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11 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your First Relationship

11 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your First Relationship

If only we could be young again! Young and in love but with the knowledge we have now. Oh, to have that perspective! My first real relationship was quite a doozy, with a lot of mistakes made, so I am going to address this article to my younger self before I started dating boys. If you have not yet entered your first relationship, please read this to better prepare yourself for what is to come.

1. Only you can define yourself.

You are not defined by your boyfriend or girlfriend. A person needs to be confident of him or herself before entering any kind of serious relationship. You need to be happy with the person you are and the choices you make when you are alone. Do not depend on another person to make you feel good.

2. Never neglect your friends or family for the sake of a dating relationship.

A great way to ruin amazing friendships is to ditch your friends for a boy or girl. Believe you me! Your family and friends were there first. Don’t think you can ignore them and they will still be waiting around for you if your relationship fails. Make time for your other relationships as it’s good to have a wide network as opposed to only one person in your life.

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3. You do not always live happily ever after.

Sadly, high school relationships statistically only last long term 2% of the time. This is hard to understand when you are young and your hormones are making you dizzy and sick with love. No one and nothing else could ever get in the way of your love! Ever! No matter how wonderful a relationship might seem, if you are too young to know what you want, it might not last.

4. Guard your heart, but not too much.

Since your first relationship might not last, it is best to guard yourself, at least a little. At the same time, you need to be able to open up in order to have a romantic relationship. Try your best to find this balance.

5. You might get hurt.

This is part of life and almost to be expected. When you open yourself up to another person, vulnerability occurs. This creates a close connection between two people, but it can also leave you open for a world of hurt. It is up to you how much of your heart you will risk for the relationship.

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6. You deserve respect—from yourself and from your partner.

Determine boundaries beforehand. Decide for yourself what is acceptable in the way you are treated, both verbally and physically. Then tell your partner and stick to those boundaries. It is an awful thing to find out along the way that you have given up too much.

7. Your love cannot be the center of the universe.

Life is still happening around you. There are still decisions to be made, responsibilities such as homework, chores and/or a job. Do not forgo everything else in your life just to spend time with your boyfriend or girlfriend.

8. No one belongs to you, nor you to anyone else.

Being in a relationship does not mean you lose all sense of self. Have your own interests and friends. At the same time, realize your boyfriend or girlfriend needs to have his or her own hobbies and social groups as well. You should be able to spend time together, just not all of your waking moments.

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9. You can never force someone to change.

This is one of the hardest lessons to learn (mainly for women—we seem to want to change our men). A person may act as though he or she is changing to make you happy, but it might not last long if the person doesn’t truly want to change.

10. It’s not like the movies.

Oh, Hollywood, how you trick the youth of the world with your gold-spun stories of love and romance! We are fooled into believing that finding romantic love is the greatest thing in life. Problems are supposed to melt away, there is no fighting and you drive off into the sunset, a complete person with your mate. Romance can be great, but keeping a relationship thriving is work. Be prepared to work if you truly want it to last.

11. Use this experience as a learning tool.

Sure, you might stay together and grow old with your first love, but if not, use your first relationship as a learning tool. What went wrong? What went right? How could you have communicated better? These are all things we learn from early relationships that help us in cultivating a better one down the road.

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Don’t be frightened by this list. Love can truly be amazing. The thing is, you might not know how to deal with or even know about the negative possibilities when entering a first relationship. Learn from these things and be better prepared when you take that first step.

For those of you who are experienced in the relationship realm, any advice for the newbies?

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Amanda DeWitt

Writer. Photographer. Instagrammer. Future Educator.

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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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