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6 Ways to Break the Habit of Lying to Yourself

6 Ways to Break the Habit of Lying to Yourself


    “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
    • “I can’t stand it!”  
    • “I should be further along in my life by now”
    • “I don’t know how to talk to people.”
    • “They screwed my life up.”
    • “I’ll never find anyone like her again.”
    • “Things never work out!” 

    Do any of these types of statements sound familiar? Do you tell yourself things that you would never say to anyone else? If so, read this post if you want to help yourself separate fact from fiction and stop telling yourselves stories that just aren’t true!

    As a psychotherapist, it has often struck me how my clients who are completely honest to everyone else and would never even tell a white lie end lying to themselves all the time. Whether they think they are too fat, not smart or attractive enough, or think they are plain “losers,” they often have no qualms calling themselves names that they would never think of calling anyone else. I will never forget when one young, thin, attractive professional woman confided in me that she secretly thought of herself as “fatty,fatso” which had been the nickname given to her by her grade school classmates.Despite how successful and attractive she had become, her self-image was still stuck back in the distorted body image from grade school.

    Especially those who early on that were either told by family or peers that they were not good enough carry the torch for this type of destructive fictitious thinking. They find themselves not even questioning those unhealthy automatic labels they put on themselves, labels they would often never even dream of calling anyone else, and do not realize that are really just “story telling.” Despite the fact they think deep down they are fatally flawed and they are just “telling it like it is” to themselves, they have no clue how fabricated and far-fetched their tall tales are! To add insult to injury, when things go wrong, such as if a marriage falls apart or if they don’t get the job they wanted or even lose the one they had, they end up blaming themselves and seeing their failures as further proof that they are inadequate and somehow not good enough. These are the poor souls who would never even think of hurting anyone’s feelings although they freely hurt their own.

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    The good news is: These habits can be broken, no matter how entrenched they are!

    Here are five tips to stop the lying once and for all…

    1. Use the W.A.I.T. Acronym (What Am I Thinking?)

    Imagine a stop sign and ask yourself – “What am I Thinking?” Since irrational and distorted thoughts lead to anxiety and negative feelings, chances are you are telling yourself lies by exaggerating with “black and white” thinking. Furthermore you can ask yourself a second W.A.I.T. to dig deeper –“What Are Irrational Thoughts? Replace the fictitious thinking with fact.

    Examples:

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    “I can’t stand it!” could be replaced by “I have a hard time putting up with it, but I really can stand it since I am not melting into the ground!”   

    “I should be further along in my life by now,” can be replaced with “I am disappointed that I am not further along in my life, and I will use the lessons learned as stepping stones to move forward now.”

    2. Ask Yourself: Who are my Board of Directors?

    Who is putting those thoughts into your head? Are you renting space to people in your past or present who taught you these lies? At this point it is your choice to listen! For example, did you have a relationship that went sour and you were blamed for it? Did you grow up with parents who imposed a lot of “shoulds” on you with the well-meaning intention of raising you the best they knew how? Were you sensitive to peer rejection, criticism, or even disinterest, and do the words you heard still sting?

    This is time to stop renting space in your head to anyone who is telling you lies and honoring those “invisible loyalties” from the past that make no sense! Stop keeping the lies on life support.The truth is, even though they might be figures form the past, they never really left.No matter if you are 28 or 82, these messages can be persistent! It’s time for eviction!

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    3. Write Down Your Big Whoppers

    Take a piece of paper and write out the fictitious whoppers you tell yourself that pull you down. Differentiate between fiction and fact. Choose now what to believe. Then, on another paper, write out the more rational messages that are more factual. Remember, stick to the facts, not interpretations!

    4. Throw the Lies Away

    Once you identified the fictitious messages and write down the more factual alternatives out on another piece of paper, crumble the paper of the lies and throw them in the trash where they belong. Or how about taking a match and burning them? They have no use in a world of truth and reality  – and isn’t that the world you want to live in?

    5. File Your Facts

    For each of the rational messages you write to counteract each lie, copy each one to a separate file card. I encourage you to refer to them often, laminate the cards with clear contact paper, and carry it with you in your wallet or purse. Refer to them often to keep yourself on track so you are moving ahead rather than staying stuck in the Land Of Oz!

    6. Forgive Yourself for Past Mistakes and Regrets

    When you live with one foot in the past, you will likely tell yourself all sorts of things that are not really true, and might call yourself names like “stupid” or “loser”. No one gets out of the land of “woulda coulda shouldas” with self- esteem intact. Try to use the past as a hitching post rather than a guidepost, reminding yourself that nothing ever changes in the past. Reworking the past never really works, because the past stands still. Forgive yourself for not having the foresight to know what you know now in hindsight!

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    If you choose to stop telling yourselves lies and stick the facts (and not interpretations) you will truly think straight and feel great!

    (Photo credit: Businessman with Growing Nose via Shutterstock)

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    Judy Belmont

    Mental health author, motivational speaker and psychotherapist

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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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