At a time when our ancestors shared the planet with woolly mammoths and oversized tigers, no one wanted to get left behind. Group inclusion was necessary for survival. Today, our greatest predatory threat is our own species, both physically and socially.
Regardless of this threat shift, the need for acceptance—and the fear that we won’t be accepted—remain powerful influences on our thoughts and feelings. In fact, this in large measure fuels the existential anxiety that has become the hallmark of a generation, driving everything from people-pleasing to co-dependence to over-sharing on social media.
In other words, while our brains have evolved, that part of it that believes we must ensure we are included in our tribe, no matter the cost, is alive and well. It’s commonly referred to as our lizard brain.
The lizard brain is a physical location at the base of the brain. It’s called the amygdala, and it’s related to, among other things, our survival instinct, our fight or flight instinct. It tells us we need to slow our roll and not get too far out ahead of our pack. Because without our pack to protect us, our very lives are in danger.
This part of the brain causes much of our people-pleasing tendencies. It prods us to do what everyone else is doing so we don’t alienate anyone. It encourages us to hold back and not outshine others lest we are rejected.
So you can see why so many of us constantly fight our fear of what others think of us. It’s only human.
But, there is good news. We don’t need to just throw up our hands and give up, fated to always bow to and fight those in charge. We can change our brain’s pathways, making the lizard brain less prominent in our lives, decisions, and actions.
Neuroscientists have discovered that our brains are malleable. Neuroplasticity is the official term for our ability to form new connections and neural pathways in our brains by changing our reactions to daily events.
First, by noticing what people, words, and situations trigger our lizard brain. What makes you feel unworthy? What makes you respond to going along with the crowd even when you don’t want to?
Next, become aware of your emotional response to the trigger. But instead of judging the emotion (I shouldn’t feel this way. I should be grateful I have this job…) just notice it with curiosity.
This is simple, but not easy to do, so be gentle with yourself. Keep practising, and you’ll be amazed at the shift that occurs in your life.
Making a great first impression
This isn’t always easy, but it’s well worth attempting as much as you possibly can. To help you make it happen more often, here are three simple rules you should always follow. While they are not the only great advice on making a good first impression, they are the things that will have the biggest impact – whether you get them right or wrong. I suggest you get them right 🙂
Rule #1 – Dress To Impress
Pay attention to what you’re wearing. This may seem very superficial, but that’s what first impressions are all about. They are a first, quick judgment based on things like appearance. Overdress just a little if it’s an important first meeting like going to a job interview or meeting the future in-laws for the first time.
At the very least make sure that what you’re wearing is neat and flattering. Don’t go crazy and when in doubt go for something somewhat conservative. You can always let your personality shine after you’ve made that great first impression.
Rule #2 – Be On Time
Another very important thing to remember is to always be on time. It makes you look prepared and reliable. But there’s another important reason for this. The world is made up of two types of people. The first group is a stickler for time. Being late is one of their biggest pet peeves. The other group has a more loose interpretation of being on time and doesn’t mind waiting for someone for a few minutes, or being late themselves.
The problem is that you never know what camp the person you’re about to meet will fall into ahead of time. So be prepared and make sure you get there on time or even a little early. It’ll look good no matter how the person you’re meeting will feel about time and it will definitely keep you from making a bad impression with a time stickler.
Rule #3 – Think Before You Speak
Last but not least, think before you speak. It’s easy to get nervous and just prattle on about anything and everything. It makes you look nervous and silly. Even worse, if you don’t think before you talk it’s very easy to put your foot in your mouth. Trust me, I’ve done it plenty of times. It’s not a good feeling and definitely a quick and easy way to ruin that first impression.