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Three Essential Questions To Ask Yourself En Route To True Love

Three Essential Questions To Ask Yourself En Route To True Love

Three Questions to Ask Yourself About Love

Whether it’s romantic, plutonic, or maternal, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” We’d love to be able to say “It ain’t so, Mr. Shakespeare!” but we can’t. And why can’t we? Why is love such a rocky path filled with more frost heaves than a New England road in the spring? Because too often we barely discover who we are before we become lovers, friends, and mothers. When we hitch our cart to another wagon without full knowledge of what we’re carrying or how that load will change once we’re on the road, we set ourselves up for a rough ride. This lack of understanding is a roadblock in love; a roadblock that causes us to reevaluate our relationships (particularly the ones full of frost heaves.) Before we can set our GPS for the best possible route, there are three basic questions we should ask ourselves at the start of our journey to love.

1. Who am I?

Before we can love someone, anyone, we must first know who we are, alone, as individuals. There are lots of great quotes out there that ask us to go one step further than this. Lucille Ball once said, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” According to her philosophy, we don’t just have to know who we are, we must love who we are. The reality is, though everyone loves Lucy, everyone does not love themselves. We may not embrace all of our idiosyncrasies. Who loves their love handles? That’s a tall order. We do, however, have to acknowledge them. Before we can be comfortable with someone else, we should know what we like, and what we don’t like, about ourselves.

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To understand who we are, we can think about what we like to do, how we like to treat people, and how we like to be treated. When there’s not a soul in sight, what lights us up? What music do we love? What excites us? What drives us? In plain words, what are we passionate about? Before we were someone’s partner, best friend, or parent, we were us. Like so many other journeys in life, love’s journey should start from a place of self-awareness.

2. Who am I With You?

Are we the same person we have always been when we are with our beloved? Do we feel as though we can “be real” around each other? Though we think, feel, and act differently around different people, do we think, feel, and act totally unlike ourselves when we’re in our loved one’s presence? Like prisms catch the sunlight, people are reflections of the light that pass through them. Do we shine our brightest when we are with our love, or do our find ourself overshadowed by his or her presence?

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Either way, the answer to this question leaves a lot to ponder. If we find that our authentic self shines brighter when we are with our special someone, then chances are it’s because he or she makes us feel like being ourself is okay. It’s more than okay. It’s expected. We are accepted for who we really are. On the the other hand, if we feel like our true self has changed out of a desire to please or appease who we’re with, then it’s time to reconsider whether this relationship is dimming our light and suppressing our genuine personality.

3. Who are We Together?

“Who are we together?” is an essential question in relationships. Do we help each other to be happy, healthy people? Do we encourage each other to be caring, emotionally sound individuals? Unfortunately, it’s not an easy question to answer. It’s not as simple as asking ourselves, “Are we good together?” When we love someone, lots of things feel good. This question goes beyond feelings. This question asks, “Are we good for each other?” Are the things that make us who we are “good” for the person we love?

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To answer this question, it will help if we identify which role we play in our relationship. The world is full of givers and takers. If we’re a giver who’s in a relationship with a taker and that works for us both, then great. More often than not, a giver will give until there’s nothing left; but if a taker doesn’t learn to appreciate what’s been given and give back… do we even need to say it? Really, if two takers come together, we have bigger issues here than awareness. Focus on survival.

Think Over Your Answers

If by asking ourselves these simple questions we have reaffirmed what we have always known about who we are separately and together – congratulations! Reflecting on our character and how the people in our life help us to express our individuality will make our relationship more meaningful. Realizing that we have made a healthy choice to love someone who loves the real us increases our appreciation of him or her. If the answers to these questions aren’t what we wanted to hear, think about them. Does the problem lie within ourself? If so, do we want to change? Does the issue come from who we have become around our loved one? Can he or she accept us?

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If the breakdown comes from who we are as a couple, can we become better for each other? Can we learn better ways of nurturing our differences rather than letting them divide us? Relationships, at heart, are about how two people relate to each other. It’s about compromise. Compromise is when two people concede something. If one person makes all the concessions, that’s not much of a compromise, is it? The course of true love may not run smooth, but this doesn’t mean that we should steam roll over each other in the process.

“Love is the goal, life is the journey” – Osho

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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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