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30 Things Only An Only Child Would Understand

30 Things Only An Only Child Would Understand

Due largely to the rising costs of raising children, single child families are on the rise in America and other developed nations, with some 18% of families in the U.S. having only one child, a figure which has doubled in the last 30 years. This means that more children in this generation will experience the joys and challenges of being raised in what comedian John Hodgman affectionately calls the “super-smart, ultra-shy narcissist club.” As an only child myself, here are 30 things that I know to be true about growing up solo.

1. We don’t all match the stereotype

We have heard it all before, only children are spoiled rotten little brats… well, guess what, so are a lot of you “normal” people, and you don’t hear us complaining about it all the time. Not all of us are completely self-obsessed.

2. We prefer to avoid conflict

We didn’t grow up with a sibling to torment or to be tormented by and are therefore naturally averse to peer conflict.

3. We are often voracious readers

Without the existence of a built-in familial playmate, we had to find other ways to occupy our time and add some people, albeit imaginary, into the cast of characters in our lives.

4. We love to hang out with big families

In much the same way that a visit to the country is an exciting and novel adventure for a city dweller, observing the dynamics and inner-workings of a large family is enjoyable for only children.

5. We tend to be closer to our friends

We treat our friends like the brothers and sisters that we never had. We are not satisfied with casual acquaintances, we want the talk-for-hours-on-the-phone-every-day type of buddy.

6. We don’t mind being alone

Have you ever seen someone eating at a restaurant or going to a movie by themselves. Guess what, they are probably having a great time, ordering or watching whatever they want. Only children are completely comfortable being alone.

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7. We like having people in the background

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was invite a bunch of people over my house and then hang out by myself in another room, reading or writing. While this may seem like extremely anti-social behavior, I simply enjoyed having people in the background that I didn’t need to directly interact with.

8. We are old souls

As the majority of our interactions outside of school are with adults, we tend to be a little more mature than our peers and, as such, we act older than our age.

9. We know exactly why we are only children

Every only child eventually gets “the talk” where our parents explain to us why they didn’t provide us with a sibling. In my case, I was a late in life, accidental birth. The whole conversation feels like an apology. It’s awkward.

10. We had imaginary friends

In fact, our imaginary friends had imaginary friends. We crafted elaborate narrative exchanges with these figments of our overactive imaginations and had a great time doing it.

11. We are less prone to PDA

We didn’t grow up being constantly touched and, as such, we tend to be a little more reserved with our public displays of affection.

12. We are less likely to want kids of our own

We do not have fond memories of our siblings growing up alongside us, so we are not inherently drawn to recreating those times.

13. We are a little sensitive

We didn’t grow up being ribbed and constantly picked on. We never built up the emotional callouses needed to live in such a cruel world, so we are often a little sensitive.

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14. We are not likely to throw a punch

…but we often wonder what it would be like to get into a real fist fight.

15. People automatically think we are weird

Telling people that you are an only child is like saying you were raised in a cult, you get a range of looks in response, that span the gap from mildly surprised to outright disgusted.

16. We are not great at sharing

Our things are our things and our food is our food. We didn’t grow up having to share and are therefore not very good at it.

17. We are drawn to other only children

Three of my closest friends are also only children. It’s a little like a private club.

18. We think we are the atypical case

Regarding those three close friends, I feel very strongly that they are all much more stereotypical “only children” than I am.

19. We are obsessive

Without the distractions that siblings provide, we tend to get deep into our hobbies.

20. We are always trying to please our parents

This carries on well into adulthood. We feel a deep need to make our parents proud, mostly because we were our parent’s sole concern for the entirety of our formative years.

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21. We love attention

We grow up never having to fight for attention, in fact, we probably received a little too much of it over the years. We are used to being the focal point in social interactions and that is not an easy thing to give up.

22. We talk to ourselves

And sometimes the conversations are pretty engaging.

23. We have overbearing parents

It’s not their fault, we are all they have, so it is only natural that they would become a little controlling.

24. We are a little bummed out that we won’t be aunts and uncles

Unless we marry into such a situation, we will never have a little niece or nephew to spoil.

25. We don’t always play well with others

Only children sometimes have difficulty operating as part of a team because they did not engage in the same type of group play that other kids did.

26. We don’t always remember our childhoods accurately

We lack a secondary record of our childhood. We have no one to ask if the exaggerated version of events that exist in our heads actually happened.

27. We used to pretend we had older siblings

Mine was a globetrotting college-aged sister with red hair and a fancy car… I genuinely have no idea why.

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28. We are not competitive

We often lack the overwhelming desire, that so many have, to turn mundane events into opportunities for competition. Don’t get me wrong, we like to win just like anyone else, we just typically prefer non-competitive activities.

29. We saved our parents a lot of money

Children are extremely expensive, in fact, it has been estimated that the total cost of raising a child often exceeds $250,000 by the time they reach 18.

30. We are just like everyone else

So stop bringing it up all the time! We’re sensitive about it.

 

Featured photo credit: boy in mumbai slums / pushkar raj sharma via flic.kr

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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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