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12 Life Lessons My 20s Have Taught Me That Everyone Should Know

12 Life Lessons My 20s Have Taught Me That Everyone Should Know

In 1989, I turned 20 years old and graduated from college the following year. The decade would see me make some bad decisions – eloping with my ex-husband – but also a bunch of great choices that all made me who I am today.

Here’s hoping my mistakes and successes and life lessons learned along the way can help you, too:

1. Always pursue your passion but don’t quit your day job unless you’re sure

Although much of my professional career after graduation was built in the financial arena of corporate America, I never let go of my love of writing. After work and on weekends – or let’s be honest, many times during my day jobs – I’d make time to steal away and write. Whatever your talent, doggedly go after it, even while you’re doing other things to pay the bills.

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2. Prevent overindulgences: Giving up the ganja

Too much of anything doesn’t bode well. I learned that lesson from too much shopping, weed smoking and not enough bill paying – so I had to temper myself and become more responsible throughout my 20s. You can still have fun doing the things you like but make sure the mortgage is taken care of first.

3. Revel in looking good

Okay, I was pretty hot in my 20s. For one thing, make sure you enjoy the days of few wrinkles and no age spots.

4. Express yourself in the way that’s best for you

No longer a teen, I learned that my opinion mattered, but that I preferred to do it in writing lots of times without having to look people in the face and watch their reactions. Whatever way feel most comfortable  to you is your way to get out the feelings inside. Make sure to get them out.

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5. Get stuff done while you don’t have kids

During my 20s, I had no kids, so I was able to devote lots of time to work but part of me wishes I would’ve pursued a writing career more fervently when I had no one to really think about but myself.

6. “Prayer works.”

It’s something my grandmother used to tell me, and believe you me, by the time I turned 30 and experienced serious losses in my life, I knew her statement was true for helping me survive them.

7. It’s okay to forgive yourself

I was almost just berating myself for not accomplishing more in my 20s. That’s when I told myself to stop it – and that forgiveness is key. When you know better, you do better, as the popular saying goes.

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8. Look at the positive

It would be easy to list hundreds of mistakes I’ve made in the decade of my 20s or beyond – but it’s better to always look at the bright side of life. Instead of stewing over not graduating college as a 20-year-old like I wanted, I can congratulate myself for getting a degree in five years instead of not at all.

9. Follow the direction of love

After being in a bad marriage for about three years in my early 20s, it dawned on me that people cannot change one another or force each other to change. Therefore, I escaped that abusive situation and realized that being in a more positive environment isn’t corny or boring – it’s love, a whole lot better feeling than hate.

10. Give people space and grace

I used to have high expectations that people do what I wanted when I wanted it. Time shows us that others can do things that we don’t expect – and we should give them the freedom to be themselves.

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11. Thank others for letting you be yourself

The freedom in learning to let others do their own thing allowed me to realize that I had that same freedom. No heavy chains or unreasonable boundaries placed upon other folks gave me the revelation that no one else should do the same to me.

12. Hope doesn’t disappoint

Society may have people feel that once you leave your 20s, life is over. I’ve learned that it helps to always remain filled with hope, and to never let your dreams die – no matter how old you get. Even when I didn’t experience the level of Shonda Rhimes-like success I sought in my 20s, it doesn’t mean I gave up. Instead, I know the day is coming when the words I once heard in my soul will be fulfilled: “It is yours.”

Featured photo credit: Success Phrase Typed On Typewriter The secret of my success business concept typed phrase on a retro typewriter great concept for storytelling business plans presentations or blogs Stock Photo ID: 51280939 Copyright: Stocksolutions via bigstockphoto.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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