Or: Faking It Until You Become It
Body language, although non-verbal, is a huge part of how we communicate both amongst humans and with other species. If a dog bares it’s teeth at you, chances are you understand that dog does not want to be snuggled (unfortunate, but true). If a person checks their phone every 30 seconds and stares around the room while you talk, you can gather that your story telling abilities may not be as vivid and engaging as you had imagined them to be (and you may be in the presence of a rude person, but this is also gleaned nonverbally).
There is however, a flaw in our understanding of body language and physiology, and it is our perception that there is only one audience for these behaviors: other people. This is mistaken because the first and foremost receptor of your body language is you.
This is something that has factored heavily into the Tony Robbins seminars I attend and helped me greatly with depression and anxiety. To fully understand, let’s pause to watch a TED Talk from Amy Cuddy of Harvard Business School.
Your Body Language Shapes Who You are | Amy Cuddy
In just two minutes, your physiology can not only shape your mood but physically change your hormone levels. “Power posing,” or holding yourself in a characteristically more “alpha” stance, raises your testosterone levels and lowers cortisol in our bodies which indicates raised confidence and lowered fear and discomfort. I was particularly fascinated when she mentioned that even blind competitors, who’ve never actually seen someone win in their life, will assume the same position upon winning a competition as a counterpart with sight.
So we know what the poses are, but we also know they look a bit cartoonish. So the only question that remains is how can we use that in our every day life?
Start at home. On your way out to a meeting or have a stressful day lined up? Start with the priming ritual I describe in Becoming A Morning Person and try focusing on the things you are grateful for from a power position. Combined with the breathing routine that snaps you into state and the gratitude you feel this can be a powerful set up for your day.
Conditioning. These are not one and done actions that will change your life. Power posing before one job interview does not a CEO make, but conditioning these behaviors into a method of calling forth the emotions and actions you associate with them will give you a powerful tool to bring your best self to the table.
As Amy says, and as I quoted in the title of this post, other people are not the only ones watching your physiology and actions. Every seemingly unconscious thing you do, down to your posture, can have an effect on your brain chemistry and behavior.
As someone who struggles with depression, I some times wander around grinning like an idiot with my shoulders thrown as far back as I can get them until I feel better. And guess what? I feel better. Hunching over, shallow breathing, furrowed brow, what if these are not only “symptoms” of worry, sadness or discomfort but play a roll in creating those feelings? It stands to reason that if power posing can create positive change the opposite can be true as well. I’ve found if I’m upset, the worst thing I can do for is let my body fall into that position and keep me that way.
Adapt, adapt, adapt. Something we did at the Tony Robbins 6 day Date With Destiny seminar we attended was create ourselves a “power move.” This can be just about any motion that you associate with winning, confidence, or generally crushing it. (Mine is something like a double low fist pump – a la Tiger Woods x 2 – with a little wiggle, for anyone who’s interested.) Everyone worked themselves up into a peak state (through music, jumping, shouting, etc.), then yelled YES while doing our chosen move over and over again until we came to associate it with positive and powerful feelings in our bodies.
Sounds weird and a bit cult-y? You betcha, you should see a room of 5,000 people doing it at once – hilarious. Does it work? Better than anything. Everyone in my family has a “move” as does my boyfriend who attended the seminar with me. Mine is a bit impractical in public as I tend to look like a spaz doing it. Because I work hard to avoid that out of the house, I also have a modified version on deck that works just as well (a little less wiggle). I’ve conditioned this action to turn nervous excitement into confidence and enthusiasm, so my body reacts even doing the half version that reminds me of the full motion, but is only for me to notice.
As an introvert in extroverts clothing, I tend to feel myself shutting down after tons of stimulation and interaction, or getting shy before a meeting or phone call. Doing my move or power poses “bring forth” the Rory I need to get sh*t done and the attitudes and behaviors that side of me embodies is my tool to be effective in situations I’m not entirely comfortable in.
So tell me what you think! I was excited to write about this for you guys in the New Year because as I’ve said this is something I do all the time that I have seen great results from. Do you think you could work this into your life to build confidence and get results?