I was chatting to my running buddy; on one of our early looooong morning runs a few weeks back, about how our body language can tell a lot about our personality and how we are feeling.
The conversation was kick started by a few runners we past who purposely looked to the floor when passing us. The usual behaviour of runners is to acknowledge each other – if only for awareness that you’re both crazy enough to be out in all weathers!
But I found it fascinating how these runners were making a great effort to look down or busy while passing us - giving the 'impression' they were insecure within themselves to even say 'hello'.
It prompted me to think back to when I was a young girl and was very insecure.
I explained to my running buddy that when I was younger I had to deal with a lot of racism and what would definitely be considered hate crime today.
I mean it's not every day at the age of 9 your family receives a letter through their front door stating their house will be torched if you don't move out of the area. THANK GOODNESS things have moved on!
Anyway, naturally it was a scary time; I found it hard to trust people and it had a great impact upon my confidence and esteem. As a consequence, I picked up very quickly that I had to be aware of what messages my body language was giving out to others to help me become less of a target for verbal racism.
So at such a young age, I decided my only arsenal in my toolkit was to change my behaviour, that being my body language.
So I modelled myself on people I knew around me or on the T.V who were confident and were generally left alone by others. Wonder Woman and Mr-T were most helpful back then, although I loved the incredible hulk too, but I really wasn’t sure modelling myself on him was going to do me any favours! Ha!
I used to use a lot of what I learnt when passing people in the streets, especially groups. At such times, I made the conscious effort to always make sure my head was upright, my shoulders were back (never hunched forward) with my eyes always giving good eye contact (never dropping to the floor) and my facial expression always unread.
Although my heart was always thumping and my knees knocking, this adaption in behaviour always put me in good stead as my body language always read that I 'was secure and confident'.
As a consequence, I was generally left alone and if things were said it was from a distance - of which I'd suggest the person came nearer to tell me (they never seemed brave enough to do that though!).
What It Taught Me
Fortunately for me I don't have to purposely make an effort anymore to look braver or more secure than I am in preparation for such unsavoury situations!
However, what this period of my life taught me was that people can read you like a book and that if you're giving off lots of behaviours and messages that you're insecure, lack confidence or nervous, there are unfortunately people out there with TOXIC BEHAVIOUR that will take advantage of that.
So to help you keep such people at bay, here are 3 ‘I’m insecure’ messages your body maybe sending out and how to tackle them…
1. Avoiding Eye Contact
Okay, do you find it difficult to hold eye contact and often look away when talking to others?
How to tackle it: You’re not on your own; this is a biggy for lots of people too.
It can sometimes feel uncomfortable to hold eye contact with others when you feel unconfident or insecure. A really good way to prevent yourself from looking down or away is to break eye contact roughly every 5 seconds by moving around the other person’s face in a triangle motion.
For example look at one eye, then move on to look at the next and then to look at the mouth and so on. If you really do feel the need to look away; rather than drop your eyes to the floor, either look up or to the side of a person.
This simple cheat, gives the impression that you’re trying to recall something, rather than lacking confidence!
2. Hunched Shoulders
Do you often find yourself hunching your shoulders forward and towards each other?
How to tackle it: This can happen a lot when you’re experiencing stress and particularly when you’re feeling less confident. It’s just your body’s way of attempting to make itself look smaller than it actually is, so that you appear less of a threat to others.
A good way to tackle this is to remind yourself to adjust your shoulders to ensure they are out and back.
Taking slow, deep breaths is also another tactic as the deep breaths encourage your chest and shoulders to open wider, preventing the hunched over look and helping you to calm those nerves!
3. Crossing Arms And Turning Your Body Away
When nervous do you tend to cross your arms or turn your body away from people?
This used to be a tell-tale sign for me. I remember a concerned doctor I once worked with at the hospital asking me if I was okay. This was because I was so hunched over and had my arms wrapped around my body in protection that he thought I was ill! I was fine – I was just feeling out of my comfort zone at the time!
How to tackle it: Once again it’s just the body’s way of protecting you from feeling uncomfortable.
The best way to tackle this is to begin to regularly check in with yourself and scan your body to see where your arms are and the position of your body in relation to others.
If you notice your arms are crossed, uncross them and place them on your hips instead, or if you’re feeling really brave place them at the side of you.
If you notice your body is not facing the person you’re having a conversation with, make the conscious effort to adjust your stance so that you’re facing them.
Everyone tends to naturally leak messages through body language in their everyday goings on and even more so when they are feeling way out of their comfort zones.
As I’m sure you’re are aware already there are definitely more than 3 ways to display signs of insecurity. However, rather than knowing them all, it’s far more beneficial to be aware of your own personal signs.
So, are you aware of your own tell-tale signs?
If you’re not, don’t worry you’re not on your own it can be hard to detect what has become second nature to you. If you want to become more aware ask those around you, whom you trust to help you identify them.
The other option is to do what I once did when I was young, which in world of positive psychology is called ‘MODELLING’.
That is to identify the behaviour and qualities of those you admire and begin to practice modelling their behaviour when around people or in situations where your confidence feels challenged.
You may choose to start small, such as simply saying ‘hello’, rather than bowing your head when running! You get my drift!
The more you are able to identify your ‘OWN’ individual signs of insecurity the easier it is to practice minimising the impact it has on you and the messages it gives out to others.
Good luck :)