Confidence Without a Crown

“Always act like you’re wearing an invisible crown.”

We’ve all heard something like this. The saying uses playful terms — I picture myself in all black wearing a tiny pink plastic tiara — to give way to a deeper, more complex topic. While this adage has innocent intentions to boost the reader’s self-confidence, it implies that though power is an abstract concept, something as trivial as a crown can grant power.

Have you seen those pranks on YouTube in which prankers huddle around a normal person adorned in black sunglasses and fancy attire, giving that person an immediate sense of importance? Fake “fans” (part of the prank) scream and take pictures, in effect creating a larger crowd. Soon, bystanders who are not in on the prank immediately assume the person is a celebrity and ask for an autograph or picture. It’s a physical, external phenomenon that invokes a sense of authority, relegating an average guy to the title of worshipped celebrity.

In the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, 24 college students were assigned roles and studied in the basement of Jordan Hall. Half of the participants were assigned the role as “guard” and half were assigned “prisoner.” While the experiment seemed incredibly trivial at first, with the participants themselves being doubtful, a power divide quickly began to create tension between the “guards” and “prisoners.” Ultimately, the guards took their roles to an extreme level, using verbal abuse to emasculate the prisoners. By being assigned an authoritative role, the participants assigned as guards changed their mindsets and perceptions of themselves. A title of power, “prison guard,” was those 12 participants’ crown.

More applicable to daily life, would it also be true that people who consciously identify themselves as intelligent, social, etc. actually manifest those traits? It is no wonder that self-confident people tend to be more likable. It’s because people who find their strengths and highlight them don’t need to imagine an invisible crown to be outgoing. Rather, they emphasize a part of their personality and are persistent, eventually creating a positive long-term image for themselves. This is a different manifestation of “power,” although in this case, a more fitting phrase would be “sense of self.” Possessing a positive self-image creates a persona in which you eventually become. While fulfilling an assigned role can be negative like in the prisoner-guard experiment, living up to your own aspirational image of yourself can be beneficially life-changing.