First Impressions

Despite all the times I’ve been told how important it is to make a good first impression, I notoriously suck at it. Really, I should say it’s a (constant) work in progress, because I am (constantly) working on it.

I have a few things working against me from the get go. The first is occasionally crippling anxiety. The second is an often overwhelming sensation of self-doubt. The third is a horrendous case of RBF, or Resting Bitch Face, which causes me to look perpetually angry and unapproachable even though I’m probably thinking about kittens or debating whether or not to stop for Starbucks on my way home. And the fourth is my voice, which harbors a naturally “harsh” pitch. So, in short, I’m a mess.

But, due to a recent promotion at work and some positive changes to the way I treat my mental health, I’m on a kick to try and “improve” myself, and one of the steps I need to make is getting better at first impressions. I’ve even been practicing my handshake, which is already much improved!

I’ve been told by people that I am now friends/acquaintances with that they were “intimidated by” or “afraid of” me when we first met – which, if you know anything about me, is absurd. I’m about as intimidating as a Jigglypuff. This is me, when angry:

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Not scary at all, right? Of course, that’s partially my own impression of me, which is skewed. I suppose that I make bad first impressions because I look and sound mean, unless I make an effort to actively soften or mask the rough edges of my personality. Combine that with anxiety, and it’s a recipe for disaster. For the record, I’m all in favor of the “be yourself” mentality. I’m not ashamed of who I am as a person in general. But when being myself is prohibiting my ability to network, make and maintain friends, appeal to readers, or do my job effectively, then maybe there are some things that need a bit of tweaking.

In my self-improvement efforts, I have been practicing my eye contact when speaking to people, especially when first meeting them. I usually avoid this like the plague, but I’ve been finding it much easier as I do it more often. This has helped to soften the blow of the other factors working against me. However, it’s more difficult to rein in the “RBF” because it’s the natural state of my face. To combat it, I’ve been attempting to be more attuned to what my face is doing when I’m around other people, and especially when speaking to others. I don’t want people to think I’m bored with what they’re saying because of my face, when oftentimes, I’m genuinely interested. So I’ve made an effort to be more aware of the rest of my body language as well, such as my posture and arm-crossing/whatnot, so if my face slips, at least the rest of me appears engaged.

I also try to be more aware of my tone of voice. As the unfortunate bearer of a distinct, naturally monotonous alto with a dry sense of humor, an affliction many other women also suffer from, I have been making a concerted effort to add inflection and enthusiasm into my voice, in proportion to what I’m saying. I sort of think of it as adding invisible emojis to my sentences. Again, I don’t think of it as being “fake.” I think of it as trying to accurately project what I’m feeling or what I intend to convey without being sabotaged by the natural state of my voice/face, and I do think it helps me improve how I come across when meeting people. I don’t want constructive criticism to sound like lambasting, or genuine compliments to sound sarcastic. At least, until I get to know people enough that they become aware of and understand my idiosyncrasies.

And, of course, one of the most important parts of making a good first impression is… earning the chance to make a second, or third. Or, if first impressions go awry, working on making the second one better, if possible. Get knocked down, get back up. Keep plugging away at the things I need to improve. I am a big “catastrophiser,” as in, my thoughts continually stray into “worst-case scenario” territory, but I’ve been getting better at not giving up at the first misstep, and forging ahead instead. Stare fear and anxiety and “what-ifs?” in the face, then stomp all over them.

If anyone else has good first impression tips or advice, or have faced a similar struggle, I’d love to hear from you!

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

 

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Stress

Stress is my mortal enemy.

…Well, stress and woodpeckers, but the former occurs far more frequently than the latter.

I am always curious to know how others folks handle their stress, because I struggle with it and have yet to find a solution that sticks, especially now that I’ve more or less kicked my caffeine addiction (3 cups a day is my max, now) and can’t rely solely on coffee to soothe my nerves. I know coffee should have the reverse effect – for me, it’s more of a tranquilizer than a stimulant. It even makes me fall asleep.

I envy the “water off a duck’s back” kind of people, who don’t let negativity and pressure get to them – or, if it does, they are able to channel it in a productive manner or not show how badly it irks them. If I go into a day with a smile and good intentions, one stressful situation can throw me totally off-course. My fitbit often starts registering an accelerated heart-rate when my stress levels bubble up, and my natural expression is one of anger – I’m not even mad most of the time, but I assume it’s just my inner stress making itself known.

I guess those fidget spinner things that recently popped up are meant to help with that sort of thing; to assist with stress and anxiety. I tried it out, and let me tell you, it made me even more irritated. And when I see someone using one in public I feel the intense urge to slap it out of their hands. However, I used to carry a stress ball around in my purse and and it worked pretty well if I was on the go, especially while waiting in line at the grocery store or whenever I was forced to be in the presence of obnoxious children. Or adults. Recently, I’ve discovered shimmer pillows – and they are SO SOOTHING. I have no idea why or how it works, but I find them extremely calming.

Stress is a good thing sometimes, because it does, in a way, show dedication and perseverance. It shows that you care about doing a good job, or that you want a certain outcome and are bothered by the aspect of failure. But in large doses, it is a detriment – a productivity-killer. A blood-pressure raiser. Because in the throes of stress, it’s all to easy to plummet down the negativity slope and end up wallowing in a pit of frustration and despair, surrounded by “What ifs?” and worst-case scenarios.

I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to channel my stress and negativity into something productive or useful, and I’ve had some minimal success thus far. Stress often manifests itself into discouragement, for me – which, as a writer, is a total killer. But I’ve found that forcing myself to face my fears and confront the stress instead of hunkering down into a ball of blankets and waiting for it to pass, opening up a blank document and pounding out a free-write or some new chapters instead of throwing my hands up in failure, is the way to go. Stress is natural – I’ve faced the fact that I’ll never get rid of it entirely, because it’s just who I am. But I can learn to adapt and handle it better than I have in the past, and I’ve resolved to do just that.

And thus, I am curious – how do you handle stress?

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

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