They say first impressions are everything. But what if your body is saying something before you even open your mouth?
Our body language is our own personal narrative — it tells our story of how we’re feeling at that moment and maybe even how we are feeling about ourselves on a deeper level. I spent 3 months working with a body language expert to dive into my own mannerisms and habits and began uncovering, and rewriting some of the story my body was conveying to the world.
I set out to work with Karla Beltchenko of The Narrative Body to improve my body language for TV segments, but what I gained from our sessions seeped into my personal and professional life for the better. Not only did I begin noticing things I was doing, but I also started to take notice of other people’s body language and started being able to better read different situations just through observing the other person — something I feel like is a very powerful tool to have in your pocket for almost any personal and professional situation.
We’ve all seen the stories our bodies tell in action. The classic example that Karla reminded me of during our first session is the kid who shoots his arm up in class to give the answer versus the one who nervously half raises his hand, unsure of himself. Of course we are going to pick the one whose arm went right up because we know he knows the answer — his whole body is screaming it!
It’s so fascinating how our past experiences, things we’ve learned subconsciously, and habits we’ve picked up just by watching other people become part of the way we carry ourselves. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can turn into one of those habits or mannerisms that you don’t even realize you’re doing or not sure where you learned from. We all have them!
Something as simple as the way our toes are pointing or where we are diverting our eyes can subconsciously give the people around us messages about how we’re really feeling. We pick up on these little things all the time and don’t even know it — how cool right?! That’s basic human communication!
2019 was a great year on a lot of levels but at times I felt my confidence waiver in both personal and professional situations. Maybe it’s partly a working for yourself thing. Some days I feel super confident ready to spread my nutrition messages and creativity to the world, and other days I scrutinize every word that comes out of my mouth and second guess myself over and over again.
There were times last year when the comparison trap robbed joy from my life and put doubts in my mind that came out in the way I spoke and through my body language. Times when I wanted to stand out as the nutrition expert I am but felt paralyled by fear of self doubt.
This is my 3rd year doing nutrition focused TV segments, and have always noticed that I have a tendency to say certain filler words, make certain facial expressions, etc. Most recently I even started to notice that while in my mind I was confident about the words I was saying, I felt like it didn’t come out that way. I wondered why and I knew I needed to do something to learn more about the root of it.
Working with Karla was transformational for improving my body language confidence. Through our sessions I began rewriting my body’s narrative into one that matched the confidence I have inside me — it’s crazy how even standing in a more powerful pose can instantly convey to others those feelings before you even say a word! Something that is definitely important for TV segments if not more important in everyday situations.
As an entrepreneur I’m constantly meeting new clients, putting myself in sometimes uncomfortable situations for growth, and learning how to better communicate to strengthen my business and gain support and trust from my clients. That’s a lot of talking that my body, voice and the way I carry myself does before I say anything! And hey there are days when I’m not feeling my best, yet still need to be on for my job, so being able to snap into the strong and confident version of myself on days when I’m not feeling it is paramount too.
I’m a huge proponent of body confidence, and food confidence for women. We may not even know we’re holding on to a false truth that the media, our parents or strangers on the internet put on us until it comes out through the way we talk to ourselves and present ourselves to the world. The good news is if these things aren’t always positive you can take steps to fix them just by increasing your body awareness like I did by working with Karla.
In my case simply feeling more confident because I’m more aware of my mannerisms has shifted my energy, self talk, presentation skills and the way I carry myself for the better!
5 things I learned from working with a body language expert
- Your body is telling the story before you even say a word. Shoulders in your ears, hunched over, arms crossed and body turned away. Sound familiar? This is NOT how we want to show up to the world, but it happens. Then you say “I’m fine”, yet nobody believes you! This is because we believe what the body says more than the words coming out of our mouth. I’ll repeat. The body is telling the story of what’s going on before you say anything! This doesn’t mean we can’t be ourselves in a relaxed state, or that all emotions need to be hidden. However, making a few modifications in our physical body ( shoulders back, spine tall) can shift the way others are observing you and also flip a switch inside you to feel more confident and shine like your brightest self.
- Withholding the head nod is hard. Karla and I did an exercise during our first meeting that showed me just how much I nod my head in agreement with what someone is saying. Not only at one point, like I am a compulsive head-nodder at literally anything you want to tell me! This nodding is continually giving the other person the validation that what they are saying is exactly what I want to hear, which can be a good thing and not so great, depending on the situation. I learned one or two slower head nods could be more effective, especially on TV.
- Mind your mirror neurons. Maybe you’ve heard of mirror neurons before. They allow us to learn through imitation and enable us to reflect others emotions and body language. They are the way in which we pick up other peoples mannerisms and start doing them on our own. Maybe your mom always talks with her hands and you’ve noticed you do that too. Being aware of them can actually help us to strengthen our body’s narrative. One thing I started doing was watching other people who have a great TV presence and taking note of what they do with their hands, how they stand, and their facial expressions to mirror that when I go on TV.
- Tone it up or down. Voice tone can be such a powerful tool to communicate words we want to say in a certain way. Sure we know the basics, high pitched tone points towards excitement, whereas monotone can come across as boring. Think about using the dynamics in our voice, just like we would our body. (especially if you are spending most of your time on conference calls) Being able to match the pitch to our emotions where we want in what we’re saying changes the context of our words automatically. Harnessing this in the right way is key!
- Watch your toes. During our first session, Karla mentioned if someone is trying to leave a conversation or is checking out of the interaction, they will often shift the direction of their toes away from the person they are speaking with. Who knew?! We’ve all been in situations where we’re checked out of the conversation, just not feeling it or not into the topic at hand. In some instances, we don’t want the other person to know this or come off rude. So watch your toes or better yet, if you’re feeling a shift in someone’s body language take a glance down at their toes to get a clue into what might be going on.
If you’re interested in taking a closer look into your own personal narrative and improving your body language for the better, something I think every woman could benefit from in work and in life, learn more about working with Karla here: https://www.thenarrativebody.com/