Strike a Pose: How to Be More Confident and Less Stressed

About two years ago I watched a TED talk by Amy Cuddy on body language and how it can affect nearly everything in your life.

Your body language shapes who you are (TED)

Her talk was on power poses.

That is, a pose that put you in a state of feeling powerful.

Think of the standard “boss-like” poses

  • Sitting with your legs up on the desk
  • Standing with your arms on your sides
  • Holding your arms out and opening your chest

The thesis behind her talk was that these poses can fundamentally shift your brain chemistry, resulting in more confidence and a better ability to deal with anxiety and stress.

Now, if this is true, and I happen to believe that it is, it comes down to two primary hormones:

  • Testosterone
  • Cortisol

You’ve heard of these two, I’ve talked about them on my podcast, but lets look at what they do on a very basic level.

Testosterone

Testosterone can be thought of as the hormone for aggression, sex-drive, and going after what you want.

It can be found naturally in both men and women, and it’s one of the main causes when you are feeling confident.

Cortisol

Cortisol can be thought of as the stress hormone. It’s the thing that causes us to freak out about everything around us.

Each of these hormones are powerful and can change our lives if we are able to utilize them but in the right combination, they create a wonderful blend that can’t quite be matched.

In an article on this topic titled “How to Be Confident and Reduce Stress in 2 Minutes Per Day” by James Clear he writes

Higher levels of testosterone (in both men and women) lead to increased feelings of confidence. Meanwhile, lower levels of cortisol lead to decreased anxiety and an improved ability to deal with stress.
Here’s what that means: if you enjoy these hormone levels, then you are biologically primed to be more assertive, confident, and relaxed. At the same time, you will be less reactive to stress and more likely to handle pressure situations well. In other words, the correct hormone levels can make you feel more confident and less stressed.

Yes the correct hormone levels can make you feel more confident and less stressed, but said another way it means that the correct hormone levels can create a version of you that is primed for performance.

Imagine this…

You have a job interview coming up. You’re nervous, this job would change your life.

You’re pacing around the room. Taking deep breaths, but nothing is working…what if they don’t like you? What if….what if….agh!!

Yeah, we all know how that feels.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could press a button and become your most confident self? Primed for action? Ready to kick ass and take names?

That’s what power poses claim to be able to do.

By simply standing with your hands on your waist and taking a few deep breaths, you can trigger the flow of testosterone to your brain and reduce the amount of cortisol.

In other words, you can shift the balance.

This is great but here’s the best part.

It actually works pretty well.

Think about it, when was the last time you felt pretty confident? You probably walked with your chest a bit more open, your arms comfortably at your side, you sat up a little straighter, spoke a little louder.

Your body naturally did these things because your brain had the right balance of chemicals.

But thanks to a little thing called the mind/body connection it turns out that it can work the other way as well.

That is, by having your body act a certain way, it triggers your brain to find the right balance of chemicals to match.

Here’s the original Harvard Study for your own reading pleasure and I encourage you to go through it, but this is a powerful thing for those of us who want to improve our lives.

So much of what we do is based on how we feel, and so much of how we feel is based on what we do. This is something that most of us don’t actively try to control….but if we could…what would that do for our lives?

Could we get ourselves to go to the gym even if we don’t feel like it? Could we smile at a stranger even if we aren’t happy? Could we put in that extra bit of work even when we are tired?

The truth is, I don’t quite know. But I think that the true magic behind the “power pose” concept is in understanding that our body affects our brain just as much as our brain affects our body.

So rather than just waiting for your brain to create the right balance of chemicals for you to feel a certain way…sometimes it’s possible to act as though you feel that way in order to get your brain to make it so.

And that puts the control over how we feel squarely within our own hands.

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