Good Mental Health

Have you ever been in a situation that makes you so uncomfortable you break out in a full body sweat?

There’s nothing worse. You meet someone new and, all of a sudden, you feel self-conscious, or intimidated, or embarrassed and it happens. 

The getmeouttahere psychological response that quickly turns into the you-can’t-miss-it physical response: sweating, squirming, shifting, suffering.

That happened this morning at middle school orientation.

We showed up at 8 AM to pick up the schedule and meet the teachers. Starting with home room, we began the rounds of introducing ourselves, shaking hands, and making small talk. As my husband and I chatted and joked with the adults who would be molding and shaping our child for the next 9 months, my son became more and more uncomfortable.

Brow glistening, shirt sticking to his back. Then, the squirm.

One teacher even said, “He must be feeling shy today.”

I felt so bad for him. But then I realized, his parents (cough *us*) missed a golden opportunity to pass on some critical life-skill information.

Meeting new people and making a strong first impression is a skill that we use throughout our lives. In the first ten seconds of meeting someone, before our brains even have time to register a thought, we pick up a myriad of subtle and not-so-subtle cues that automatically click, forming our first impression of that person. When we feel the urge to “squirm,” it’s usually that unconscious scrutiny we are noticing, causing us to feel more self-conscious than usual.

But there are things we can do to project calmness and confidence. Using non-verbal cues like body language, posture, and appearance, we can communicate a lot without saying a word. We can send “the urge to squirm” packing by delivering a strong and lasting first impression. Everyone, no matter what age, can appreciate that.

For kids, school orientation is a great day to talk about, model, and practice our people-meeting skills. I share these ideas so that maybe you can take better advantage of this learning experience than we did!

5 Ways to Project Confidence: 

Wake Up Early (or at least on time)- When we give ourselves enough time to intentionally prepare for our day, we feel more in control. Getting showered and dressed, eating breakfast, choosing clothes that are appropriate for the occasion, and feeling good about our appearance sets the stage for the day. Take some time to think about how your appearance communicates your intentions.

Check Your Thoughts- If we expect to have a bad day, we will. If we expect to have a good day, we will! The best thing we can do before meeting someone new is to tell ourselves we are expecting a good experience. In order to get what you want, first you have to know what you want! Order up good experiences, and expect to receive them.

Good Posture and a Non-Creepy Stare- Feeling like my grandmother right now, but…Stand up straight! Look people in the eye! Put the phone down and be present, the text can wait! Okay, my grandmother wouldn’t have mentioned the phone, those came after her time. But the rest is all true. Standing up straight, shoulders back, and maintaining eye contact communicates confidence. (Putting the phone down when you’re with other people is just good manners.)

Smile- A smile makes you appear friendly and approachable. Not that we have to walk around with a goofy grin plastered on all the time, because that’s disingenuous. I like to think of a smile as a gift. Gift your smile to someone you meet by delivering it warmly and sincerely. Let it start in your eyes before it even reaches your lips.

Firm Voice, Firm Handshake- There is nothing worse than making someone guess about what you’re saying. Worry less about what you’re going to say (Hi, I’m _______ doesn’t require a lot of rehearsal) and more about communicating clearly and effectively. A firm voice and a firm handshake communicates that you are comfortable taking up space in the world, that you know you are valuable, and that you deserve to be acknowledged.

Can we talk?

  • Have you practiced social skills with your kids?
  • If so, what did you do? How did it go?
  • Do you have any tips on teaching kids how to introduce themselves to each other or to adults?

Please share! I’d love to hear your experiences.

Wishing everyone a successful start to the new school year!

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