"Don't fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it." - Amy Cuddy
Have you ever been excited to give a presentation, only to be plagued by the menacing shadow of self-doubt? Has stage-fright squandered your performance more times than you can count? If any of those sound familiar, then social psychologist Amy Cuddy is here to tell you there’s a creative solution to this common phenomenon. In her audiobook Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, the former Harvard professor lays out how you can achieve confidence and presence through “power posing."
Cuddy defines presence as “being in the moment and being at your best.” This nugget of wisdom is often hard to carry out, especially when our fight-or-flight reactions threaten to upend positive experiences that lead to growth. In her audiobook (the highly popular book has been published in 35 languages), Cuddy presents these tips on how to feel more powerful and present in your life, without sacrificing the joy within the moment.
1.)Tweak Your Body Language
The adage that your mind influences your body was turned upside down in Cuddy’s popular 2012 TED talk “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” which garnered over 50 million views. There she first described the genuine idea of “power posing,” or standing with your feet wide apart, hands on your hips, and head held high. When taken for two minutes, this stance tricks your mind into believing you’re powerful and confident. Instead of telling yourself to “be calm,” something that you don’t feel in the moment anyway and therefore can’t believe, standing in a power pose can change the way you perceive yourself and can have a more positive, long-lasting effect on your mind.
Our self-perception can also trickle down to how we interact with colleagues. Cuddy heeds that instead of mirroring other people’s body language, we normally do the opposite. When someone expands their body, making themselves seem bigger and powerful, we make ourselves smaller by slouching and looking down towards the floor. Power posing right before a meeting or any stress-inducing event eliminates this psychological deception and tells your mind that you are capable.
2.) Re-claim Your Speaking Time
When anxiety flairs up, people tend to forget the present moment and rush through the activity to forego any discomfort. Afterwards, it’s fairly common to feel regret for not fully being in the moment. One way to combat this remorse is by taking “temporal” space or taking your time to get through the performance, speech, or toast by taking small pauses and speaking slowly. What happens, explains Cuddy, is we recover the presence that we lost under the pressure of the situation. This tip also applies to social situations. You deserve the space to speak and it lets others know you believe that as well. By speaking at a steady pace, you can keep your mind and heart from racing and focus on what matters the most: the present.
3.) Focus on the Process
When driving, it’s wise to have the destination in mind, but the focus should primarily be on what’s happening in front of you. Otherwise, you’ll be so caught up in arriving, that you forget what turns to take to get there. Seeing a goal through to the end operates in the same way. Some things need to be checked off our list before we get results. That is to say, we can't expect to reach our goals until we fulfill the necessary steps to get there. In our instant gratification culture, waiting for our desired outcome seems like a buzzkill, but there is something to be said for the euphoric feeling of crossing the finish line after a long marathon.
After adjusting your body language, communication style, and thought patterns, living a life with presence becomes more of a reality and less of a vague concept written about in self-help books. Here's to a new year of living in the moment and being your best, most confident self!
Check out "Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges:"