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7 Powerful Life Lessons We Can Learn From The Writer Who Died Young – Marina Keegan

7 Powerful Life Lessons We Can Learn From The Writer Who Died Young – Marina Keegan

Untimely death is always tragic. When the promise of tomorrow is cut short, the one who passes away leaves their loved ones to pick up the pieces of their broken hearts and try to carry on with life. While this may be a major fear of just about everyone on the planet, there are powerful lessons that can be learned when it happens.

Here is one example.

Her name was Marina Keegan

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She was an aspiring writer who might have been able to be compared to someone like Maya Angelou one day. But Marina was killed in a car accident only 5 days after she graduated from Yale University. Words from her final essay in the Yale Daily News went viral after her untimely death:

“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want it life.”

What Marina accomplished in her short life is beyond extraordinary. She was going to begin an internship at The New Yorker and have a play of hers produced at an international film festival. She won numerous awards and critical acclaim. Her book The Opposite of Loneliness was published on April 8, 2014, almost two years after her death over Memorial day weekend 2012. And this is just a small snapshot into the amazing life of Marina Keegan.

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But as tragic as her story is, sometimes human beings learn the most during their darkest hours. So we all can learn from her life and death and carry these 7 lessons with us:

1. Don’t take anything or anyone for granted.

Why is it that people always assume that they have another tomorrow? And why do people sometimes treat their ones with such disrespect? It’s because they take life and people for granted. Yes, it’s easy to do. And yes, we all do it from time to time. But anyone who has every lost a loved one knows that every single day and every single person is precious. So remember that every day – not just when a tragedy happens.

2. You never know when it’s going to be your last day on earth.

We should appreciate and give thanks for every day we have here. Just because you are a young, beautiful, vibrant, ambitious, amazing 22 year old woman like Marina Keegan, that doesn’t make you immune to the fact that your life could be over at any minute. Not that I think you should live in fear, but if you gently remind yourself of that fact every day, then you will appreciate life and your loved ones much more.

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3. Appreciate every breath you take.

Breathing is so easy – except if you have asthma, COPD, emphysema, or some other respiratory ailment. But I’m not talking quite as literally about breathing. However, until you have not been able to breathe, you don’t know what it feels like. Appreciate every breath, every heartbeat, every smile, every day you can walk, and every day you go without pain. Appreciate your health. Appreciate this day. Appreciate everything.

4. Figure out your passion and follow it – don’t wait.

Marina was following her passion. She was a writer and destined for greatness. Let her life be a shining example of what you should become. And don’t worry – it’s never too late. Just because you’re not 22 anymore doesn’t mean that your ship has sailed. Find the courage to do what you love. If you don’t do it now, then you might not ever get the chance. Just like Marina.

5. Remember that loneliness and being alone are two different things.

While I haven’t read her book, I do think her concept of loneliness is an important one for us all to ponder. There are way too many lonely people in the world. But with that said, I think we first need to become our own best friend. For example, one of my friends always says, “I’m the best company I can be with!” And no – he is not egotistical at all. He is the opposite. He just has good self-esteem and genuinely likes himself. So he will never be lonely, even if he is alone.

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6. You impact people more than you think you do.

I bet Marina Keegan had no idea how much her life meant. She probably just thought she was a normal 22 year old who went to college and was following her dreams. But not only has her death impacted millions (myself included because am I writing an article about her now), but her life impacted so many other people as well. So while you might not think that you matter, you do. You matter. People are watching you. So make your message to the world a positive one.

7. You can always leave a legacy – age doesn’t matter.

You don’t have to live to the ripe old age of 90 or 100 to leave your mark on the world. I sure hope I do live that long, but it doesn’t matter how old it is when you die. If you live your life right, follow your passion, be a good, kind, genuine person, then that is all you need to do. Your positive example is enough to leave your footprint on earth after you are gone.

Thank you, Marina, for a life well lived. You did more in your 22 years than most people do in an entire lifetime. Your life mattered. And it’s because of you that we all reframe our own lives and appreciate it infinitely more. We salute and honor you. Your life serves as a model for the rest of us. And that is the ultimate compliment.

RIP, Ms. Keegan.

More by this author

Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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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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