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10 Things You Wish You Knew When You Were a Teenager

10 Things You Wish You Knew When You Were a Teenager

Think back on your teenage years. Awkward, right? How many things do you wish you had know then? How different would your life be if you could go back and change just the slightest thing? Here are 10 things you wish you knew when you were a teenager.

1. You can (and should) be weird!

First and foremost! This is the most important lesson of all. Every teenager is strange—even the straight-A, social butterflies. It’s learning to embrace this weirdness that is so hard to do. When you’re a teenager, you just want to fit in. You want to blend into the crowd and graduate without being picked on. Ironically, as a an adult, it’s important to be unique. It’s at this point that you look back on your strange teenage self and wish you had embraced it then.

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2. You always have a choice.

Don’t feel stuck. Not in anything, be it a friendship, a relationship, a class, or a college path. You’re young, and you have your whole life ahead of you! Don’t get trapped in anything. A single choice can change your life, and you’re at the perfect age to take a different track.

3. You can be anything you want.

You don’t have to become a lawyer because your father is one. You’re in high school, with your whole life ahead of you. What do you want to do? Don’t be discouraged by pressure from grown-ups or counselors. If you love art or music, follow your dreams! But be practical: think of the life you’re trying to make for yourself, and figure out how you can get there.

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4. You don’t have to be a follower.

High school is the prime time to gossip and spread rumors. It’s when it’s “cool” to start drinking and smoking. Everybody’s doing it, but you don’t have to. Rise above the petty drama and be your own person. Stay on the right path and you’ll accomplish more in one semester than the majority will accomplish in their entire high school careers.

5. Your thoughts create things.

Ideas are a gold mine. A comic book about a blue werewolf? Start drawing! Don’t discount anything you think. This is the age when your ideas make you feel like you could conquer the world—and you probably could! Don’t talk yourself out of anything. Follow through on anything that crosses your mind. Providing, of course, that it isn’t dangerous or flat-out ridiculous—no flying on homemade wings!

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6. Cherish your friends.

Your friends have your back. They support you when you have to tackle a difficult presentation, and they’ll talk you down off the ledge when you have a failing grade. Cherish these relationships. Friendships in high school are so valuable because you learn a lot from them about what type of person you want to be, and how you’ll treat friends later.

7. Don’t forget your friends.

This is not a restatement of the last tip. This one is regarding relationships. Too often, teenagers let their boyfriends or girlfriends become their world. Just know that no significant other is better than your true friends. It might seem like it at the time, and the relationship might make you feel special, and you might really like kissing…but more than likely, you’ll be single before too long. An you know who will still be there? Your real friends.

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8. You need to learn forgiveness.

It’s too easy to hold a grudge when someone wrongs you. The hardest part is forgiving someone—but it’s also the most rewarding. If your friend ditches you for a new special someone, even if you never did that to a friend (because you knew, right?), take your friend back when they need you. Be kind and open and forgiving, and you’ll be a person everyone thinks favorably about.

9. Don’t try to be cool.

Don’t work too hard to be cool. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs. Don’t do anything you feel pressured to do. Do things because they’re the right things and you want to do them. Do that, and you know what? You will be cool.

10. Love yourself.

Read over all these tips again—do you notice a trend? They’re all about being yourself and being true to yourself, which culminates in loving yourself. This might hurt, but it’s best to learn now: There will always be someone better looking than you, more popular than you, smarter than you. Don’t fight it. Don’t hate them because of what they are, and don’t hate yourself for what you think you’re not. Love who you are and be the best you possible.

Featured photo credit: Diversity Teenagers Friends Friendship Team Concept via shutterstock.com

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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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