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How Self-doubt Destroys and What You Can Do to Stop It

How Self-doubt Destroys and What You Can Do to Stop It

Doubt sneaks into our lives slowly and gradually until suddenly we realize that it has consumed us. Doubt can interfere with even the best of marriages, sever the most talented career trajectories, rob the most brilliant creativity and shatter the most dedicated of drives. How is it that the seed of doubt alone can take down so much? Here are four important spheres of your life in which self-doubt can destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to create, and how to beat it.

1. The newlywed

Doubt about marriage is a proven harbinger for unhappy matrimony and divorce. As common as prewedding jitters may be, UCLA psychologists found that newlyweds who reported doubts before their wedding were two-and-a-half times more likely to be divorced four years later. Those doubters still married after four years reported being significantly less satisfied with their marriage than those who didn’t experience doubt. Once the seed of doubt is planted, it is nearly impossible to ignore. No evidence exists that problems stemming from doubt in a marriage ever go away – in fact, such problems have only been shown to escalate over time. As the trust is lost, so is the relationship.

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Marital satisfaction varies from culture to culture and is largely dependent on the couple and the associated social support system they marry into. Some cultures help to prevent the risk of doubt by eliminating the opportunity for separation. In cultures where divorce is not a seemingly viable option, the question of “Will this last forever?” is not even a consideration. As a result, doubt is seldom a factor and these couples tend to experience longer-lasting marriages.

What can we learn from these cultures? Remember that you made a decision to spend your life with someone for sound, rational reasons. Your choice was logical, it is only your doubt that is worth questioning. Second-guessing is nearly impossible to prevent, but easy to overcome. The key is awareness. If you are able to recognize that doubt is our mind’s natural tendency to double-check that we are making sound decisions, then you are in the driver’s seat. You can choose to digest the emotion and remember the logic behind your choice. You are in control, not your doubt.

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2. The artist

For the creative, self-doubt is enemy number one. A creative needs to express, not impress. If expression can inspire, resonate and uplift, the audience will respond with rewards in many forms, be they remuneration, accolades or applause. The key to fulfilling and purposeful art is to let the beauty and the emotions drive you, not to be distracted by how the work will be interpreted or received. If you allow the audience’s response to distract you, doubt will inevitably creep into the creative process and that will slowly but surely kill the artist in you. You are an artist – that’s all that matters. Trust your intuition and people will respond to your bravery and uniqueness. Let the finished product speak for itself.

3. The entrepreneur

Self-doubt can destroy the entrepreneur, who needs confidence to endure the highs and lows and the hesitation of others. Doubt diverts your attention from the necessary persistence it takes to succeed. Even if your innovation fails you, it is still worth a lot as you gain experience, and that experience serves as the seed for future triumph. As an entrepreneur, you are also setting the tone for all of your employees, whom you are asking to have faith in your guidance and ideas. Trust your talent. Be a solution-oriented thinker. If you foresee an issue in your business, don’t let self-doubt overwhelm you. Instead, develop a solution and move on.

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4. The athlete

The marathoner can’t doubt her ability to cross the finish line, the pitcher can’t second-guess his fast ball, the quarterback can’t hesitate before passing the ball for the game-winning touchdown, and the wicket-keeper can’t doubt the techniques he uses to take the fielder’s throw and create that extra fraction of a second needed to run the batsman out. Self-doubt enables failure to become the inevitable. As an athlete, train until you have the confidence to win. Train enough that the doubt is no longer a factor. You have the ability to eliminate doubt by knowing that you’ve worked as hard as you can, that you’ve given it your all. Don’t think about what others are doing or how they will perform. Know yourself, trust your talent and know that you’re giving it all you’ve got.

Learn to doubt your doubt

We doubt so many facets of our lives, often without even realizing it. Sometimes we see dangers that are not there. Oftentimes, it isn’t until we’ve let doubt fail us that we “suddenly” realize what is broken. We fail to notice the gradual nature of doubt, and allow it to consume so much of our routines. Slowly, gradually, and then suddenly, doubt squanders us. Awareness of this habit can help prevent the devastation caused by self-doubt – recognize it and make a diligent effort to combat the uncertainty.

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Learn to doubt your doubt. Having confidence in your doubt leads to more distraction and less productivity. Questioning your doubt can lessen its crippling impact and help you to regain focus. It is so easy to stop yourself before you even try. Be mindful of this habit and work diligently to break it. Remember that you have the control to overcome self-doubt. Always, always, doubt your doubt.

Featured photo credit: Christine Heidel Photography via flickr.com

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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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