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Useful Advice for Your 14-Year-Old Self

Useful Advice for Your 14-Year-Old Self

How many times have you mused about the wisdom you would have liked to be privy to when you were a teenager? If you had an opportunity to hop in a Tardis and scoot back to have a heart-to-heart chat with your 14-year-old self, what advice would you give (assuming that the younger you would listen)? It’s more than likely that we’d all have different bits of guidance that we’d share with our younger selves, but these are 14 tips that I’d personally try to encourage a teenage “me” to consider seriously.

1. You Are Amazing Exactly As You Are

Ignore what other people want you to be, expect you to be, or encourage you to be. There is only one YOU in the entire universe, and you’re perfect just as you are. Don’t try to act like someone else or look a certain way just to make others happy: just be the most authentic you that you can be. Period.

2. Start Doing Yoga Now

Trust me, in twenty years, your body will thank you a thousand times over for having established a solid yoga practice while you’re in your teens.

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3. Stay Present

Whether it’s through mindful meditation practice, keeping a stone in your pocket that you squeeze when your imagination starts to run wild, or through another technique that works best for you, learn to be in the present moment as much as possible. Let go of stupid crap as soon as it happens, and don’t dwell in “what if?” land: the past is ash and the future doesn’t exist. All we ever have is the current moment, so learn to inhabit it fully and you’ll never have to deal with anxiety about future events, or depression over what may have happened last week.

4. Stand Up for Yourself, But Also Stand Up for Others

It’s important to have a strong sense of self, but it’s just as important to be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves. This could be as simple as defending someone in your school who’s being bullied, or you might want to get involved in activism to help animals, the homeless, or a different cause that you believe in. Your voice carries far more weight than you can imagine.

5. Learn As Much As You Can

Knowledge can never be taken from you, and the more you learn, the more it will help you in life. Learn languages, learn to cook, to code, to can vegetables. Turn off the TV and go do some free classes, or read articles and books, or even spend some time learning from your grandparents. You’ll treasure this knowledge in the future, trust me.

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6. Ignore Other People’s Opinions About You

The only person whose opinion matters is you. End of discussion. Other people can think whatever they like, but just because someone thinks something, doesn’t mean that it’s true, or valid, or should have any impact on how you live your life. There may be people who think that the Earth is flat, but just because they have an opinion about a subject doesn’t mean they’re right, or that you’re required to share said opinion.

7. Love Deeply, But Also Know When to Let Go

Love is a beautiful thing, but people change, and so do intimate relationships. There will be many crushes in your lifetime; many opportunities to have incredible connections with people, and each relationship has its life span. All things come to an end, and it’s far healthier to learn how to let go with grace than to cling to something that’s unhealthy just because you’re afraid of losing it.

8. Keep People In Your Life Who Enhance Your Life

Just as it’s important to recognize when it’s time to end a romantic relationship, it’s also vital to realize that friendships can have limited life spans as well. People can come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, and they’ll grow close/drift apart like the tides. When relationships no longer work, end them with love and respect, and move on. Friendships can grow toxic, and it’s important to recognize warning signs of friendship deterioration, and act accordingly.

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9. Avoid Hazardous Situations

Don’t play red rover on train tracks at night, don’t have unprotected sex, don’t walk home alone after dark. Be sensible, realize that irresponsible actions can have dire consequences, and use common sense.

10. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

We all need help on occasion, and there’s always someone who’s willing to help you if you reach out to them. Never feel that you’re totally alone, especially when dealing with a difficult situation. It’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s more than okay to talk to someone you trust when you’re going through hell.

11. Try Your Best

This mostly applies to school, but it can also refer to extracurricular activities. High school sucks, but it’s over in a few short years, and what you do with your time there can have major influence on the rest of your life. Try your best to do well in your classes, switch schools if the curriculum and atmosphere in your current school aren’t right for you, and take advantage of opportunities as they come along.

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12. Travel, If You Can

If you have the opportunity to do a foreign student exchange program, do it: it’ll widen your worldview exponentially.

13. Be Kind

Remember that acts of kindness are remembered and appreciated for a lifetime. How do you want to be remembered by your peers? Think of amazing, wonderful things that others have done for you, and how they’ve made you feel, and then pay the beauty forward.

14. Remember That Sharing DNA Doesn’t Always Equal “Family”

For some people, the family that they’ve been born into isn’t anywhere close to supportive. Some are neglectful, some are cruel and abusive, and some try to be functional but just can’t be. Some people find their “family” as they move through life, while others are fortunate enough to be born into a group that they mesh with well. Treasure those whom you consider family, and never put up with any measure of cruelty from someone just because you happen to be related to them by blood.

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Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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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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