One of the hardest things for many adults is learning how to fit in when life throws some kind of ‘change’ at them. Whether that’s starting a new job, taking the kids to a new school or even being the new guy at the gym, it can be hard not to feel like everyone’s looking at you.
This is something I speak to clients about a lot when they come to see me about hypnotherapy for confidence at my practise in London and Hampshire. The chances are everyone really is looking at you – and there’s no wonder you find it uncomfortable. From a paleo-ancestral perspective, whenever we go ‘out of the cave’ and see people or things looking at us we’re hard-wired to feel alert and uneasy – because ‘eyes-on’ meant that we were going to be eaten or attacked. So there’s still something in there.
Accept what’s going on
The answer is to learn how to accept what’s going on – and also to remind yourself that you won’t be ‘new’ for long. The first thing I would suggest people try is to understand the nature of how we look at things: most of the time we use what’s called foveal vision – you’re looking at what’s engaging you, you’re focused, and this is called foveal vision. But there’s another kind of vision called peripheral vision, which is literally about expanding your awareness and de-focusing your eyes. Instead of focusing on the five-to-nine bits of information that you can consciously focus on, by expanding your awareness you’re all of a sudden aware of everything.
Sportspeople play in peripheral vision so that they’re aware of everyone on the pitch – in fact, this excellent YouTube video of a baseball player being interviewed shows peripheral vision at its most incredible. It’s shot during a training session and when the ball is whacked towards him and is flying straight at the reporter’s head – without turning, the player sees it, catches it and saves the moment, all because of peripheral vision.
You can train yourself to do that and it’s worth the effort, because with foveal vision your nervous system is already likely to be in state of arousal; if you’re already nervous about being the new kid it’s going to be worse. If you’re in a state of peripheral vision, however, and more aware of what’s going on on a wider plane, you’re more likely to be in a state of calm. So as you go into the meeting or new office or whatever, as opposed to latching on to that set of eyes looking at you, in peripheral vision you see everything – tables, chairs, the office canteen, a window cleaner at work outside – and are less likely to pick up on that slightly overwhelming sense of threat/dread.
Free download can help
There’s a free download that we offer – it’s two hours’-worth of self-help tools and it’s totally free – and in that there’s advice on how you can learn how to use peripheral vision. It’s a very powerful technique that I use during hypnotherapy for anxiety and it helps bust that feeling of panic. In conjunction with a special breathing technique called Ha-breathing it can really help you get into a state of calm. The Ha-breathing technique, which is also detailed on the free download, is basically about breathing in for seven seconds through your nose, and then breathing out for 14 seconds through your mouth. Do that for a few minutes and apply peripheral vision, and you just can’t get anxious.
The other thing you can do if feeling stressed about being the new guy is to look at your internal self talk. What are you saying to yourself that’s causing anxiety? Whatever that bad narrative is, try changing it to a positive one, possibly using the voice of someone you admire like Barack Obama.
To make yourself feel more confident when talking to a bunch of new people, you can use a tip that former F1 presenter Jake Humphrey says he uses whenever he’s on TV, and that’s to be yourself plus 20 per cent more of you. Just amp yourself up a little bit – you can practise visualising yourself doing that and being relaxed.
Finally, another really easy tip for newcomers in any situation is to ask people questions. Almost everyone’s favourite subject is themself – just get them talking about themselves and you’ll quickly feel the focus fall off you and you’ll feel more relaxed. Learn some open-ended questions and you’ll quickly become more confident, because other people will be doing the talking and you’ll feel calmer.
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