one of the best skills i learned while working in an office came at lunchtime but it was not food related.
after eating at my desk i took a walk. one day in fall 2012 i decided to give my daily jaunt a purpose: improvement. by that, i meant cultivating a sturdy, confident, and poised stride. although this idea seemed to come out of nowhere, i’d recently begun working with the note cards, so maybe they inspired me.
i held myself outrageously tall, but i was also relaxed, because it was just laps around the ‘hood. no one was out except the elderly and dog walkers, so the stakes were low. it wasn’t like running the test in a club on Saturday night.
i pretended to be amazing, which led me to think i was amazing, which led me to act amazing. i made eye contact with everyone (dogs included) and even smiled.
with time the walk became a habit and a game. it’s especially effective when i’m not feeling great, like confidence overdraft protection—kicking in when things get tight and sticky.
as i independently adopted a personal version of her strategy, Amy Cuddy, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard, presented a TED talk that went viral. "Your body language shapes who you are" demonstrates that we become more present if we feel personally powerful. when we’re connected to our thoughts and feelings, we relate better to other peoples’ thoughts and feelings.
specifically, the nonverbal messages you send yourself via posture improve self-image. Cuddy explains that “power posing,” standing in postures of confidence, regardless of how you actually feel, favorably changes your brain chemistry.
these poses lower the stress hormone cortisol and raise testosterone, the dominance hormone. examples of them include “Wonder Woman,” “Usain Bolt” (arms outstretched in a “V,” and what i call “Frank Underwood”—leaning on a table in front of you. in short, our bodies change our minds, editing our behavior, altering our actions, ultimately transforming our results.
these ideas came flooding back recently when a yoga teacher said, “joy is teachable” and insisted you can train yourself to feign happiness until it becomes reality. she conducted a highly unscientific experiment where she walked around smiling all day. by evening, after wandering LA on foot and bicycle, she’d lifted her mood to stratospheric heights. people smiled back, but that was nearly irrelevant.
because the common thread among these strategies—my confident walk, Amy Cuddy’s power postures, and my yoga teacher’s chronic smile—is how they affect you. communicating to yourself at a high, inspiring frequency works from the inside out. once we change ourselves, people will reevaluate their opinion of us.
Cuddy’s crucial point says it best, “focus less on the impression you’re making on others and more on the impression you’re making on yourself. The latter serves the former…” from her newish book on the same subject –Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.
if you persist and commit to faking it ‘til you become it…you will. if you don’t feel like it, pretend. imagine you’re someone else, that you’re being filmed for a TV show or movie.
if it feels artificial, remember it’s a tough, unusual job. you’re probably your worst critic and in charge of rewiring your brain. naturally it'll feel weird and exaggerated initially. Cuddy’s talk also addresses feeling like you don’t belong, so there’s another reason to watch. again, the strategies:
- smile to yourself. sometimes i just think of my deceased dog. anything will do.
- walk with confidence (real or feigned), making eye contact with everyone you pass (don’t get discouraged if they don’t look).
- hold power poses before difficult conversations and interviews
how aware are you of your posture? did you just sit up straighter? let me know in the comments!
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