Recently, someone I was talking with told me how she prepares for a job interview. Picture this if you will: she stands in front of a full-length mirror posed as Wonder Woman- hands on hips with elbows out at her sides, head tilted slightly up and at a wee angle, and with her chest puffed out. She puts an egg timer on and gives herself a pep talk for an entire two minutes while maintaining this pose. And judging from the incredibly powerful positions she has acquired in her working life, I decided to learn more about the art and science behind ‘power posing’.
Power Posing 101
Power Posing is the brainchild of Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy who did a fabulous TED Talk about it in 2012. She did a study in 2010 on the effects of “power poses.” The study found that subjects who were directed to stand or sit in certain positions — legs astride, or feet up on a desk — reported stronger “feelings of power” after posing than they did before. Even more compelling than that, to many of her peers, was that the research measured actual physiological change as a result of the poses: The subjects’ testosterone levels went up, and their cortisol levels, which are associated with stress, went down.
She went on to write a book called, Presence, in which she explored the benefits of mimicking the body language of powerful people.
Here is more about the book from an excellent article I found called, The ‘Power Poses’ That Will Instantly Boost Your Confidence Levels:
Cuddy suggests that our attitudes often follow from our behaviors, as opposed to the other way around. That means assuming the body language of a powerful person can make you feel confident. On the other hand, shouting, “I’m awesome!” requires first a substantial attitude shift, which most of us know isn’t so easy to make.
In the book, Cuddy puts power posing in the broader context of what she calls “self-nudges,” or small tweaks to your body language and mind-set that can produce psychological and behavioral improvements in the moment. She borrows the term “nudge” from economists and psychologists who discovered about a decade ago that you can spark significant behavior changes by nudging people in the right direction.
Power-posing is an example of what Cuddy calls a “body-mind nudge.” Body-mind nudges, she argues, allow you to skip over psychological stumbling blocks, like trying to believe that you’re awesome, confident, and perfect, when you clearly don’t believe that at all–at least not right now.
Cuddy writes: “Body-mind approaches such as power posing rely on the body, which has a more primitive and direct link to the mind, to tell you you’re confident.”
What’s more, Cuddy says, adopting the body language of a powerful person changes the way other people see and act toward you, which in turn reinforces your confident behavior.
“When our body language is confident and open,” she writes, “other people respond in kind, unconsciously reinforcing not only their perception of us but also our perception of ourselves.”
As the Universe tends to keep sending us similar messages from multiple sources in order that we actually take in the lesson to be learned, I also happened to be reading a book by one of my idols, Queen Latifah, called Put On Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom, in which she describes how her mother taught her to stand up straight and hold her head up high and look people squarely in the eye by making her spend hours walking around the house with a heavy book on her head. This is her own ‘power pose’ and all you have to do is watch Queen Latifah act, sing, or anything else, and you are instantly convinced that she learned the value of power posing at a very early age.
Here is how she describes it in her book:
To get me through my awkward phase my mom started teaching me how to walk with a book on my head…These small moments we had together ended up having a huge impact on my self-esteem because they taught me how to walk tall… It was a simple thing, but mastering that strut was a blessing…it was a big boost to my sense of self-confidence, power, and pride…I walked around like I had an “S” on my chest. There is something about moving through the world with your head held high that says, “I am proud to be who I am.” People react to you differently. They see you. You project this idea that you are pretty damn special, and the rest of the world gets convinced by your body language…This was a prideful, elegant walk that screamed, “Hey, world, I’m ready for you!”(pp. 47-48).
Start doing your power pose today and try to do it for two minutes each morning for a week and see what shifts.