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Life Is Cruel To Us Sometimes, But We Can Choose Not To Be Knocked Down

Life Is Cruel To Us Sometimes, But We Can Choose Not To Be Knocked Down

Life has a habit of throwing us in the rubbish dump sometimes. It can be hard to find our way out and days can feel like a struggle to feel normal again. Feeling knocked down can lead to feelings of apathy, of giving up because you feel beaten down.

But as hard as it feels sometimes, receiving a cruel blow by fate can present us with unique opportunities — opportunities to rebuild our lives and use it as fuel to create a second chance of living life in a new and positive way.

The actor Keanu Reeves has never shied away from his traumatic past. Having gone through dark times in his life, he has openly talked about how the struggles have affected him, how he chose to use these tragic experiences to mold a positive outlook and how it shaped his life. He is a true inspiration for using each setback as a reason to push forward and become a better person.

Prove Yourself Despite Personal Struggles

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    As a young boy, Keanu Reeves grew up without the influence of his father after he left his mother when Keanu was just three years old. Moving from city to city meant Reeves attended several different schools, making it difficult to make friends, all while he struggled hugely with dyslexia.

    While this isn’t an uncommon life situation for many, Reeves has spoken of the challenges he faced leaving school without gaining a diploma. But through determination, he overcame his difficulty of reading and is now an avid reader.

    Struggles from such an early age can influence us to a much greater extent, but we do have the ability to change how we feel and our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves — beliefs that have often been ingrained in us from our early years. We can choose to use them as excuses to struggle our way through life or use them as a torch to guide us onto a better path.

    Recognize the Construction That Comes From Destruction

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    Keanu Reeves 1

      The most tragic part of his life was to start at the age of 23 when his closest friend River Phoenix died of a drug overdose. He spoke of his grief at the loss of such a young, talented person in his life.

      “He was a remarkable human, person, and actor. We got along very well, and I miss him. I think of him often.”

      But it wasn’t long afterward that he met and fell in love with Jennifer Syme  — a whirlwind romance that resulted in Jennifer becoming pregnant shortly after. But with a month of the pregnancy to go, their baby daughter was stillborn, which was something that both found hard to come to terms with. The relationship eventually broke down, and it was a year later that Jennifer was tragically killed in a car accident.

      While we all experience grief at some point in our lives, to have such loss at such a young age would make even the strongest person feel lost and bereaved. But Keanu used his dark experiences to perceive loss as gain, to reconstruct his life and adopt a positive mindset and attitude towards life.

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      Use the Hard Times to Flourish

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        While it’s easy to run and hide when tragedy enters our lives, the key to continuing on your path is to use your experiences — both good and bad — to create a better version of yourself.

        Keanu’s ability to push on led him to become a successful actor starring in huge blockbuster movies. He strived to do what he loved and has shown that adversity doesn’t have to break you — you can come out on the other side.

        Despite becoming a wealthy man, Keanu says his experiences of loss have made him look differently toward money. He is a big giver to charities and often gave away his earnings to the set staff, even when it meant taking cuts to make sure movie budgets were adhered to. His generosity is down to a different way of looking at life with a more humble foresight and sense of gratitude towards the world around him.

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        Going through experiences such as loss, pain, suffering, loneliness, and devastation has a way of showing us the need to appreciate what we have. We have within us the potential to bounce back stronger and more resilient than before. We can learn to be at peace with the beauty that life offers. It’s an opportunity to see that life is short and should be lived to its optimum, an opportunity to becoming our true self and how we can come out a better person on the other side.

        Featured photo credit: wallpapersdsc.net via wallpapersdsc.net

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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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