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5 Ways Guilt Negatively Impacts You

5 Ways Guilt Negatively Impacts You

I once thought I was depressed for my entire life – it turns out I was just Catholic. While I’m no longer Catholic, my guilt is. Confronting this guilt and learning to move past it was one of the most important steps to success I ever took in my life. Morality, ethics and compassion are important human traits, and, while guilt can also be valuable, it shouldn’t be the driving factor motivating you to be a good person. There are a million reasons to be a good person, and “to make up for a bad deed” is the least altruistic. Here’s how guilt negatively impacts your life. 

1. Guilt Affects You Physically

The feeling of guilt can weigh you down – it’s a gateway to regret. Both emotions start to weigh you down over time when not properly addressed. If you don’t immediately confront your guilt, it piles on, and can physically make you sick. Not only that, it negatively impacts your life decisions. You’ll eat less healthy, exercise less and slowly deteriorate over time.

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It’s not just physical health; guilt affects your physical body language, including your walk, stance and facial expressions. It can distract you from proper hygiene; and your wandering mind can cause you to miss minor details when getting dressed, such as leaving your fly down or tucking your shirt into your underwear.

2. Guilt Impedes Success

It’s hard enough getting a job or promotion with your fly down and your underwear showing. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that you’ve been wasting your time thinking about all the “bad” things you’ve done to people instead of keeping up to date on the latest info in your field. Can you think of one successful corporation or person who never made a decision that hurt someone?

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If you can, you’re wrong. Hurting someone may not be the intent, but the more people your decisions affect, the more impossible it becomes to make a decision that doesn’t hurt someone. It’s not possible for President Obama to make any decision that helps everyone without negatively impacting anyone. That’s how success works – you have to be cutthroat, or you’ll never achieve it.

3. Guilt Makes You Punish Yourself

In nature, brute strength, speed, and other physical attributes determine your survival. Human society is different in that intelligence and invention can overcome physical mismatches. As we evolved, we created organized religion as a way to protect ourselves. Someone bigger than me could kill me, but he’s unlikely to do so when faced with the possibility of being tortured in the afterlife by someone bigger than he is.

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Over time religion evolved, but the essence is unchanged. We’re trained by many religious teachers and practitioners to punish ourselves for crossing moral lines. Why punish yourself with guilt though? If you’re doing something wrong, you’ll be punished in the afterlife anyway, so you may as well enjoy the short lifespan you have before eternity.

4. Guilt Changes Your Personality

When you’re wrapped up in guilt, you may feel like you’re the same person, but people perceive you differently. Over time you become hardened, and some people will tell you this is called maturing and growing up, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

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It’s a fallacy that you can’t maintain the same level of curiosity, pleasure and excitement you had as a child throughout your entire life. You don’t have to be sour, overly-careful and judgmental to be an adult. Drop the guilt.

5. Guilt Ruins Your Life

Everyone makes mistakes – despite our best intentions, nobody makes it through life without harming someone. I’m not saying you should intentionally harm people, but you do need to accept that your actions could harm people. You can’t please all the people all the time, but if you’re overly worried about the negative impacts of your actions, you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities.

Instead of sitting on the sidelines playing it safe, learn to focus on the positive impact of your actions. When you focus on the greater good, you’ll feel much more fulfilled.

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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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