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Body Confidence Tips for the Zone of Self-Esteem

Unbeknowst to us, when we’re people pleasers, we have distinct body language in situations where our urge to please is activated.

We don’t hold ourselves straight whether we’re sitting or standing.

We might struggle to meet people in the eye.

We have ‘cowering’ body language or resigned facial expressions.

Our speech may be quieter and quieter or squeakier and squeakier.

We may start stumbling in our speech.

We don’t listen because we’re too busy labelling and judging.

We nod when we’re saying no!

We hold our breath and carry a lot of tension!

With this in mind, it’s important to be conscious, aware, and present and by adjusting your body in situations where you need to assert and represent yourself and where you ultimately want to come across as confident even if you’re quaking inside, you will actually help to ground you and support you in an assertive manner, which will help you to communicate effectively.

One of the things that I encourage BR readers and students to do, is to practice being cool, calm, and confident. Not only does this ensure that you plan for success instead of imagining the sky coming down and reflecting it in your body language, but it gives you awareness of your feelings and an opportunity to calm you.

I met up with a hypnotherapist friend (she’s also a psychotherapist, yoga teacher, and singer!) and I felt physically anxious. She told me to say, ‘I am safe. I am secure’, to myself, and lo and behold, the feelings calmed down and allowed me to focus. Each time the sensation kicked in, I said it and then it just stopped. There was no outer threat but I felt like it.

Now I reassure myself with that statement as well as BR favourite, ‘I always deserve love, care, trust, and respect.’ I feel a distinct shift in the way that I carry myself.

Remember that your feelings don’t always represent an actual threat or a projected outcome, so even if you’re quaking inside, reassuring you that you’ve ‘got this’ and showing that you’re going to be ‘street smart’ and look out for real threats, calms down the sensation and allows you to come across in a cool, calm, and confident manner.

Also remember that you’re not looking to have a perfect response and you learn from each experience.

Just because you haven’t said a sentence as you would like, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have the opportunity to self-correct. If you call you names internally and you’re impatient with you, this will affect your speech. If you stumble over your words, say to yourself, ‘It’s OK’. Do breathe – remember stress can cause you to hold your breath and that will affect your tone.

You don’t need to speak loudly but do speak clearly. Trust me, there are loud people that do not communicate clearly. Again, practice breaths and rehearse projecting your voice up a notch. Taking a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth, is not only relaxing and part of what people do to help them focus on their breathing for meditation, but it stops you from stifling your voice and gives your lungs more air at a time when you’re stressed. Shallow breaths will give you a ragged voice and cause you to feel stressy - ‘I am safe. I am secure.’ Don’t berate you because you will clam up. Practice speaking in front of the mirror and if there are certain words and phrases that bring out the mumbles or you think they come out strange, practice saying these. If in doubt, consider taking a confidence class or doing something fun like some sort of performing arts workshop or singing lessons.

Also remember that loud does not mean assertive. Some of the loudest people I know are some of the most insecure people I know.

Projecting confidence involves good eye contact.

If you don’t look people in the eye and it appears as if you’re talking to someone over their shoulder or that you’re deeply embarrassed or afraid, you will give off the wrong impression and may inadvertently come across as unfriendly and disinterested. Some people will wonder if you’re shady, even though you’re not. Now while some people may figure out that you’re shy or that there’s a lack of confidence, what you don’t want to be doing is expecting people to actively figure out where you’re passive while you remain passive because they’ll end up compensating for you. Shadier folk will perceive embarrassment and fear not only as an opportunity but it’s likely to be interpreted as you not believing in you / what you’re saying / what you’re requesting, plus they will interpret it as you regarding them as the ‘authority’ and/or more powerful person. They will assume that their needs, expectations, wishes, feelings, and opinions, are more important and that you agree with this too. You don’t.

It’s particularly important to make good eye contact in situations where your credibility and trustworthiness is paramount. You don’t have to be all wild eyed and staring them down but don’t appear to be cowering or looking down at your feet. Even if you look away, look back. If your eyes slip down, straighten up and look them in the eye.

Do sit up or stand up straight. Often we don’t realise how slouchy we are and I’m guilty of this. In situations where I need to step up for me, straightening up emboldens me plus it actually helps you to feel less ‘defeated’.

If you are cowering, it’s time to assess the threat level. Is it the situation or the person? What can you do to protect you? If you have a very strong physical reaction, it’s very likely that it’s your body’s flight reflex kicking in and it’s a visceral reaction. A number of BR readers have bumped into ‘covert’ abusers – they were desensitised to recognising abuse and so they didn’t see this person’s ‘chopping’ via their mental and verbal abuse for what it was. When they saw them even from a distance, they had such strong reactions that they had to bolt in the other direction. This is a good thing. This is an active response rather than passively ignoring the feeling and re-engaging with walking danger.

Become familiar with your nervous behaviour. Instead of my hands fidgeting, I tend to hold them together if sitting or clasp my knee, which feels comforting. Pay attention to what you do. If you’re nodding when you’re saying no, this may be confusing to you and possibly to the other person. If you slow down enough to be self-aware, when you feel the nodding kick in, you can try to hold it or step back / straighten up to change position and focus.

Try to keep your facial expression pleasant or neutral. I’m one of those people that strangers used to come up to me and say ‘smile’, which really gets on my nerves. I was often deep in thought and it wouldn’t necessarily have been about anything bad. That said, I have become aware that sometimes I look pissed off even though I’m not. I get my fierce on without realising it. Smiling and breathing is all it takes to make an adjustment plus again, straightening up makes a difference. But I'm not doing it for others - I'm doing it for me.

Try to lie flat for ten minutes each day. I think it was originally my chiropractor that recommended this but I've only gotten into the habit more recently. It's great for releasing tension out of your back, shoulders and neck, which all run into each other, but more importantly, it's great for relaxing the body and releasing tension. I use the ten minutes to chill out. If you tense up your body and then release it, you will also notice where you've been holding tension. The first few times you do it, you may be surprised at how much tension you have and remember, tension and unconscious responses to it, do affect your mood and stress levels. Sometimes I also meditate with the Headspace app while lying down.  Note - I am not a doctor and obviously if you have a wonky back or anything similar, don't do this!

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