What if they don’t feel the same way? What if they’re not who they say they are?

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What about when you are going through something significant, like a break up, job loss or even a death? Everyone goes through these things. It’s a part of life. Why bother anyone with your woes? Why mope around and be depressed when everyone else has gone through it at some point?

How about that business idea you always had but were too scared to try. What if everyone laughs at me and my idea? What if no one wants my product or business offering? What if I’m not good enough? What if I fail?

Fear. We all know this is the one factor that can stop us from achieving our goals. We see quotes online everyday. We read about it, we hear about it, and we know about it subconsciously. Fear shows vulnerability. Why would we want to be vulnerable and put ourselves out there when we can just happily keep doing whatever it is that we are doing and be perfectly just fine. It’s comfortable, right?

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Most of us have heard of the old sayings, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”, and, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there”. However, take a moment and really think about this. Why would these be famous sayings if there wasn’t any truth to them? Why would successful people quote this?

Dealing With Struggles

Let’s go back to that person you have been dating and starting to get those feels for. Why not let them know how you feel? Why not get to know them more, take that leap, and see if it’s worth it? If you never ask, the answer will always be no. Deep down, we all would love to find that special someone who we can share our life with. What’s the worse that could happen? They don’t feel the same? Great, now you don’t have to waste your time and can open yourself up to other prospects. They didn’t turn out to be who you thought? The moment you start to see they aren’t the person they painted themselves to be, leave. You tried, you gave it a shot, and it wasn’t the right fit. At least you know now, and I’m sure you learned something from the experience.

So, you just got fired, you just got dumped, or someone close to you has passed. You don’t have to tell the world (and every one you meet) your problems, but at the same token, you most certainly don’t have to hold it all in and suffer in silence. One of the best things about friendship is that true friends will be there for you. There are people out there that want to see you happy.

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Yes, everyone goes through these experiences but we all know how much it can hurt at the time. Have a cry, take time out for yourself, go do things you love, or lock yourself up and watch movies for days. However you feel it is best for you to heal – do it. It’s okay to hurt. We are human. Let yourself feel and get it out of your system. This is the only way you can truly move on. As cliche as it sounds, time really does heal. You may never forget, but in time, it won’t hurt as much.

What about that business idea you had? Isn’t it something you are passionate about? Does it excite you when you think of it? If money wasn’t an issue, would you choose to go for it? Just imagine how great being successful running your business would be? So, why not try? Why not take that step? If you never try, you will never know. So what, if you fail? At least you had the courage to chase your dreams. Not many people can say that. What if you fail but it leads you to something better?

On the other hand, what if you succeed? Imagine that! If you research the backgrounds of successful people, you will find that many of them have failed more often than once or twice. The difference with successful people is their drive. Mistakes prove that you are trying. Who cares what others think. Isn’t it better to fail at attempting to do something great than to succeed in doing nothing at all? You’re one step ahead from the rest of them, and at least you’re trying.

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Vulnerability = Strength

I believe putting yourself out there, taking that leap, and showing vulnerability takes a lot more courage and strength than to keep quiet and do nothing. It is a sign of strength when you can accept that you are in pain and can admit it. It is healthier to allow yourself to feel and acknowledge your problem than to hold it in and pretend you are fine. It takes a lot more courage to put yourself out there than to continue doing the same thing you do everyday.

It takes courage to tell your crush that you like them. It takes courage to open your heart and let someone in. Taking a risk like this is better than missing an opportunity of being with someone amazing because you kept quiet, or you were scared to fall for them and get hurt so you ran away.

It shows strength when you can admit you are in pain and are struggling to handle things. It shows strength when you can swallow your pride and ask for help. It’s perfectly natural to experience tough times and to not always be on a high. It takes guts to put yourself out there and launch a business idea. While you may be vulnerable and open yourself up to failure, you may also succeed.

Life is full of ups and downs, but we can learn to ride the wave. Risk it! Put yourself out there, chase your dreams, and allow yourself to fall in love. Being vulnerable and stepping outside of your comfort zone could very well be the best thing you could ever do.

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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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