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What You Should Do When Facing Fear

What You Should Do When Facing Fear

As humans, we are each unique. In fact, each one is so unique that we possess our own fingerprints. There is no one just like you.  As humans, we are also very similar: We all experience the same range of emotions. All around this world of ours, joy, sorrow and even fear are shared experiences. You are not alone when facing insurmountable fear. Read below for a few guidelines of what to do when you are gripped by fear.

Define Your Fear

When fear strikes, we often get the “deer in the headlights” syndrome. Fear has a way of paralyzing us. One cannot think clearly while looking through eyes of fear. Many times we avoid situations due to fear, and yet we haven’t even defined what about the situation is causing us to be alarmed. Rudyard Kipling states it well in this quote: “Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.” Next time you are facing a situation and fear moves in, dissect the reason you are afraid.  Don’t turn away from what is happening; instead, expose the reason you are afraid.

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It may surprise you that you were wrong about the real cause of your fear. For example, you may want to make a big change in your life, such as a career switch or relocation, yet you are held back by fear.  Are you afraid of consequences? Are you afraid of others’ reactions to your choices? Are you holding on to fear of the unknown? Once you begin to understand where your emotions are stemming from, you will be able to address them more clearly and move forward.

Look Straight Ahead

When I first began to drive, I was petrified of passing 18-wheeler trucks on the highway. My anxiety would rise when I would come near them. One day while driving with a passenger, he sensed immediately my fear of trucks. A simple sentence he said changed the way I drive, and actually the way I handle fear. He said, “just look ahead, focus on what is in front of you and don’t look at the truck next to you. Simply, look ahead!”

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What a difference it has made when I need to pass trucks; now instead of looking to the right, seeing the truck (my fear), and feeling the nervousness, I simply look straight ahead in my lane. The fear has subsided and my driving has even improved. When facing things that cause you to fear, look straight ahead. Don’t look around at what is causing you to be fearful. Focus ahead, travel on, and conquer your fear.

Stretch Yourself

For you to move beyond your fears, it is vital that you begin to stretch yourself.  Once you know what is causing you to be afraid, you can begin to implement ways to dispel your anxiety. For example, if you are afraid to speak in front of a large group and yet your new position requires this, begin by taking small steps. Join a local organization that trains people to give speeches. Gather a few of your friends and family around and give a speech.  Find ways to move out of your comfort zone and move fearlessly toward freedom. Jack Canfield said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”  This is so true. Who would you be if you let go of your fear?

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Don’t Be Held Back

What fears are holding you back? It is important to understand that whatever you are afraid of holds you captive. You could be experiencing so much more joy, peace and freedom if you tear away from the chains that bind you. You can learn to master the fear that is currently mastering you.

Don’t allow yourself to wallow in anxiety. Rise up and become your own hero and take hold of the reins of your life. This is a simple, yet complex thing to do.  We are creatures of habit, and it seems so much easier to remain in the condition that we are in than to conquer the things in our lives that keep us down.  I promise you though, your life will take on more meaning and possibility than you have ever experienced.  It is so worth it!

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Replace Your Fear

Anytime you are trying to improve an area of your life, remember: One can not just remove a negative factor without replacing it with a positive one.  Those haunting, scary voices that create fear inside your mind need to be replaced with words that chase the fear away.  Our self-talk mandates so much of our day-to-day dealings with the world.  In order to move beyond your fears and limitations, you need to talk to yourself with words of comfort and hope.

After analyzing the reality of your fear, you will be able to speak to those fears and replace them with truth. Replace your fear with an exercise related to your fear and  break free. Whatever it takes, whether it be baby steps,  taking deep breaths, or finding an activity that grows you beyond your fear, do it.  You will be so grateful once you do. You will look back at how limited your life once was, and be able to compare it to your newfound abandon.

This is a short list of things to do when facing fear. I encourage you to take action today!  Don’t wait any longer. Don’t allow fear to control your life one more moment. Life passes by at a rapid speed; surely there is much more left to experience if you are brave enough to slay the giants in your life.

Featured photo credit: Hartwig HKD via flickr.com

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Charlene Tops

Charlene is a certified life coach who is passionate about writing, speaking and teaching.

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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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