When Amy Cuddy, best known for her wildly popular TED talk, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, was 19, she woke up in the brain injury rehab ward of a hospital after a traumatising car accident.
“I learned that I’d been un-enrolled from college and that, after two days of neuropsychology tests, my IQ had dropped by 30 points. That mattered to me – acutely. I’d always been called gifted as a child and identified with being smart.”
The after effects of the accident had a huge impact on Amy felt in her own body.
“I looked physically whole after the accident, but I felt like an impostor in my own body. I couldn’t think or process information. It was like listening to people speak half in a language I knew and half in a language I didn’t understand.”
Amy managed to make it back to college, graduating four years after her pre-accident classmates. Entering the professional world of psychology, she unsurprisingly became interested in the effects of non-verbal communication, in questions relating to “power, confidence and self-doubt.”
“Our bodies can change our mind,” she tells Collective Hub. “When we think of non-verbal [body language] like posture, hand gestures and foot stance, we tend to focus on how other people will judge us. We forget the other audience that is influenced by our non-verbals, and that’s ourselves.
We brought people into a lab and asked them to adopt a ‘high power pose’ for two minutes a day, whilst monitoring their testosterone levels. From their baseline, it rose about 20 per cent – a hormonal change that configures your brain to be assertive, confident and comfortable.”
Since the overwhelming response to her TED talk, she’s released a book – Presence, Bringing your Boldest Self to Life out now through Hachette Australia – that details the process of bringing self-confidence to life through your body language.
“The opposite of powerlessness is power, right?In a sense that’s true, but it’s not quite that simple,” Amy explains. “That’s why my book, Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, is called this. Presence is a quality I’ve been researching for years. Occasionally, people mistakenly think I’m suggesting we learn to fake competence. But presence isn’t about pretending; it’s about believing in yourself and revealing the abilities you really have, by tricking yourself into accepting that you are capable.”
And considering the setbacks she experienced earlier in life, she knows better than most the true impact of projecting confidence, even when you don’t feel it.
“I don’t just study ‘imposterism’, I’ve experienced it. Now that I’ve written a book, I’m in a new world,” Amy says. “I know there are people out there who dream of being an author and here I am. Do I deserve to be in this space? Most of us will never completely shed our fear of being fraudulent, but accept those feelings and don’t let them stop you.”
HOW TO POWER POSE
– Before a nerve-inducing moment, whether it’s a meeting, public speaking gig or any big event, find a (preferably private) space to do a ‘warm-up’.
– Striking a power pose is all about expansion and openness. Whether you’re standing or sitting, hold your limbs away from your body and take up as much space as possible.
– If standing up, put your hands on your hips (this has been dubbed the ‘Wonder Woman’). Stand with your feet apart and never ankle-wrap. Your stance should feel as solid as possible.
– Use props if need be – rest your hands on a table, on the back of a chair or on a whiteboard. Anything that will keep your arms straight and strong and stop you from wringing your hands.
– If sitting, wrap your arms around the back of the chair and clasp your hands together – this forces you to open your shoulders and chest.
– Alternatively, sit back in your chair and put your hands behind your head as if you’re sunning yourself on a beach. Keep your chin up and level. Hold this position for two minutes and keep breathing slowly and deeply. Send a message to yourself that you’re powerful – you’ve got this!
Read the full story in Issue 31 and watch Amy’s TED Talk, ‘Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are’ below.