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Why It’s Definitely Fine That You Fall Behind In Life Sometimes

Why It’s Definitely Fine That You Fall Behind In Life Sometimes

We’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced those times in life when you are utterly confused about your life purpose, you get a sense that you aren’t where you thought you’d be by now, and you secretly compare your life to those around you, using them as a benchmark to your own. Life is full of “should” and “shouldn’ts” that lead us to feeling pressure and unhappiness.

You lack motivation and that inspired action just isn’t coming to you. You start to panic that it’ll never come and you’ll stay in this space of dissatisfaction forever. If this sounds familiar, then you’re not alone. We often end up at a stage in life that isn’t anywhere where we thought we were going to be, but I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. Here is why falling behind in life isn’t as bad as we perceive it to be.

Give Yourself A Break

The problem comes when we believe we are falling behind in life, but by who’s standards or ideals exactly? Society has a lot to answer for when it comes to pressuring us into being at certain stages of life at certain times, but everyone is unique. Different circumstances happen to different people. We all have different personalities, different dreams, and different beliefs, so we can’t all be the same. So it’s really important to give yourself a break.

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So what if you aren’t as far along in your career as you thought you’d be? So what if you’re at the age when you “should” be married and having children but you’re not even close? You aren’t alone in feeling this way and it’s better to be in a relaxed state than creating stress and anxiety in your life.

Surrender To Timing And Trust It

You’re probably thinking it’s too hard to relax when you feel like a failure and you can’t quite see how it’s all going to change. It’s very easy to think like this — we’re human after all. But remember that life is all about timing — think back to all your past situations, relationships, friendships, or jobs that came into your life at the right moment.

Accept that you can’t conjure up motivation if it’s just not there and there’s no point in forcing it. Relaxing is the best way to let any of that good inspiration in but also honour the fact that life can get in the way sometimes. Sometimes we’re just going through things we can’t control, things that influence how we feel and can take our focus away from what we want.

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Surrender to the fact that it’s all about timing and trust that things will work out for you when they’re meant to. Feeling lost doesn’t mean you’re doomed or that your life is hopeless. It simply means that something better is waiting for you.

Everyone Is On Their Own Path

Making comparisons is the worst thing we can do, yet we all do this! Sometimes you can feel perfectly content with life until suddenly you wake up one day and all your friends are married with kids and you’re not even close to all that. Maybe everyone around you is buying a house and you’re still renting because you can’t quite afford it yet. Then the feeling of failure creeps in that breaks down that happiness vibe — you feel you’re never going to have what someone else has, or that there’s something wrong with you.

But we absolutely cannot compare ourselves to others — others who are on a completely different personal journey to ours. Just because they’re in our life doesn’t mean our life has to mirror theirs. You don’t truly know their life journey or what lessons they are learning — what seems like perfection on the outside is rarely the case.

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Listening to others’ opinions about your life situation when they are in completely different life stages or circumstances to you is extremely detrimental to your overall outlook. When we feel sensitive or vulnerable about our own life dissatisfaction, we tend to value other people’s opinions over our own inner feelings and guidance, so choose to ignore any negative beliefs from others and concentrate on trusting the process and the right outcomes happening at the right time.

Remember It’s All A Learning Curve

Don’t think that this is a time in your life where you’re not moving forward or learning anything. All situations in our life — positive and negative — are there to teach us something, even if it’s really really not obvious to us.

Again, it all comes down to timing. Perhaps you need another year of life experience or there’s something you need to realise about yourself that you can only find by taking time out to be by yourself before you let in that great relationship. Maybe a series of events is waiting to happen before you get that great job, events that will show you something or guide you in the right direction. Perhaps your current feelings of sadness are what will eventually propel you to building your life. Sometimes we’re not yet the people we need to be in order to get to our perceived destination, and that’s perfectly okay.

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This is why it’s so important to relax and realise not everything is in your control. Knowing we can’t control every outcome is crucial, as life is uncertain and unpredictable and often outside of what we can understand. What we can do is establish healthy habits and grow from our experiences.

Stop Beating Yourself Up

At the end of the day, we need to be positive and kind to ourselves. We need to stop pressuring ourselves and beating ourselves up because we haven’t lined up with what we want just yet.

Lessen the shame that surrounds your idea that you’re somehow not doing your best. Life is full of ebbs and flows but you are always travelling down the path, so trust that you are heading in the right direction even if you can’t fully see the path itself. Try and ignore the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” that seem to dominate our lives so much. At the end of the day, they are only other people’s beliefs and ideas. Relax — you are not actually falling behind in life, you are exactly where you’re meant to be.

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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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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