A reader asks for help in dealing with extreme facial blushing that she feels is not only undermining her confidence, but her ability to be taken seriously in her job.
We hear from two experts to understand both the psychological and physical factors at play.
I am regularly required to give presentations as part of my role and am generally comfortable with it mentally, but physically my body has other ideas. Despite not feeling particularly nervous I suffer from extreme facial flushes which spread quickly to my neck and chest and are a terrible source of embarrassment for me.
Not only does it make me appear nervous to my audience, which distracts from what I am saying, I believe that subconsciously it gives the impression that I am unconfident and perhaps even belittles my senior position within the company. Are there ways to manage these flushes or is it something I just have to learn to live with?
Fiona Brennan of The Positive Habit, thepositivehabit.com
I am sorry to hear of how your body reacts to presentations. It is unusual that you say you feel generally comfortable with public speaking so I can imagine how frustrating the flushes are. It presents a paradox and it is my job to help you to understand it better.
The person who notices your flushing more than anyone is you; you would be amazed at the things people don’t notice as they are so wrapped up in themselves.
Your body is giving you a message and it is important always to listen to what your body is saying. It is tricky to answer this without knowing more of your history but the first thing that occurs to me is that you may have been someone who blushed as a child or a teenager and then grew out of it. Your subconscious mind will recall that feeling and when we speak in public, even if we are not consciously nervous, on a very primal level we feel that it is a threat.
To be the centre of attention and have the entire group focus on one person was seen as a genuine threat to our survival, it generally meant we had done something wrong and the chances of being expelled from our tribe would have been significant. Being expelled from the tribe meant that we would not survive. Every time even the most confident of us get up to speak in public on a deep subconscious level we are reminded of this.
When you genuinely care less about the impression you are giving and focus on the message of what you are saying, you can blush and it won’t bother you.
I recommend that you accept the facial flushing completely. It sounds counterintuitive but it works. Through acceptance, the very thing you want to happen for it to stop, will. The person who notices your flushing more than anyone is you; you would be amazed at the things people don’t notice as they are so wrapped up in themselves.
The less you care, the less it will happen. It sounds easy and on one level it is. Accepting that your body is trying to help you to survive – even if the message is confusing, out of date, and not helping – is the first step to taking away the power you feel the flushing has over you. When you genuinely care less about the impression you are giving and focus on the message of what you are saying, you can blush and it won’t bother you. You clearly have carved for yourself a strong career and that did not happen by chance. Consider the idea that all good leaders are strong enough to show vulnerability. You can check out the work of Brene Brown who is the queen of vulnerability.
I hope this helps and I wish you continued success on every level.
Dearbhla Lyons, V. Claire Natural Cosmetics, www.vclaire.ie
Our skin is an endocrine gland meaning that it is full of receptors susceptible to hormonal fluctuations. The release of adrenaline in these presentations could be causing a cascade of electrical impulses in the system which effect the circulation and in turn the capillaries are dilating, reddening the skin. This is obviously an internal response so trickier to conclude the source but the following questions should be considered:
-If you are male or female as hormonal affects do differ.
-Your age. Menopausal affects in women must be taken into consideration as flushing can be a part of it, pre, during and post.
-Do you have any known skin conditions? Has this always been the reaction of your skin or is it more recent? Rosacea may be a possibility, which is a skin condition affecting the skins capillaries (mainly facial and ophthalmic).
There are certain factors that can make flushing worse and they are all the usual suspects of today’s inflammation inducing habits! Refined sugars, processed foods, hot drinks and stress can all play a part. External factors that may weather the skin e.g. sun, wind, cold, heat, tap water (if pH balance is too high) and using incorrect cleansing, exfoliating and moisturising products for your skin type can also impact, plus the overuse of acids.
Seek a skin therapist who will ask the right questions to get a clearer picture of the root cause. Only then will you begin to understand your own skin. Many specialists don’t ask the questions to discover the cause, they just issue a prescription for the end effect, so it’s important to find someone who listens!
Facial treatments and home care regimes (which are very simple) are so important: as much for the mind as they are for the skin.