Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

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In the heat of conversation have you ever found your mouth going dry, your palms starting to sweat and your brain struggling to put together two simple sentences? Completely deserted of confidence, perhaps you were left feeling powerless and full of self-doubt. And it was only hours later you came up with the perfect insight, the witty comeback or the cutting retort you knew the moment required.

Let’s face it, when it comes to confidence sometimes you probably have it … and sometimes it probably completely deserts you. And while it seems we all have moments of feeling like we’re about to be discovered as the impostors we fear we are, Professor Amy Cuddy at Harvard Business School has found that by simply expanding your body you can feel more confident, less anxious and self-absorbed, and generally more positive.

If this sounds too good to be true, we highly recommend this TED Talk where she explains her research and shares the small two minute intervention you can use to improve your confidence. You might also find this article challenging some of these findings interesting, and Amy’s response.

What Will You Learn?

[2:04] Researchers have found we make sweeping judgments about others from their body language. And those judgments can predict really meaningful life outcomes like who we hire or promote, or who we ask out on a date.
[3:37] The nonverbal expressions of power is about expanding and opening up – you make yourself big, you stretch out, and you take up space. Consider the winner of a race crossing the finish line, their arms go up in the V and their chin is slightly lifted.
[4:55] When you feel powerless you do exactly the opposite. You close up. You make yourself small. You don’t want to bump into the person next to you. Women are much more likely to do this kind of thing than men. Women feel chronically less powerful than men.
[7:57] Powerful people tend to be more assertive and more confident, more optimistic. They actually feel they’re going to win even at games of chance. They also tend to be able to think more abstractly. They take more risks. Their testosterone levels are higher and their cortisol levels are lower than people with less power. Lower cortisol indicates they are not as reactive to stress.
[9:37] Amy’s research has found that adopting a high-power pose for two minutes can give people a feeling of power and confidence, by increasing their testosterone levels and lowering their cortisol levels.
[15:35] Amy suggests by adopting a power pose of confidence you can ‘fake it till you make it’. Do it enough times until you internalize it and become it.

What Can You Try?

How can you start expanding your body? Amy suggests trying:

A two-minute power pose like Wonder Woman (we find this best done in a bathroom stall or somewhere private).
Taking the time for a full starfish stretch in bed when you wake up in the morning.
Keep your shoulders back and your chest open when presenting and sitting in meetings.
Set posture reminders for yourself to spread out.

Want More?

Visit Amy’s website
Grab her best-selling book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.
Or read more about her ‘power pose’ research.


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