7. Self-Doubt And Body Language
“So when I tell people about this, that our bodies change our minds and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes, they say to me, “I don’t — It feels fake.” Right? So I said, fake it till you make it.” -Amy Cuddy, TED talk
The more I read about body language, the more I get convinced that low confidence levels and high self doubt and other unfavorable states have specific body language patterns to go along with them.
In a fascinating TED talk, researcher Amy Cuddy says that the difference in non-verbal expressions between people who feel powerful and those who feel powerless are many.
Cuddy says that when you feel self-confidence and personal power, you open up, occupy more space by stretching out and make yourself big. The opposite is true when you feel powerless, you tend to close up, shrink and make yourself small.
The example she gives is when athletes run across the finish line, they have their arms up in a V with their chins up in a non-verbal gesture of victory.
Cuddy says in her TED talk:
“But our question really was, do our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves? There’s some evidence that they do. So, for example, we smile when we feel happy, but also, when we’re forced to smile by holding a pen in our teeth like this, it makes us feel happy.”
Cuddy says that when we feel powerful and confident, the levels of the hormone testosterone go up and the stress hormone cortisol go down.
To test this idea, she had people come into the laboratory and spit into a vial after which they assume power poses or non-power poses for two minutes. After the poses, people were asked how powerful they felt on a series of items and given an opportunity to gamble. Finally, they are asked to give another spit sample.
High power poses for the study included poses that open up like hands on the back of the head and legs up on the desk or one leg over the other, and standing with hands on the waist and legs apart or “the wonder woman pose.”
Low power poses included folding the arms and making yourself small with legs and hands folded and looking down, and touching your neck and sitting down.
Cuddy found that people who assumed power poses were more likely to gamble, had a 20% increase in testosterone and a 25% decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. People who assumed low power poses were less likely to gamble and take a risk, had a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol.
In another study, Cuddy had participants assume low or big power poses before a stressful job interview where they are recorded and judged. After 5 minutes of the stressful interview, they had four people or coders look at the recordings that were blind to the conditions or the poses participants had posed before the interview.
Surprisingly, the coders selected the participants who assumed the high power poses before the interview to hire and not the low power posers.
“So two minutes lead to these hormonal changes that configure your brain to basically be either assertive, confident and comfortable, or really stress-reactive, and, you know, feeling sort of shut down. And we’ve all had the feeling, right? So it seems that our nonverbals do govern how we think and feel about ourselves, so it’s not just others, but it’s also ourselves. Also, our bodies change our minds.”
When you experience self-doubt, take a break and assume power poses by yourself to increase power and decrease stress.
Understand your non-verbal communication when you feel stressed, doubtful and fearful. Chances are that you are making yourself smaller with arms crosses and assuming low power body language.
Yes, fake the body language to feel more confidence and personal power.