A few weeks ago, I watched Amy Cuddy’s inspiring TED talk for the first time. If you haven’t seen it before, you should go watch it now. (Go on! I’ll wait for you to come back.)
In case you didn’t take my advice, here’s a basic synopsis: the talk explains the implications of Cuddy’s most famous study, which reveals an unexpected relationship between the way you carry yourself and the way you feel. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the relationship is not a simple one-way street. Rather, it is a feedback loop. Not only do your emotions affect your body language, but your body language also affects your emotions.
I suppose you could call me a big fan of Professor Cuddy and her work. Ever since watching her TED talk, I’ve launched into a cascade of books about nonverbal cues, and I’ve evangelically promoted the video to friends and family.
To understand why this video means so much to me, there’s one thing you have to know: I have a bad back. You see, my spine is bent and twisted from kyphoscoliosis, which makes it physically and mentally exhausting for me to do things as simple as standing up straight. I have to constantly remind myself to muscle my back out of its natural state. By the end of the day, I’m usually tired and achy. But if I didn’t put in the extra effort, I would hunch over like a wilting plant. So, I spend an inordinate amount of time minding my posture because my back doesn’t let me forget about it.
Even before I even heard Amy Cuddy’s name, I forced myself to endure the pain of standing up straight. But I had trouble staying motivated. I had been conditioned to pursue good posture because it would make me look more attractive, it would help my breathing, it would make people perceive me as more confident, etc. All that is nice, but Professor Cuddy has given an much more compelling reason: good posture could actually make me become more confident.
If you’re lucky, you don’t have to burn as much energy thinking about posture as me. But even so, I believe that you can benefit a lot from paying more attention to your nonverbal signals.
Of course, becoming a stronger, more self-assured person won’t be as simple as changing your body language, but it’s a good start. You’ve gotta break out of your current cycle somehow. And you know, the one thing you have complete control of is how you use your body. You can’t necessarily control your resources, circumstances, or other traits. But, you can always strike a “power pose” to feel a little more confident.
I’ll conclude with an anecdote. Yesterday, Professor Cuddy gave a live talk at the Hubspot, the company I’m interning at this summer.
I was shameless. I was that person who showed up half an hour early to squat a front-and-center seat, and afterwards I was that person who stayed late to ask one-on-one questions.
Sure, it was a little out of character for me. I can assure you that didn’t come naturally. But sometimes, you’ve just gotta sit tall and fake it ‘til you make it. One day you’ll get there.
Find me on Twitter at @diane_xy