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When I was young I used to think that reading body language would open a whole world to me. It was a world where I could better understand people, ace job interviews, or know if my date liked me or not.

The funny thing is, during my training to become a certified movement analyst, I soon learned that reading body language was  a really useful skill. But it was less about knowing what other people were thinking, and more about making sure my movement was aligned with my genuine self.

But let’s talk about YOU for a moment. As someone who knows the benefits of reading body language, I can tell you that paying attention to your own body language is essential to feeling authentic and communicating what you really want.

Is your body language good or bad? And what does that even mean? More important, why does it matter TO YOU?

As a movement analyst, I’ve spent a good chunk of the past ten+ years watching people move – reading body language from all walks of life. But before I jump into today’s discussion, I’d like to make one thing clear:

There is no singular definition for any particular gesture or movement.

That’s because movement is complex, cultural, and personal. Your movement changes depending on your mood. It also changes depending on your environment.

You see a woman crossing her arms. Try reading her body language. Maybe she’s upset. Or uncomfortable. Maybe she hates men or her boss.

Maybe she’s just cold.

You don’t know unless you ask her.

Still. No matter what she’s feeling, she is sending a message through her movement—whether it aligns with her reality or not.

That, in a nutshell, is why you should care about your body language.

It’s why you should take some time to mind your movement, and ask yourself these important questions:

– What are you saying through your movement?

– Are you saying what you want to?

– Is your body language a reflection of who you really are?

In too many instances the answers to those last two questions are: NO.

And that makes me sad.

Your body is a powerful part of you. But society keeps reducing it to a size or shape. People worry that their clothes reflect their true self while forgetting that their body is the ultimate medium for personal expression. Want to feel like the real you? Want to have confidence and connect better with others? Focus on your movement.

Not sure where to start? I’d begin by making sure you’re not making these most common body language mistakes.

5 Body Language Mistakes

Nobody wants to be a liar. Yet you may be deceiving your true self from the world without even knowing it.

Body Language Sin #1: Sinking, Forward Head

Smartphones. Computers. Long commutes. Forgot your glasses? Too much TV?

There are a lot of reasons you get sucked into forward head syndrome. Our hyper-focused world draws our attention forward. And when we don’t recuperate from that constant pull it’s easy for the head to get sucked forward and down, too.

Why it’s a problem:

For starters, it’s not really attractive. But maybe you don’t mind looking like a hunchback.  So beyond your appearance, consider how it affects your health.

Forward head pulls your alignment off. You know how dangerous it is to drive a car with bad alignment? Well, alignment matters for your body, too.

Consider these other issues that come with forward head syndrome:

  • Nervous tissue damage
  • Strained vision
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Decreased mobility
  • Decreased bone density (hello, Osteoporosis!)
  • Increased fracture risk
  • Reduced lung capacity
  • Herniated discs

…and more (source and source).

Yikes. Bad for you health. And bad for your message.

Reading body language:

The passive, downward pull of the head can communicate a few things. People may see it as a sign of depression, failure, lethargy, apathy, or giving up. The forward pull can translate into being disconnected, ungrounded, or unstable. As the head pulls away from the rest of the body you lose your expression of confidence and competency.

Want people to see you as someone who is engaged and empowered? Mind your head. Ignite your alignment.

How to fix it:

Imagine a beam of light coming from the ground. It travels between your legs, and up through the spine until it reaches the top of your head. Let that light shine through the crown of your head all the way to the ceiling.

Next, carefully place a finger into each ear. This is the same level as the top of your spine. With your fingers still in your ears, imagine your head balancing on the top of your spine. Rock your head back and forth with ease. Slowly let it come to a neutral position. Check that the chin isn’t jetting forward. Imagine you have eyes in the back of your head. Make sure they are seeing the world, too.

Now find a trigger. Something you do throughout the day. It could be logging onto Facebook, when you wash your hands, or anytime you walk through a door. Let that trigger remind you to check in with your head. Is it forward? Or is it aligned?

Interested in reading body language? Want to make a better first impression and find your inner confidence? Stop making these 5 body language mistakes.

Bad Body Language #2: Retreating Heart

It makes sense that so many people struggle with this body language issue. Our world has become very isolated. Sure, we can connect with anyone at any time online. But our human interactions have reduced in both quantity and quality.

The physical manifestation of that isolation is apparent in your retreating heart.

Slumped over shoulders? Tight pecs? The rib cage collapsed or closing inward? These are all signs of the retreating heart. Take a look at people as they talk to others. How often do you see a passive heaviness of the upper torso? How often do you feel yourself pull back in security instead of opening out?

Why it’s a problem:

Many of the same health risks of forward head are seen with a retreating heart. That because the two often come together. Our body compensates the forward thrust of the head with a backward thrust of the upper torso. In this sense, this “issue” serves a purpose. It keeps up from falling over.

But that “service” comes with some nasty side effects: Decreased lung capacity, shoulder tension, and spinal misalignment are the most obvious offenders. With them come all that other unpleasant stuff. Things like increased risk for fracture, osteoporosis, and more.

Reading body language:

Your body may be telling the world you have a heavy heart. Sadness, depression, and feelings of being overwhelmed. Weakness, apathy, laziness are also possible expressions.

And maybe you are feeling those things. Understanding body language is NOT about putting on a brave face when you are feeling blue. It’s not about lying to the world. If you need to express that sadness, by all means, live it fully.

