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5 Easy Steps To Conquer Your Fears

5 Easy Steps To Conquer Your Fears

When I started my business a few years back, I had no idea how much fear would come up for me. I was amazed at how crippling the grip of fear was and how helpless I felt. I knew that I needed to quickly learn some tools and techniques to help me breakthrough my fears and keep moving forward, otherwise I could kiss my dream goodbye.

I learnt these two important principles

  • I learnt that fear will always be there when we put ourselves out of our comfort zone and that isn’t bad. Fear is actually essential, it is our survival signal and what has kept us alive all these years.
  • I also learnt that having a goal to be fearless is not realistic; instead, you need to look it straight in the eye and tell it to get out of your way, because it will always come up at different parts of your life, but it mustn’t stop you.

Fear can keep you from following your dreams, it can keep you from living the life you want and doing the things you desire, but it doesn’t need to be this way. One of the biggest mistakes you might be making, is taking fear at face value.

You see, fear can be real or imagined, and your body cannot differentiate between the two, so it will do whatever it can to keep you away from this ‘imagined’ fear, no matter what the cost might be. Imagined fear has nothing to do with reality, it is related to your beliefs and your individual perspective of the world.

I do a few things when I feel my worst enemy approaching, you know what I mean; that horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach, accelerated heart beat and discouraging voice in your head.

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Here is what works for me…

1. Rational or Irrational?

Ask yourself what part of this fear is rational and what part is irrational. If your fear is rational, what can you do to reduce your fear?

If your fear is irrational, you might need to take on another perspective of the situation that will support you better.
For example: A fear of public speaking

Rational: I will forget my words, the equipment won’t work, etc
Steps to move forward: Practice your speech 10 times over so you don’t forget it. Arrive at the venue earlier to test everything and ensure it works. Have a plan B, if for some reason you can’t use the equipment, etc

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Irrational: Everyone will laugh and people will point fingers
Steps to move forward: People are not that cruel, well hopefully you are not talking in front of an uneducated crowd like that. It is normal to have a fear of being ridiculed, but don’t focus on this. Learn ways to become more confident and deal with any limiting beliefs you might have.

2. The Worst and Best

Most of the time we don’t even consider what is the worst that can actually happen. We assume the worst is something inconceivable because we are only paying attention to our feelings. Ask yourself what is the worst that can happen, and keep on asking, “And then? And then?” When we actually look at the worst that can happen, we realize that it isn’t so bad at all.

Then focus on what is the best that can happen if you do this, get crystal clear on the benefits of how this will improve your life. When you have clarity on the worst and the best, you will start to feel more motivated to keep pushing forward, because the best is almost always a million times better than the worst.

3. Challenge your thoughts

Most of the time you probably accept the thoughts that bombard your mind everyday as the truth, and worse, you act on them. Your thoughts come from your beliefs and your beliefs about the world were formed from your family, friends, and other influences in life. You have developed beliefs that support you and you have developed beliefs that don’t support you as well. If you don’t challenge your thoughts and instead accept them as the truth, you are setting your self up for self sabotage.

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Ask yourself; is this a fact or a belief? If it is a belief, challenge it if it isn’t supporting you.

4. Using images

This is a really powerful tool that is completely underutilized. Your mind actually responds much better to images and you might not be tapping into this. When you have no idea how something will work out or play out, you can imagine all kinds of scenarios, unfortunately mostly negative ones.

Find a quiet place and try doing this for 5 minutes. In your mind’s eye, imagine the outcome that you would love, see it in bright colors, hear the words you want to hear, feel what you want to feel.

If you can make this picture alive and see the outcome you really want, your mind will start to calm down immediately. Try it!

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5. Talk about it

Lastly, talk about it! We all share similar fears and there is a wealth of advice out there to help you move forward. Don’t suffer alone. When you talk about your fears, you release the negative built up energy and so you will automatically feel better.

Don’t give into something that you really can control, you have more strength inside you then you know. It is better to face your fears now and enjoy the reward than to give up on your dreams and face that later.

More by this author

Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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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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