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Last Updated on December 8, 2020

Why Holding a Grudge Is Bad For You (And How to Let It Go)

Why Holding a Grudge Is Bad For You (And How to Let It Go)

Holding grudges holds us back, but healing can’t always happen overnight.

When we forgive, we free ourselves.

“Sometimes closure arrives two years later, on an ordinary Friday afternoon, in a way you never expected or could have predicted. And you cry a little, and you laugh a little, and for the first time in a long time…you exhale. Because you are free.” — Mandy Hale

Letting go creates growth. Then, we can heal. Our hearts become open again to others if we let a grudge go. We stop seeing ourselves as victims but rather victors. This doesn’t lessen the accountability you may give another person. It just ensures that you do not mishandle them or yourself, or anyone else for that matter.

People may hurt us, but they don’t have to have power over us.

Forgiveness free us from the pain and the grip of the past. There may be a reason for anger. The grudge may be justified. But it also may be keeping you living a happier life.

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Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, not for the benefit of others. It is the healthier, stronger way to be. However, it does not mean that person must stay in our lives. Still, if you don’t try, you won’t find out if it’s possible for a person to be redeemed.

Redemption is possible. You would want someone to give you the chance to be better. So, find it in your heart to let the grudge go. Holding a grudge won’t get you anywhere faster and will ultimately slow you down.

Release the need to prove yourself right all the time. Release the need to assert your needs over another’s. Release the grudge, even if you still have to say goodbye.

Why Holding a Grudge Is Bad For You?

Research has found that people who hold grudges, being less prone to forgive, had higher blood pressure and were more likely to die from heart disease.[1] It also affects your immune system and metabolism, as well as organ function.

Overall, your physical wellbeing is impacted not by the pain you feel towards the person’s actions but your holding onto the grudge that doesn’t allow you to see anything else[2]. You live in the problem rather than the solutions. You lie to yourself that you’re fine when everything is falling apart. You shorten your life with the anger you hold. You lessen its quality, too.

Not only does holding a grudge have physical effects, but one can develop depression and anxiety. It makes you unhappy, plain and simple. It makes you angry, which creates stress over the situation. It is widely accepted that stress is bad for your health, both mental and physical. Your immune system may remain compromised if you don’t compromise with the person.

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Grudges keep you replaying your hurt feelings and fueling the anger that wants the other person to feel pain. It blinds you to better ways. You may find yourself doing the very thing that hurt you to others if you don’t forgive and find healing. In the end, you may become the worst version of yourself in order to try to feel that you are not a victim of their mistakes.

Holding a grudge can often lead to focusing on the negative, which can hold you back from living a life of gratitude and joy.

If you develop the habit of holding a grudge, this can lead to developing unhealthy relationships full of guardedness and secrecy. You may refuse vulnerability or authenticity in your day to day life because you fear possible negative consequences.

We make ourselves smaller by holding our hands into clench fists. We rise higher when we let go and walk forward into the life that was meant for us.

How to Stop Holding a Grudge

Letting a grudge go can be a long, difficult process, but it’s one that will ultimately be worth it. Try engaging in some of the following techniques to move past the grudge and into forgiveness.

1. Don’t Play the Victim

To overcome a grudge, you must leave a victim mentality behind and also allow yourself to feel the pain, knowing also that a grudge prolongs the healing process[3]. Establish boundaries and visualize releasing the grudge to start to free yourself.

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Instead of playing the victim, see yourself as the hero of your own story, willing to let the grudge go to create the best possible life for yourself.

2. Don’t Vilify the Other Person

Focus less on vilifying the person and more on their intent. Life is not always black and white. Your feelings were hurt, but that may not have been the person’s intention. If it was, remove them. However, if miscommunication was removed from the world, we’d have far less broken hearts and hurt feelings.

Try to communicate with the other person if possible to understand what happened on their end and why things went the way they did. You may need to step back and realize not everything everybody does is because of you. It could be a reflection of how they are doing or something they are struggling with in their own life. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt before making them into the villain of your story.

3. Remove Emotions to See the Truth

When someone is struggling, they don’t always know how to put it into words and speak kindness. Sometimes, you have to be the bigger person and remove your emotions from the situation and help them. Sometimes, you have to be the one to say “I’m sorry” first because you have the emotional capacity for self-reflection, even if they don’t. Give them the chance to also own up, and your relationship with them may be strengthened. Talk using “I” statements, e.g. “I feel this because this happened,” not “You did this to me.” This will help the other person become accountable without feeling attacked.

This is how we renew relationships. We may move forward again because we know that life is short. We have flaws, too. We must not discount those for the sake of proving someone else right.

4. Act With Kindness

You can always say, “Talk to me. What’s really going on? You tell me you’re fine, but how are you really?” Everyone appreciates this. It also helps them to let their guard down. Maybe their actions aren’t about you. Or maybe they are. But if you say this to them, you won’t have any regrets. You will do the right thing no matter what and show them your maturity, that you refuse to be reactive just because they know how to get under your skin. You respond instead.

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You may even get help for them.

5. If It’s Time, Let the Relationship Go

It’s not about whether you believe people can change or not. It’s giving the opportunity for them to show you that they are more than the sum of their mistakes. So are you. Allowing for such humanity is both healing and humbling. Even if they were at fault, it doesn’t mean you need to only see them for their worst moments.

If someone did something truly hurtful and with the intent to hurt, then it’s okay to let them go. A life of joy comes from positive connections with others. If this particular connection is no longer serving as a source of good energy, feel free to leave it to the past and move on to finding better relationships. Once you let go of the grudge you had with the other, you’ll find you have more energy to devote to new connections.

6. See Forgiveness as a Strength

If there’s an opportunity to give someone the benefit of the doubt, take it, because you would want them to give you such a benefit. It doesn’t mean you’re weak to let the grudge go. It’s the opposite. It takes strength to start over, to forgive, to let kindness win. It takes strength to put the ego aside for empathy. We don’t know what road someone has traveled to get where they are. All we can do is walk beside them in the time we have given to us. We can even help change their course for the better.

Final Thoughts

If you can do nothing else, be kind without need of anything returned. Even if it means saying goodbye, let the grudge go with kindness towards both yourself and the other person.

Once you are able to forgive and let go of the grudge, you can start to live a better, freer life. You’ll find that you suffer less, feel less angry, and feel more empowered as the hero of your story.

You never know how someone may later serve you in life if you don’t give them a chance now. Holding grudges shortens our lives, hurts our mental health and ruins our relationships. Let a grudge go and know that you will have a happier life if you do so.

More Tips on Forgiveness

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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Sarah Browne

Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist

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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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