The problem is when past events/emotions turn into ongoing habits. Maybe the sadness was overwhelming years ago. If you don’t know how to restore your body back to its natural state your message remains unchanged. People are no longer seeing the real you. They only see the scars. Plus, you’ll find that those postures can affect the way you feel. Want to cheer up? Lengthen the spine and open the heart.

How to fix it:

Start by making sure your head is really aligned on top of your spine. Now imagine the area between your two shoulders. In your mind draw and line from one shoulder to the other, making sure the heart doesn’t fall behind that line. Next, imagine your heart opening up to the world in front of you. Don’t pinch the backside of your torso, though. Instead, let both the front and back open and expand. Be 3-dimensional. Take up space. You’re worth it.

Not So Good Body Language #3: Missing Eye Contact

I get it. Sometimes it’s hard to look someone in the eye. There is a vulnerability that comes from it. As the “window to our soul,” it can be difficult to make that sort of connection.

Still, eye contact can be one of the most powerful tools for expressing a more real version of yourself.

Reading body language:

Too little eye contact can bee viewed as being deceptive. You may be expressing disinterest or disrespect. The lack of connection reduces confidence in your abilities.

On the flip side, those who maintain appropriate eye contact are often viewed as being wiser. They’re seen as being more confident and self-assured.

Eye contact can also improve relationships. It fosters trust, loyalty, friendship, and intimacy.

Of course too much eye contact can be creepy and overbearing. You don’t need to stare your friends down. Improving your body language isn’t about following rules. Rather, it’s about noticing tendencies and retraining patterns. Remember, there is something powerful about looking someone in the eyes.

How to fix it:

Notice and change. It’s that simple, and that difficult. Begin by noticing your tendency for making or losing eye contact. Notice when you are the one speaking, and when you’re the one listening. Notice when it’s most difficult to maintain eye contact. See if there are any patterns for disengagement. Make a conscious effort to look people in the eyes, particularly when you are talking about something meaningful to you. Talk to someone you trust, and practice. Ask for their feedback.

Body Language Problem #4: Low Energy

Ever find yourself typing “lol” only to realize that you aren’t actually laughing?

Like at all.

I do it all the time. It’s easy to throw around emoticons. It’s more difficult to express emotions physically.

Most folks I interact with these days are pretty low on energy. Don’t get me wrong, everyone’s nice enough. But the expressive variance is minimal. We’re become something of a monotone society.

Why it’s a problem:

We are emotional beings. Your feelings are a powerful inroad for personal connection. When you lose your ability to express the variations of life, you lose a part of your humanity.

Plus, it’s just that much easier to detach from the real world. Why interact in person if the online world feels more exciting? Ever talk to someone who droned on about something without even a hint of energy?

Did they make you want to be lifelong best friends? Probably not.

From business to personal relationships, low energy can deaden everything. You disengage. Your mind wonders. You become forgettable. You forget.

How to fix it:

I’m not suggesting you become a peppy 16-year old cheerleader. Energy is not the same things as being loud. Increasing your energy is less about the amount and more about the variance.

Consider filming yourself while telling a story from your childhood. Just tell it like you normally would. Then film it again and play around with some energy variations. Play with fast and slow timings. Try keeping your attention directly focused and then more expansive. Add pitch inflections. Play with different hand gestures, the size of your gestures, and the impact of those gestures. Stand firm on two feet and put some weight into your words.

For fun, try on different “characters.” Be a pirate, a fairy, a drill sergeant. Notice the different qualities that come to your voice and movement.

Notice what feels natural and what doesn’t. Then replay the video and see what looks natural and what doesn’t. You’ll probably be surprised by how interesting the higher energy version looks.

Remember, you don’t have to play pretend or become an actor. I want you to feel honest in your body language. The goal is to better communicate the real you. I’m guessing you’re a really interesting person. Don’t be afraid to show it in your movement.

Body Language Problem #5: Not Grounded

Nobody wants to live in a house that’s precariously built on top of two wobbly beams. There’s a reason we prefer solid foundations to sandy soils. We want our home to feel safe, secure, and grounded.

One of my pet peeves is seeing incredible people turn others off by their inability to be grounded.

What do I mean by “grounded”? Grounded people are fully supported by the earth. They are stable (and consequently more mobile). They don’t fight gravity nor are they a victim to it.

Grounded people keep their upper and lower bodies working in harmony. They know how to release their weight into the earth. The earth pushes back creating a beautiful tensile strength that keeps their alignment sound.

Reading body language:

Ungrounded people never seem to stand with their feet firm. They wobble back and forth from one leg to the other, pushing their hips out to the side. They tend to fidget or keep moving for fear of falling over.

Ungrounded folks tend to make up for their lack of grounding by adopting nervous habits. They aren’t solid in their sense of self. These are the kind of people who come off as “trying to hard.” Or like they don’t really know what they want in life.

If you lack a sense of grounding you can be seen as weak, nervous, inhibited. Some may think you lack integrity or the ability to create change. There is a constant sense of reaching for goals. But there feels like there is not enough push to actually follow through.

You’re a daydreamer, not a do-er.

How to fix it:

Unlike the other 4 body language mistakes, being ungrounded is less easy to assess and fix. You may not even realize you have an issue with grounding. Grounding is one of the fundamental principles in feeling confident and empowered.

If you’d like to improve your body’s ability to become and stay grounded, I highly recommend checking out my Inside Out program. I’m going to help you feel grounded, confident, and beautiful.

Check it out here.

Remember, your body is sending messages whether you are aware of them or not. People are reading body language – your body language. Tune into your movement and express the real for a better connection to others and life.

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