We have all heard how important body language is in terms of communicating a message to others. If you slump your shoulders after a mistake, it is clear you are upset and frustrated with that performance. But what does your body language communicate back to yourself? Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard University, attempts to answer that question through her research findings. Cuddy starts with the concept of “presence” and how we first need to understand what presence is and how it can help or hinder us striving towards our goals. Her book, Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenge is about defining presence, identifying how presence and confidence are connected, and connecting our body language to both presence and confidence. Our last blog of this series discusses the importance of bringing confidence, even if we don’t quite believe it yet, into challenging situations.
Cuddy’s research became popularized through her TED talk called Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are, where she explains the research and science behind presenting ourselves confidently in challenging situations. Cuddy coined the term, Power Pose – which refers to pulling your shoulders back, arms on hips, head up, overall looking confident and owning your space, kind of like Super Woman. Based on the research, just two minutes of power posing prior to a challenging situation, increased testosterone and decreased cortisol levels in participants, which we know from our last blog helps us to perform better. “Expanding your body expands your mind, which allows you to be present. Taking control of your body language is not just about posing in a powerful way. It’s also about the fact that we pose in a powerless way, much more often than we think – and we need to change that.” Power posing gives us a tool to use when we feel afraid of the challenge in front of us. And by changing both our mindset and hormonal response in our bodies, we give ourselves a fighting chance to make the most of that challenging moment.
What captivated TED followers even more than the science and research behind Power Posing was Cuddy’s vulnerable confession that even she has felt like an impostor for the majority of her academic career after experiencing a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. Cuddy shared the advice she received from a mentor along the way: keep participating in class, keep presenting, keep speaking and someday, she will “fake it till she becomes it.” Years later when giving feedback to a quiet student at Harvard, she found herself giving the same advice, and realized she didn’t have to fake it anymore, she actually had become it. Everyone goes through rough patches, has a dip in confidence, or starts doubting their abilities or the outcome, but “fake it till you become it” gives us a sliver of optimism when we need it most. Cuddy heard from thousands of people including athletes and coaches across all levels and sports, students and teachers, business women and men, military personnel and veterans, and even parents, about how Power Posing and “fake it till you become it” has changed their lives. And while Cuddy gives them all the credit for initiating their change, both the research and antidotal evidence suggests that being present, standing tall, and confidently bringing our true self to challenges actually makes a difference. According to Cuddy, “The most commonly quoted line from my TED talk is “Don’t fake it till you make it, fake it till you become it.” That is what this is all about – incrementally nudging yourself to become the best version of yourself. Being present during challenging moments. It’s not about fooling other people to get the things you desire, then having to continue with the charade. It’s about fooling yourself, just a little bit, until you feel more powerful, more present – and it’s about keeping up the practice, even if it takes time to get there.” Check out our module on Building Rock Solid Confidence for even more tips and strategies to build and sustain your confidence.
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