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Published on December 25, 2020

How To Express Yourself Authentically And Confidently

How To Express Yourself Authentically And Confidently

fHere are some words that have increased in use over the last decade: self-confidence, authenticity, speak your truth, badass. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Way back in the days when I was growing up, these were not words that were shared around dinner table conversations in most homes. Sure, my parents promoted positive self-esteem for me and my brother, but not in the way you see it plastered across social media today. In fairness, there was no such thing as social media when I was a kid (or adolescent, or young adult—that’s how old I am!), so things weren’t so “in your face” good or bad.

Anyway, the idea that someone, especially a woman, should express herself with confidence and authenticity was not as promoted as it is these days. Expectations around what was proper and acceptable prevented a lot of people from stepping into their true selves to express their authenticity. Fear of judgment or ridicule held some back because the thought of being embarrassed was far too hurtful than sharing the truth.

We’ve all been there in some way, shape, or form. These feelings still exist for a lot of us. And that’s because we weren’t encouraged or taught how to proceed with them in a way that didn’t feel arrogant or self-serving.

It’s no easy feat to walk into a room or to present yourself as confident and authentic. But it’s not impossible or all that difficult if you remember these three things: be relatable, vulnerable, and fearless.

1. Be Relatable

I’ve gotta say, one thing that’s really been eye-opening for me since I started my professional coaching practice is that when you present yourself in a way that is relatable and honest, you create more meaningful connections and relationships. Being able to relate to another person increases trust in your relationship, and it’s something you can do with everyone in your life.

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During the spring, my son was having a difficult time with virtual learning for school amidst the pandemic. He would argue and have tantrums because he was upset and didn’t really know how to express it. One day he was sitting on the couch crying because he missed his friends, his teachers, his school.

My typically joyful and playful boy was hurting and I needed to help him. Instead of telling him he had no choice and to suck it up and “go to school,” I sat on the couch with him and cried and told him that I felt the same way he did. I wanted him to see his friends, his teachers, and to go to school. In fact, I missed my friends and all of the great things we got to do before we went into quarantine.

When I showed him that I could relate to how he was feeling, we were able to talk it out peacefully and logically. We were able to connect in a way that we hadn’t before. After that, he was able to understand why sharing your feelings is so important and how expressing yourself can help you in certain situations. Win-win!

2. Be Vulnerable

Vulnerability is another popular buzzword you hear popping up into conversations a lot lately. Gone are the days of “fake it till you make it.” We’ve learned that by sharing our own personal stories, we will be more authentic and confident with the people in our lives.

Opening up and sharing intimate parts of your life can sometimes be difficult. Similar to relatability, it often requires having to get over a fear of judgment. But when you decide to completely expose your truth, there is power and relief that often accompany it.

Being vulnerable and opening up can be helpful to others.[1] It can also bring a wave of support and understanding from your support circle of friends and family. It’s harder to keep things bottled up, no matter what the situation is.

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Several years ago I was going through a really difficult time at work. The environment was extremely toxic, and it was taking a toll not only on my professional life but my personal life as well. For as hard as I tried to keep them separate, it was impossible to build a complete wall.

In my professional life, I was drowning in anxiety, anger, and depression. I didn’t want to go to work because of the stress I would physically feel in my body. My productivity declined when I was in the office because I was constantly on alert to the things that were going on around (and to) me. I could never relax and feel like I could let my guard down.

It was an awful experience, and yet because I had an image in my head of what my life was “supposed” to look like, I said nothing to my family or friends at home. I was too nervous about sharing my vulnerability with the people who could’ve—instead of being in the dark—supported me.

My actions backfired bigtime. I eventually burnt out from the stress of trying to manage it all alone.

Having my husband find me in a heap of tears on the floor of our bedroom essentially having a breakdown from the stress and anxiety was the beginning of me sharing my true story. It took being vulnerable and expressing myself to help me heal and make the necessary changes in my life I needed to get healthy and clear.

Because of it, I was able to face my fear and ultimately make decisions that would re-route my life in a direction that I could never have dreamed of for myself. By being vulnerable and sharing my story, I have been able to build a business helping others overcome their own fears and challenges.

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3. Be Fearless

Confidence isn’t something we are born with—it’s learned. For some of us, it takes a really long time to find true confidence For others, it comes easy.

Confidence is a product of your surroundings, your support system, and your belief in yourself. You create your own confidence, the same way you create your own happiness by surrounding yourself with positivity and optimism through education and making choices that feel good.

Some people call confidence fearlessness. Not being afraid to be different, to speak your mind, or to share your vulnerabilities with others and face your challenges head-on—that’s being fearless.

I have a friend who has been bullied his whole life. Even to this day, as a middle-aged adult, he experiences forms of bullying. He reached out to me to talk about it because while he’s grown into an extremely self-assured, confident man, he now wants to understand the reason why people bully others, especially as adults.

I told him during our conversation that he was being fearless in his pursuit to educate himself rather than retaliate—that his confidence was helping him to express himself in a way that would ultimately help not only himself but also others who have been in similar situations.

My friend has spent years educating himself and working on his fearlessness. He’s grown from the doubtful boy into the self-assured man his friends and family know and love. He’s overcome so many obstacles around self-worth, disbelief in himself, and anxiety that he is now a shining example of how to thrive.

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We hear the word “haters” a lot on social media—people who express negativity in a bullying sort of way. When you have the capacity to step into your power and shine regardless of what others think about you, you are fearless. Expressing yourself becomes easier because you can fully embrace who you are and when you do that, you will attract the people you need in your life.

Final Thoughts

Being able to express yourself authentically doesn’t come naturally for a lot of us. It takes work to get to a place where you can be comfortable with yourself, especially if you’ve been through difficult times. But if you allow yourself to open up and share your true self, your authenticity and confidence will shine right through.

Being able to be yourself can bring a sense of relief and calm. You might (probably will) go through some challenges along the way. But in the end, you will know a feeling that you have never known before, and that will make it all worth the journey.

More Tips on How to Express Yourself

Featured photo credit: Timur Romanov via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Krista Rizzo, CPC

Transformational Life Coach, TEDx Speaker, Author & Founder

How to Be a Good Listener (And a Better Communicator) How To Express Yourself Authentically And Confidently

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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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