Advertising
Advertising

If You Think Unconditional Love Is Impossible, You Might Not Know What It Is

If You Think Unconditional Love Is Impossible, You Might Not Know What It Is

Unconditional love is a gruesome, painful and sacrificial way to care for another human being. It isn’t butterfly kisses, a steamy night of passion or the joy a son brings to his mother’s heart. It is so much deeper than that. It is endless. It is profound. It’s powerful.

But is it possible? Science[1] says it is. Mario Beauregard, professor at Montreal University’s Centre for Research into Neurophysiology and Cognition, conducted a study and found that not only do all humans have the capacity to show unconditional love but, more importantly, specific areas of the brain are activated during this process, releasing dopamine—the chemical involved in sensing pleasure. Loving unconditionally is a mutually beneficial endeavor.

Unconditional love is hard because we misunderstand what it is

Loving someone unconditionally means loving the very essence of the individual. Just as they are. Despite what they do or fail to do, with no expectation of anything in return—including love.[2] However, it is one of the most misunderstood concepts. If offering unconditional love is your mission in life, you need to beware of these 3 subtle differences:

Unconditional love is loving someone no matter what happens, but it is not accepting abuse

It is supporting a person through every situation they face. Sticking with them through the good and the bad. It is not, however, blind devotion, unrelenting commitment and enabling bad behavior. Loving someone unconditionally involves doing what is best for them no matter what it costs you.

When you love a person you want to see them happy, but that does not mean neglecting yourself or becoming a doormat. When you allow yourself to be mistreated you are teaching your loved one that it is o.k. to mistreat people. You are reinforcing bad behavior.

Advertising

Forgiveness is a vital component of practicing unconditional love. It means you must be quick to forgive but at the same time, not available for abuse.

Many people misuse the this concept as an excuse to remain in toxic and unhealthy relationships or to explain why they refuse to hold their loved one accountable.[3] Often times, this is seen in abusive relationships. The victim may claim to stay with the abuser out of love. But sometimes love may mean severing ties, calling the authorities or taking other extreme measures to get them the help they need. You do what is best for the individual despite the cost.

Unconditional love seeks to provide happiness but isn’t over-protective

Love is an action not a feeling. It is a conscious choice that you make repeatedly—moment by moment. It doesn’t happen naturally. When a mother gives birth and holds her child in her arms for the very first time, we have been led to believe that the love is instant. And as magical and poetic as that sounds, it simply isn’t true. That mother chooses to love her child. Many times that choice is made and solidified some time during the pregnancy. Think about it. When a woman discovers that she is unexpectedly pregnant, she does not immediately fall in love with the fetus. It takes time. She must choose to love her child.

Providing for the happiness of your loved ones whenever you can is important and necessary but your desire to please them shouldn’t come at their detriment.

If a mother discovers her child is using drugs—love demands that she do whatever she can to assist them in breaking the addiction. Whatever it takes. And as painful as it may be, sometimes that involves allowing them to hit rock bottom, go to jail, or even become homeless. Pain and heartache forge character and tenacity, and help us to grow. Watching someone you love suffer is brutal, but sometimes it’s necessary. Allow your loved ones to experience set backs and fall. Just be there to pick them up when they do.

Advertising

Unconditional love involves respecting and accepting the life choices of your loved ones without being indulgent

Unconditional love is the complete and total acceptance of a person “as is.” It involves not withholding love because you don’t agree with their life choices. You don’t love because of—you love in spite of… Adopt a “care less” attitude.[4] Meaning, I could care less what you decide, I love you anyway. It means staying away from controlling behaviors and passing judgement.

That said—this doesn’t mean you stand blindly by and watch someone—especially a child—run head long into danger.

Many times a parent will not chastise a child, or challenge them for fear of retaliation or losing the child’s love. Enabling bad behavior is not love.[5] Unconditional love seeks what is in the best interest of that person above all else. It is supporting and nurturing that person into being the best version of them self.

Why we should practice unconditional love when it’s so hard

Unconditional love is transformative. It has the power to change you and the person you love. It is a balancing act that requires you to constantly adjust and readjust your actions and attitude. But it is worth it in the end. Some of the benefits of learning to love unconditionally are:

  • You learn to accept and love yourself.
  • You become more empathetic.
  • You are better able to cope with change and deal with disappointment.
  • You develop a deep understanding of what true love is.

10 keys to unlock the door to loving unconditionally

How can finite beings love infinitely? When most people think of this kind of love, people like Mother Theresa, Ghandi and the Pope come to mind. But how can we—mere mortals—transcend our inherent, natural tendency towards selfishness and love without condition or expectation of a reward?

Advertising

Here are 10 things you can do to begin loving unconditionally:

1. Practice forgiveness.[6]

2. Practice empathizing[7] with others.

3. Learn to love yourself unconditionally.

4. Practice open and honest communication.

Advertising

5. Love them the way they need to be loved. Love isn’t a one-size-fits-all; what might be loving for one person could be harmful to another person.

6. Accept yourself and others “as is.”

7. Accept and respect the boundaries of your loved ones.

8. Choose to be loving. Ask yourself in each situation, what is the most loving response?

9. Don’t try to be a human shield. Allow your loved ones to hurt and support them through the pain.

10. Perform acts of service daily, with no expectation of anything in return.

What actions will you take to demonstrate your unconditional love?

Reference

More by this author

Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

Having A Backup Plan May Keep You From Achieving Your Goal, Research Finds Successful People Aren’t Gifted. They Just Master Some Goal Setting Techniques How to Stay Motivated Even Though You Can’t See Yourself Moving Forward 20 Simple Ways to Bring Positive Energy into Life Right Now 3 Reminders to Help You Enjoy Life Even When Life Is Tough

Trending in Communication

1 5 Real Relationship Goals You Should Actually Strive Toward 2 When You Learn A Second Language, These 7 Amazing Things Will Happen To You 3 15 Things To Stop Doing If You Want To Be Truly Happy 4 7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language 5 How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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

Read Next